Division of Labor

With server consolidation on the horizon, it's time—with Redmond's help—to break out of your mold and expand your skill set.

In the always-interesting world of Microsoft certification, we MCPs find ourselves divided into categories: system engineers, developers and DBAs. That's been useful, to date, for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with division of labor. System admins, developers and DBAs, a way of thinking goes, have separate functions and should be treated as separate workgroups. But it doesn't work anymore.

Why the neat, clean model of organization falls apart is a function of our buddies in Redmond exercising their "freedom to innovate." The more Windows evolves—into XP and 2002 and the down-the-road Windows XXL, Windows for Left-Handers, Windows 2007-1/2 Advanced Server with Fries, and so on—the more functions become part of the operating system and the more useless it is to be an admin without a clue as to how applications are built or to be a developer with no training or credentials in operating system functionality.

Auntie's serious here. Listen up. Applications are the reason businesses run Windows of any flavor. If your company simply uses computers for file and print services, you might as well be running NetWare. Similarly, Windows development leverages the increasing quantity of APIs built into the operating system itself. When you write code calling the most basic of Win32 API functions, you're invoking the OS itself and will eventually have to come to grips with the effects of your code on the operating environment.

You might ask why an ex-super-model and currently accomplished bowler would get so cranked up on this particular topic. Well, kids, it's because of a little issue called server consolidation, moving an enterprise's servers into fewer, larger data centers with fewer, larger servers. It's on the agendas of many large enterprises with expensive, global IT infrastructures—which means it eventually trickles down to our customers.

It's the process of consolidating application servers that presents the biggest challenge—and which is impossible to accomplish on anything other than an application-by-application basis. Forget about Web servers—you don't want fewer Web servers. If anything, you want more. But what do you do with the business rule and data tiers in your n-tier apps? How many SQL databases can you safely run concurrently on a system with given hardware specs? How about Oracle? How can you test an app for consolidation when your company never bought the source code and the developers are all retired onto their own Pacific atolls?

An enterprise-quality operating system—which is what Windows has finally, painfully evolved into—requires enterprise-quality certification. The existing Microsoft certifications are useful, but the material they individually encompass is no longer broad enough to provide the perspective required for an IT professional to architect enterprise-wide solutions. No, Auntie's not the first to bring it up—not by a long shot. But the time has come for a new, master Microsoft certification tied to the skills needed to use Redmond's technologies to implement solutions at the enterprise level and integrate the expertise we MCSEs, MCSDs and MCDBAs bring to the table.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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