Microsoft is expected to announce its first set of certification credentials for IT administrators and engineers who specialise in security in a Windows environment.
Director of business and product strategy for training and certification at Microsoft, Dan Truax, said the company has offered security courses for years. But he said Microsoft decided to take the extra step of creating a formal credential in recognition of the number of customers that now specialise in that type of job.
The announcement of the new certifications is scheduled to be made during a keynote address by Scott Charney, Microsoft's chief security strategist, at the company's TechEd 2003 conference in Dallas.
The more rigorous of the two certifications being introduced is the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE): Security on Microsoft Windows 2000. To achieve that status, an engineer must pass six core exams and demonstrate a "security specialty" by taking a test on Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000 or an exam administered by the Computing Technology Industry Association, better known as CompTIA.
The requirements are essentially the same as for an ordinary MCSE certification, except the security candidate has to take the core security design exam and a security implementation exam that Microsoft introduced in January, along with the ISA Server or CompTIA exam.
The other new certification - Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA): Security on Microsoft Windows 2000 - requires the four exams needed for a typical MCSA certification, plus one additional exam. One core exam on the client operating system and two on networking systems are mandated along with the security implementation exam and either the ISA Server or CompTIA exam.
Certifications aren't yet available for Windows Server 2003, but they're expected to become available later this year, Truax said.
Microsoft was first approached last summer about creating a special security credential, he said. Customers and partners subsequently advised the company not to create credentials similar to any that already exist in the industry, but rather to focus on offering a certification specific to the Microsoft software environment.
"Our goal was to complement what exists in the industry, not to compete with it," Truax said.
How important the new certifications will be to IT shops is unclear.
Senior vice-president and CIO at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Charles Emery, said he saw the new Microsoft programs as positive for the industry. But he also noted that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield did not use certifications as hiring criteria, because it had often found that certification holders had no practical experience.