The MCSA Windows Server 2012 qualification has proven exceptionally popular with the technical community over the last 18 months. Rightly so, as the qualification gives recipients a solid grounding in all aspects of Windows Server 2012 roles and features, and once the certification has been attained, a recipient can be confident in capably working with the operating system. They should then be encouraged to take on new roles associated with Windows Server 2012 and their server network.
Since its release in 2012, many have now held the MCSA certification and have been using the associated technologies for an extended period of time. This segment of the server community frequently seeks the qualification or qualifications that are next on the ladder.
Moving on from MCSA
The MCSA Windows Server 2012 is the pre-requisite qualification to a range of MCSE qualifications. The MCSE: Messaging and MCSE: Communications tracks are for those specializing in Exchange Server and Lync Server technologies. The MCSE: SharePoint track is also an option for those planning to work with SharePoint on a regular basis. All three of the aforementioned MCSEs are clearly defined and easy to differentiate from each other.
There are however a series of Microsoft qualifications that are not so easy to differentiate, as they appear to have considerable crossover. These are the qualifications we will be taking a closer look at in this article. They include the MCSE: Server Infrastructure, MCSE: Private Cloud, and Microsoft Specialist: Server Virtualization with Windows Server and System Center qualifications.
Pointing you in the right direction
In order to pick which qualification is right for you, take a look at your job role and ask yourself the following questions:
- How much do I work with System Center 2012 R2?
- How much do I work with Microsoft Virtualization technologies?
You work primarily with Microsoft infrastructure, using Microsoft Virtualization and want to evaluate the System Center 2012 R2 suite:
MCSE: Server Infrastructure is the choice for you. The certification requires you to take two exams:
Exam 70-413 Designing and implementing a server infrastructure – This exam looks at all the key Windows Server 2012 roles, but whereas the MCSA is concerned with how the roles work and how they are configured, the MCSE: Server Infrastructure is concerned with how the roles work together. Candidates must consider design scenarios created to test how they would fulfill particular design briefs. The exam also covers key technologies in more detail than the prerequisite MCSA course.
Exam 70-414 Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure – This exam introduces the System Center 2012 R2 suite of products. As part of your study you will look at Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager, Data Protection Manager, Orchestrator and Service Manager. The level of detail required for each product varies, but there is a particular emphasis on Virtual Machine Manager. If you are not sure as to whether the System Center suite is for you, then by the end of your MCSE: Server Infrastructure study you will have a clear idea of how each of the suite's products fits together, how System Center works with Server 2012 and how well the suite will fit in to your network.
You work primarily with Microsoft infrastructure and you use Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager to manage your virtualization environment. Or you currently work with a third-party hypervisor and will be transitioning to Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager.
In this case, Microsoft Specialist: Server Virtualization with Windows Server and System Center is for you. The certification requires you to take one exam:
Exam 74-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server and System Center – This exam tests a candidate's knowledge in two key areas. First, you must understand all out-of-the-box features for Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V role, including Networking, Storage, VM creation and settings, and high-availability features such has Hyper-V failover clustering and Hyper-V Replica.
Secondly, candidates will require detailed knowledge of System Center Virtual Machine Manager, including Installation of VMM, Virtual Machine deployment, backup and restore of your VMM environment, Networking and cloud resources.
Upon passing the Microsoft Specialist: Server Virtualization with Windows Server and System Center exam, you will be fully prepared to implement a virtualized environment on a network using Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager.
You work in a datacenter managing the virtual environment for your internal business units or for your customers. You now wish to gain an in-depth knowledge of the System Center 2012 R2 product suite.
Then MCSE: Private Cloud is for you. The following certification requires you to take two exams:
Exam 70-247 Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 R2 – This exam tests a candidate's knowledge on installing and configuring Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager, Data Protection Manager, App Controller, Orchestrator and Service Manager. Unlike Exam 70-414, which only covers an overview of these products, 70-247 focuses on each of these in detail. Successful candidates will then have the knowledge required to install these products in their environments, driving automation and centralized control over their resources.
Exam 70-246 Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 – This exam is concerned with the centralized monitoring of the System Center suite itself, and covers the Service Manager product in greater detail.
All three of these qualifications are set to be popular in 2014. Microsoft Specialist: Server Virtualization with Windows Server and System Center is the newest qualification, and I think strikes the balance between System Center and Windows Server 2012 spot on. I’m predicting this will be the most popular qualification for 2014.
MCSE: Server infrastructure is for those who work more with Windows Server than System Center, and MCSE: Private cloud is for those that primarily work with System Center 2012 R2. Whichever qualification (or qualifications) you choose to pursue, the learning experience is set to be a productive one.
Mike Brown is a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and lead Windows Server Instructor for Firebrand Training. When not teaching in the classroom or developing courseware, Mike creates a series of technical how-to guides for the Server community.