Buzz for the latest iterations of Microsoft's products is as big as ever. Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Exchange 2010 have all received positive receptions, and SharePoint 2010 promises to significantly change the SharePoint landscape. Plus, with many organizations just finally rebounding from a long and painful economic downturn, software upgrades are on the rise

What does this mean for you? Microsoft's 2010 product line is the place to focus your learning, as the versions will likely be around for quite awhile. (Many organizations skipped the 2007-2008 iterations, so it wouldn't be surprising if we saw a similar leap frog of the next round.)

Below is an overview of what's new with Exchange 2010 certification and training.

Exchange 2010 Certifications

With Exchange 2010, Microsoft has only released two certifications this time: Exam 70-662: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 – Configuration and Exam 70-663: Designing and Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. The first exam is the technology specialist level, or the nuts-and-bolts, nitty gritty, how-to information. The second is the pro level, which gets into more theoretical planning and building.

This is a shift from Exchange 2007, which had two pro level certifications, one for designing and one for deploying. According to Microsoft Learning, Exchange subject-matter experts felt that the two pro exams overlapped significantly, so Microsoft decided to streamline it into one definitive exam.

"There's a lot of commonality between 2007 and 2010 certifications, but there are some new features we cover quite a bit, such as \\[Database Availability Groups\\] DAGs and the new Access Group model. We didn't do an upgrade track though, since the track is so short," said J. Seymour, certification manager at Microsoft Learning.


Microsoft Training Opportunities

Microsoft offers quite a few training opportunities beyond certifications, for those who are interested.

  • eLearning: on-demand training courses on specific topics. 
  • Labs and clinics: a subset of eLearning. Scheduled events to drill into specific topics.
  • Learning snacks: short Silverlight presentations on specific topics.
  • Pocket consultant: a pocket book to take on the go to troubleshoot any Exchange 2010 issues.

What's Next in Exchange Training

Aside from the newest features, one of the significant changes to Exchange 2010 is the release of a cloud-based model, called hosted Exchange. I asked Seymour if they were planning training materials specifically tailored to this version of Exchange.

"We're actively looking at making an exam on hosted Exchange, and certainly there will be some courses developed whether there's an exam or not. The skills are largely the same between an existing administrator (or what our \\[technology specialist\\] exam covers) and the cloud. But obviously there are some differences, and we've found that most deployments are mixed deployments," said Seymour. "At some point we'll probably have an exam that covers from the cloud perspective, but we didn't want to fail anyone that hasn't deployed to the cloud. It takes 6-9 months for us to make a test, so back when we first started looking at this we didn't feel that it had reached critical mass yet enough to have its own specific exam."

The last thing Seymour notes is one of encouragement: whether you're new to IT, transitioning into IT, or have been in the field your whole life, the standards that define your success are objective. Work hard to stay relevant in the constantly changing landscape, drive business efficiencies, and continue to put hard work into the industry.

"I think Exchange is a great way to differentiate yourself. It's a popular product, mature, so there's always jobs around for Exchange guys or gals. One of the beautiful things about IT is that it's all about what you know and what you can show. Continuous learning is super critical."