8 new courses to smooth the transition to Win2K

Windows 2000 (Win2K) is shaping up to be one of Microsoft's most significant releases. We've heard—and many of us have seen firsthand—that Win2K presents some major departures from Windows NT 4.0. Microsoft understands that successfully rolling out Win2K in the corporate environment depends on the availability of systems administrators with skill sets that support the new OS. Thus, the company has announced its $40 million initiative to offer Win2K training on a wide scale. But considering the number of new features and capabilities, how much training will a systems administrator need to become proficient at rolling out and supporting Win2K? The answer depends on several factors, the most crucial of which is level of NT 4.0 experience. In this article, I introduce the Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) and show you what this training initiative can do for you.

The MOC, which ships in June and July 1999 and covers Win2K beta 3, comprises eight courses. The first course is a free self-paced course that Microsoft designed to prepare customers for Win2K. The next three courses help develop and upgrade skills to administer and support Win2K networks, as Figure 1, page 82, shows. The company gears these courses to users who are new to the IT field or whose experience is primarily in a non-Microsoft environment. A fifth course targets experienced support professionals. Three additional courses are available for what Microsoft calls the enterprise architect. Figure 2, page 82, shows the courses available to the NT professional. For more information about these courses, see the Microsoft Official Curriculum Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ train_cert/win2kmoc/ win2000_data.htm.

For the NT First-Timer
If you're making your first move into the NT world, start with Course 1555, Getting Ready for Microsoft Windows 2000. This free course covers Win2K migration topics such as updating and streamlining NT's directory services infrastructure and networking protocols.

Then, move on to Course 1556, Administering Microsoft Windows 2000. This course introduces you to Win2K administration and shows you how to create and manage user accounts, manage data storage, create and restore backups, and monitor data access.

Course 1556 is a prerequisite for the third class you need to take. Course 1557, Installing and Configuring Microsoft Windows 2000, doesn't cover only installation and configuration, as its name implies. This course also teaches you about working with Active Directory (AD) and DNS, sharing and securing network resources, and implementing and managing key network services such as DHCP, WINS, Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) 5.0, and Terminal Services. (For information about Win2K's new features, see Jonathan Chau, "10 Reasons to Buy Windows NT 5.0," http:// www.winntmag.com, instaNT document number 3617, and Mark Minasi, "NT 5.0 Update," December 1998.) Course 1557 also educates support professionals about the intricacies of upgrading a network to Win2K.

The fourth course in this series is Course 1558, Advanced Administration for Microsoft Windows 2000. Course 1558 builds on courses 1556 and 1557 by showing administrators how to centrally manage large numbers of users and computers. This course takes previous knowledge and applies it to a multidomain environment. Course 1558 shows you how to use Group Policy to manage user and computer environments and centrally manage application software deployment, how to administer AD, and how to implement enterprisewide security and disaster protection.

For the NT 4.0 Professional
If you're an experienced NT 4.0 administrator, you don't have to take courses 1556, 1557, or 1558 to gain the skills you'll need to support Win2K. An effective measure of whether you need to take these courses is Course 1555.

If you're comfortable with the NT environment, Course 1560, Updating Support Skills from Microsoft Windows NT to Microsoft Windows 2000, shows you how to leverage your current skills and acquaint yourself quickly with Win2K's feature set. Topics that this course covers include AD, DNS, Group Policy, RAS, and Win2K installation and configuration. This course provides the knowledge you need to graduate to the enterprise architect classes.

For the Enterprise Architect
The five classes I've described can teach you the skills necessary to support Win2K in existing NT 4.0 network environments. However, Microsoft wants to move into larger networks with Win2K. Just as the new OS will provide additional features, functionality, and capabilities to help make Microsoft successful in this marketplace, a new breed of Microsoft support professionals with additional network architecture skills is necessary.

To develop these skills, Microsoft has released three new courses aimed at the enterprise architect (i.e., courses that show you how to plan and design a successful Win2K implementation in an enterprise environment). Rather than build on one another, as courses 1556, 1557, and 1558 do, the enterprise architect courses are self-contained, and each covers a specific component of Win2K network design.

AD will affect how IT professionals organize network resources, how users locate network data, and how application developers write programs for Win2K. Therefore, Course 1561, Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure, might become the most popular course. Designing a directory services infrastructure in NT 4.0 is complicated. In Win2K, this task has grown in complexity because AD provides additional capability and flexibility. Course 1561 addresses such concerns as planning and creating a domain, understanding and designing an AD namespace, and creating your organizational unit (OU) structure within a domain. In addition, the course teaches AD replication and management, schema modification, synchronization of directories between Win2K and Microsoft Exchange Server, and AD performance optimization.

Course 1562, Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Networking Services Infrastructure, shows you how to plan a Win2K deployment on a network with TCP/IP (Win2K's required protocol). In addition, Course 1562 addresses Win2K's RRAS—including IP routing, multicast routing, and demand dial routing—and VPN strategy development and IP Security (IPSec) implementation.

Course 1563, Designing a Change and Configuration Management Infrastructure for Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, highlights automating installations with scripts and images and managing user and computer environments with Group Policy. Course 1563 covers not only automating Win2K deployment but also automating application deployment, including assigning, publishing, repairing, and updating users' applications.

Custom-Designed Training Solutions
Training is a double-edged sword: Insufficient training fails to give you the knowledge and skills necessary for job success; too much training or misdirected training wastes time and productivity. Because you're the best person to determine the balance you need, Microsoft is changing the way its Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs) obtain the MOC.

On April 30, 1999, Microsoft announced a pilot program—the MOC Licensing Program—that will give CTECs online access to the company's courseware files. CTECs will be able to select material from different courses to meet specific customer needs. CTECs will offer customized course curricula—perhaps supplemented with their own content—quickly and efficiently. If several of your employees have similar training needs, contact your local CTEC and ask for a customized course tailored to your specific requirements.

Win2K and Beyond
The MOC courses represent a significant amount of information and also represent a major effort by the MOC development team. However, don't expect these to be the only training courses that Microsoft will offer for its new OS. Robert Stewart, product unit manager for Microsoft's Business and Enterprise Division training group, assures that his group is committed to developing a new course curriculum. The new courses will be what Stewart calls solutions-based training that teaches students how to solve real-world business problems instead of just performing knowledge transfer.

Microsoft is developing a curriculum based on digital nervous system solutions. This solutions-based curriculum will train intensively in such real-world topics as analyzing, tuning, and optimizing the Microsoft BackOffice suite on Win2K. One of the first Win2K courses you can expect is a performance course based on real-world customer scenarios. This course will show you how to optimize Win2K and the BackOffice applications for better performance, including ensuring high reliability and high availability. In first quarter 2000, the company intends to release a security course that will show you how to secure your entire BackOffice suite on Win2K. Because security is such a hot topic, that course will be something to look forward to.