As Microsoft sells more NT seats, will that drive up the need for more MCSEs to keep those servers humming?

Numbers Game

As Microsoft sells more NT seats, will that drive up the need for more MCSEs to keep those servers humming?

After finishing up last month’s salary survey extravaganza, I’m still in calculator mode. That, plus email from readers and ongoing comments in our online discussion forums at got me thinking about a topic that seems to lend itself to controversy: Just how many MCSEs is enough?

Current numbers from Microsoft show that at press time, there were about 143,000 Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers worldwide. Wow. Explosive growth. But is that really that many MCSEs?

Sure, it’s a huge number if you compare it to August 1996, when there were just over 11,000, or August 1997, when there were around 26,000, or August 1998, when we reported 58,000 MCSEs worldwide. But sometimes fast growth can distort perceptions. Let’s look at some other numbers to put that 143,000 into perspective.

According to recent comments by Microsoft President Steve Ballmer, about 35 percent of all new business PCs will ship in 1999 with Windows NT as the desktop. Since 1999 worldwide PC shipments are estimated by research firm IDC to reach roughly 100 million, that’s almost 35 million new Windows NT workstations. I see lots of NT desktops for someone to connect, configure, support and maintain. Who better than an MCSE?

Also according to Ballmer, Windows NT server volumes shipping have grown to over 2 million a year, making NT by far the most popular new server platform. Sounds like plenty of servers to migrate systems to, get applications running on, set up firewalls and proxy servers for, arrange domains and groups around, and plenty more, as you well know.

According to an IDC study that we reported on last December, certified individuals, on average, administer 13 servers. If we divide that 2 million new NT servers shipping a year by 13 servers per individual, that’s 154,000 workers. And that’s just to support servers currently shipping each year; it doesn’t figure in support of other BackOffice products, or systems already in place, or even the extra work required for Windows 2000 migrations. And that server number is sure to rise.

If an MCSE is the benchmark of an individual qualified to support those servers, do we really have enough? In that context, 143,000 isn’t a lot, is it? Granted, you probably won’t want to certify every IT staffer in the office as an MCSE. Some won’t need that level of qualification. Still, you’re going to want plenty of people with the sort of knowledge that the MCSE title implies, along with the requisite experience, of course.

I believe the numbers point to a time when being certified by Microsoft to configure, install, and support Windows NT will be a given for those who work with NT and BackOffice on a regular basis. The MCSE will become something that any serious Windows NT administrator has. Period.

Your challenge, which is really no different than it’s ever been, will be to distinguish yourself by what you can do for your company or client.

Think I’m way off base? Do you long for the days when you were the only MCSE in town? Or have you seen this train pulling into the station for some time now? I’m at

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.


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