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Microsoft cans three 'pinnacle' certifications, sparking user fury

Friday afternoon email 'retires' Microsoft Certified Master and Microsoft Certified Architect

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Microsoft has again enraged some of its most committed users, by “retiring” the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM), and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certifications. The decision comes just weeks after Microsoft closed its TechNet service, angering users forced into more expensive MSDN subscriptions.

The three certifications had, until last week, been billed as Microsoft's most elite qualifications. MCSM, for example, earns the label “The pinnacle of professional distinction” here on Redmond's “Find the right IT certification” page. The MCM is praised as Microsoft's “deepest level of product expertise” here while the MCA is said to “Distinguish your expertise as one of the highest-achieving professionals in IT.”

Microsoft let it be known the three certifications will be retired in an email sent on Friday afternoon (US time). As this is a three-day weekend in the USA, many quickly concluded the timing of the email was an attempt to bury the news and mute reactions.

The reactions are nonetheless flowing thick and fast, with blogs and social networks lighting up as upset folks holding or studying for Microsoft certifications vent their largely negative feelings about the decision.

One such, Microsoft employee Neil Johnson, includes the text of the retirement email, declares the changes “extremely sad news” and says they represent “bad times”.

A portion of the email reads as follows:

“As technology changes so do Microsoft certifications and as such, we are continuing to evolve the Microsoft certification program. Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there's a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.”

The email then says holders of the three certifications have “earned one of the highest certifications available through the Microsoft Certification program” and “will continue to hold the credential” without the need to “recertify your credential in the future.”

Here's the next paragraph:

“Also as a Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, or Microsoft Certified Architect, you are a member of an exclusive, highly technical community and you've told us this community is one of the biggest benefits of your certification. We encourage you to stay connected with your peers through the main community distribution lists. Although we won't be adding more people to this community, you continue to be a valued member of it. Over time, Microsoft plans to transition the distribution lists to the community, and, with your consent, will include your information so that it can continue to be a valuable resource for your ongoing technical discussions.”

Microsoft MVP and MCM Devin L. Ganger has blogged about the decision, which he says “alienate[s] the highly trained end of the IT Pro pool.” He's also linked to several other blogs about the decision, all of which are grumpy about the decision.

Nicholas Cain, a database adminstrator who blogs as SirSQL, writes “Taking this away really pains everyone who has worked so hard to get it. Those who have given up many hours, and for some many thousands of dollars.”

Hungarian IT pro Janos Berke is part-way into MCM studies and is therefore more than a little miffed about the changes, as he writes here (emphases are his own):

“Anyway, it is not fair what Microsoft is doing with these certs: I have had to fly to London for making knowledge exam and 2-3 weeks ago they announced that this exam is available in my country. Now they are announcing the end! WTF??? I spent too much money on that. It would be great from Microsoft if they offer very high discount for MCM exams and a much bigger for those who try to retake! I need to reconsider all future exams, I may spend this money to something else.”

Jeff Guillet, who has completed the MCM, says: "I have invested countless hours and untold effort into Microsoft certifications for my career." He says the programme's cessation “saddens me in more ways than I can say” and adds that "it is very disheartening to see Microsoft discontinue this level of certification.”

The only explanation for the cancellation of the three certifications in Redmond's email is that “The IT industry is changing rapidly”. Perhaps one sign of just how rapidly is that VMware's VMworld conference graduated several new members of its VCDX certification, Virtzilla's highest qualification, to general acclaim on social media.

The Reg has asked Microsoft why it has decided to discontinue the certifications, why it is content for its peak certifications to be less rigorous than the “retired” qualifications and why it chose to announce the changes in the shadows of a long weekend. We expect the latter question will mean any response will not arrive swiftly. ®

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