Embedded within Microsoft’s announcement of retiring ALL of the MCSE, MCSD, and MCSA certifications (and their associated exams) is the fact that certifications for Windows Server and SQL Server products are gone. As the older technology-based certifications are being retired on June 30, 2020, in favor of the new role-based certifications, Microsoft is ushering in a change that completely eliminates the ability for IT Professionals to get certified in their flagship operating system and database engine products. All of this seems to be done in favor of Microsoft Azure; as the cloud is rapidly taking over IT.

UPDATE: Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Microsoft has extended the retirement of the MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE certifications to January 31, 2021.

Certainly there’s a replacement, right? Um… No…

Certainly there’s new Windows Server and SQL Server exams coming soon? Um… No…

Yeah, you read that right. After all, nobody cares about on-premises servers, virtual machines, and operating systems anymore. We’re all 100% in the cloud, and never going back. Right?….

Well, not that either. Of course, there are still on-premises servers running Windows Server and SQL Server still. The vast majority of enterprises still rely on Windows Server to keep the business going, and SQL Server in many scenarios as well. As such, these same enterprises rely on having skilled personnel that are able to manage these servers too.

So, wouldn’t you think having certifications that help enterprises ensure they have the personnel with the skills needed to keep them in business? Well, it seems Microsoft may not fully agree with this statement. As focus is moving towards the rapidly growing Microsoft Azure cloud, they would likely prefer you run all of your workloads in Microsoft Azure. That’s why they have many different cloud-based, role-based certification paths to choose from.

However, if you look at what’s needed to integrate an enterprise with the cloud, there are many on-premises components necessary. In order to have a single sign-on environment secured and integrated with Microsoft Azure, you will need to have Windows Server running Windows Active Directory (AD) on-premises that gets synchronized with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) in the cloud. In order to run this extremely core workload on premises you do need to have personnel with the skills necessary to manage that Windows Server and Active Directory installation. This is in addition to the Microsoft Azure skills needed to setup and maintain that cloud integration too.

Windows Server and SQL Server Certifications are Gone 1

Now, I know Microsoft’s announcement for the MCSE, MCSD, and MCSA certifications being retired does mention that the “Windows Server 2019 and SQL Server 2019 content will be included in role-based certifications on an as-needed basis for certain job roles in Azure Apps & Infrastructure and Data & AI solution areas.” Although, the current batch of role-based certifications are cloud-focused as they do NOT actually cover any Windows Server or SQL Server information for running these on-premises. They are cloud certifications covering Microsoft Azure cloud capabilities.

So in summary, Microsoft is retiring the old technology-based MCSE, MCSD, and MCSA certifications without offering any type of alternatives at this time. And, they haven’t announced any timelines on when we might see role-based replacements either. At the time of writing this, there’s only been a single day since the announcement, and I have been seeing LOTS of feedback from the community online that this is a terrible certification change on Microsoft’s part.

I’m hoping they get the hint that Windows Server and SQL Server certifications are still valuable to many of their customers and come up with some kind of alternative plan. The most straight forward would be to remain offering the good old MCSE, MCSD, and MCSA certifications until they are able to offer suitable replacements on the new role-based paths.

Keep in mind, this is all just talking about Windows Server and SQL Server certifications. Looking on towards the MCSD certifications for developers, we can see that they are retiring the ability to get certified in C# and .NET as well. This just seems crazy as those are Microsoft’s primary development platforms and languages. Why would they not care about developers being certified in their flagship development tools for building applications?

Part of me wonders if there might be bigger plans at play as maybe Microsoft is shifting towards a new direction on their plans towards the Windows Server, SQL Server, and .NET Framework products and tools. However, it could just be that some of the certifications are no longer in as much demand as we all might think. After all, Microsoft does not release numbers on how many people currently hold these certifications. So, there may be budgetary concerns here that we don’t know about, where it’s too costly (or some other reason) to keep ALL of these certifications and exams available. Or, possibly, Microsoft is simply looking to clear the deck and create a clean slate for them to start offering more relevant role-based certifications across the board. I’m hoping for the later, and that we would find out more information from them in the coming months.

What are your thoughts on this whole “certpocalypse” from Microsoft? Please leave a comment, as I’d love to learn your opinions. Plus, as a Microsoft MVP and a Microsoft Certified Trainer, I may be able to get in their ear to help nudge them in a direction that you support. Thanks!

Microsoft MVP

Chris Pietschmann is a Microsoft MVP, HashiCorp Ambassador, and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) with 20+ years of experience designing and building Cloud & Enterprise systems. He has worked with companies of all sizes from startups to large enterprises. He has a passion for technology and sharing what he learns with others to help enable them to learn faster and be more productive.
HashiCorp Ambassador Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect