# Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Release Candidate 0 is available for download (and downloading) and the MCTS exam 70-432 went into beta testing (and I registered). Since the beta is only running from June 9th through June 30th, I had to go for 27th as it was the only gap in my schedule. Let's see if I can find the time to blog about my preparations...

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Tuesday, 10 June 2008 20:02:47 (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)
# Friday, 06 June 2008
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Friday, 06 June 2008 06:52:38 (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)

Exam-stats: 180 minutes1, 61 question spread over 6 testlets (cases), passing score 700 points, only multiple choice questions, no simulations. I got 752, was lousy on SSAS ...and this actually was the first Microsoft exam where I really needed the time!!!  Compared to the other MCITP (70-443, 70-444 and 71-647) exams I sat, it was a lot more reading and fact-finding in the case-studies.

What surprised me on this exam, were a couple of questions targeted at the database engine. Think towards backup-requirements for filegroups (which are needed for partitioned tables), index optimization and transaction isolation levels (not mentioned in prep-guide). Unfortunately these topics aren't covered2 in the courses 2794 to 2797 (or in 2791 to 2793). From the topics that are covered in the prep-guide, I'd say the number of questions was pretty balanced, only four things were really sticking out:

  • Which data mining algorithm to apply in a certain scenario.
  • Storage strategy for SSAS cubes.
  • Slowly changing dimensions.
  • Designing dimensions and hierarchies.

Useful resources for preparation.

1Actually, you get about 3 minutes per question grouped per testlet. This means for a 9 question testlet you get about 27 minutes, time left on one testlet is not added to the next. The 180 minutes should be regarded as an indication for the maximum exam length.
2 At best superficially mentioned in 2796.
Friday, 06 June 2008 00:14:29 (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)
# Saturday, 31 May 2008

Just a few links where you can find more info about SQL Server 2008 Certification in general and about the separate certification tracks and exams.

Track alignment Database Administration Database Development Business Intelligence
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)

MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance

MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Database Development

MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

MCTS requirements Pass: Exam 70-432 (expected availability of exam August 2008) Pass: Exam 70-433 (expected availability of exam October 2008) Pass: Exam 70-448 (expected availability of exam August 2008)
Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional

MCITP: Database Administrator 2008

MCITP: Database Developer 2008

MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008

MCITP requirements Hold above MCTS certification and pass Exam 70-450 (expected availability of exam November 2008) Hold above MCTS certification and pass Exam 70-451 (expected availability of exam January 2009) Hold above MCTS certification and pass Exam 70-452 (expected availability of exam November 2008)
Upgrade option existing MCITP for SQL Server 2005 Existing MCITP:Database Administrators can upgrade above MCTS and MCITP by passing Exam 70-453 (expected availability of preparation guide September 2008) Existing MCITP:Database Developers can upgrade above MCTS and MCITP by passing Exam 70-454 (expected availability of preparation guide September 2008) Existing MCITP:Business Intelligence Developers can upgrade above MCTS and MCITP by passing Exam 70-455 (expected availability of preparation guide September 2008)
No upgrade paths exist for MCTS for SQL Server 2005 to MCTS for SQL Server 2008. Thanks Trika, for the pointer and poster.
Saturday, 31 May 2008 17:19:20 (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)
# Wednesday, 28 May 2008

In other words, the system could not find the specified path... that was when I tried restoring through a substituted (subst R: G:\project02\SQLBackup) drive, and for sure R:\MyDB_20080521.bak did exist. Nastier was the fact that G:\project02\SQLBackup\MyDB_20080521.bak restored in an instant, so the problem was likely to be found in the interaction between subst and SQL Server. This was rather disappointing, as it would have been nice to separate the environment for different customers/projects and still be able to use generic scripts targeted at a drive-letter.

So a little quest started to find some solutions, if it's a bug?, should be a feature... I was surprised by the small number of pointers I came across on the Internet and only one useful. After establishing net use R: \\myserver\projdata\project02\SQLBackup suffered the same problem when it came to restoring, I widened the search an came across a post from the beta stage of SQL Server 2005. In there Erland Sommarskog hinted it might have something to do with profile setting, which would apply if the setting in question weren't a system setting. Now that made perfect sense, so let's see how the world looks like through xp_cmdshell.

So on my SQL Server 2005 instance I enabled xp_cmdshell and I substituted a path for a drive letter on Windows. Sure enough, I could see the substituted drive W: as pointing to D:\SQLData, but running EXEC xp_cmdshell 'subst' yielded NULL from the instance running under LocalSystem. Then, after running EXEC xp_cmdshell 'subst W: D:\SQLData' my SQL Server instance running under LocalSystem got the picture too. From SQL Server Management Studio I could "see" drive W: and also restore from and backup to my "W-drive". Safe to say it isn't a bug for SQL Server and if a feature request is to be made, it has to be addressed to the Windows team. Something like; enable system-wide setting of subst and net use commands by administrators through an extra switch (or make it a policy setting default on for administrators only).

In the end it can easily be solved with a little sqlcmd-script like:

:setvar path "G:\project02\SQLBackup"
:setvar drive "R"
EXEC xp_cmdshell 'subst $(drive): /d'
GO
EXEC
xp_cmdshell 'subst $(drive): $(path)'
GO

Wednesday, 28 May 2008 21:55:46 (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)
# Thursday, 17 April 2008

From my perspective, a very successful event. Congratulations to the organizing committee and the volunteers supporting them. Also may thanks to the speakers, especially Bob Ward (pre-conference and session), Remus Rusana, James Luetkehoelter, Chuck Hawkins, Klaus Aschenbrenner (GEOGRAPHY data type).

Also look out for James' follow ups on "our" questions, guess the audience was paranoid enough.

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Thursday, 17 April 2008 22:58:33 (W. Europe Daylight Time, UTC+02:00)
# Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Finally the results for the 71-646 and 71-647 are being published. I just checked the prometric site after reading Aaron's update on his scores, he passed his, I passed mine. Now all I need to do to haul in the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator is pass either the 70-620 or 70-624... I guess the 70-620 is by far the easier route.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008 22:28:24 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 11 February 2008

Today I sat the 70-445 exam and completed those 53 questions with the minimal required passing score of 700 points. Now how did I get to that meager (but satisfactory) result?

First of all, I didn't allocate enough time for my preparation, so out of the initial things I mentioned, I only completed the MOC courses 2791 to 2794 (on a hindsight, the time spent with 2794 was wasted towards this exam). I also purchased the MS Press Training Kit for the 70-445 exam, but didn't really get to using it. In total, I only read the chapters 9 and 17 and ran through all 209 MeasureUP questions once. The reason for picking only chapters 9 and 17, besides time constraints, is the amount of Data Mining in the exam versus the (lack of) coverage of the subject in the MOC2791. The reason for running through the MeasureUP questions in study-mode was to get some exam-focus on the subjects and cover them all (see if there were things I missed from the MOC's). I should add that many of MeasureUP tests do not resemble the exam, like providing non-existent options or asking for trivial look-up fact... actual Microsoft exams have better quality.

Having that extra bit of exam-focus really helped, the MOC's tend to strongly focus on the development part of SSIS, SSRS and SSAS. The actual exam is more balanced between development and administration. The training kit too, seems to be more geared towards the administration part and definitely has a more task-based (or hands-on) approach than the MOC's. So in total, I think you need both for a proper preparation (or be able to compensate development or administration with in-depth practical skills).

Luckily the score report includes those scoring bars that indicate a little on your relative score. What is my experience based on the 7 topics tested;

  • Managing SSAS
    • My relative score; 5th
    • Impression, 2791 definitely is shallow on this subject. And since I don't have to much real-world experience managing Analysis Services...
  • Developing SSAS Solutions by Using BIDS
    • My relative score; 3rd
    • Impression, 2791 gives you all the handles you need, for the hands-on I can recommend taking a look at the tutorials in SQL Server Books On-Line. Again, no real-world experience on for me here either. Some applied MDX, nothing shocking.
  • Implementing Data Mining by Using BIDS
    • My relative score; 6th
    • Impression, next to no coverage in 2791, you really need the 70-445 training kit here (mind, I just read it, didn't do the exercises). Very little basic DMX.
  • Managing SSRS
    • My relative score; 2nd
    • Impression, some help from real-world experience, though I wasn't prepared for dealing with farms. Also, be prepared to modify the RSReportServer.config.
  • Developing Reporting Solutions by Using SSRS
    • My relative score; 7th
    • Impression, 2793 gives you all the handles you need, but you should also to develop reports and care about how they look (questions included some beatifications of reports). Also, take a good look at URLs. If you only have this covered with the training kit, it seems to me (based on a quick glance), it's not going to be enough.
  • Developing Business Intelligence Solutions by Using SSIS
    • My relative score; 4th
    • Impression, pretty well covered from the 2792... which was pretty helpful to me, as I'm used to solving a lot of stuff in the database (using views and stored procedures). Especially focus on transactions, checkpoints and logical combinations between expressions and constraints.
  • Administering SSIS Packages
    • My relative score; 1st.
    • Impression, my real-world experience helped me out here, not the 2792. Focus on things like supplying configurations on run-time, securing parts of packages and the differences between storing in SQL Server vs. on the file system. Also be prepared for some dtutil and dtexec syntax.

As Ronald Kraijesteijn noted on his blog-entry (in Dutch) on the exam, it's pretty tool-oriented (like how you do something, even in which order). I felt this was particularly true on the developing with SSAS and SSRS. A couple of months experience are definitely going to prove advantageous. This was not the case for me, SSAS real-world is non-existent and SSRS already dates back a year. But hey, a 700-point pass still is a pass.

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Monday, 11 February 2008 23:05:42 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 06 February 2008

Fresh from the often delayed "SQL Server 2008 and Your Certifications", first session.

MCDBA will retire march 2009, no direct upgrade from MCDBA to a SQL Server 2008 certification.

70-446 will be superseded by 70-448 (~August 2008), 70-431 will be split in an Administration exam 70-432 (~August 2008) and 70-433 (~September 2008) for Development. So be ready for the following titles:

  • 70-432, MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
  • 70-433, MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Database Development
  • 70-448, MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance

MCITP's can probably upgrade the MCTS and MCITP in a single upgrade exam. No timelines on the professional level exams yet.

MCA Databases is available, targeted at OLTP... Business Intelligence is under consideration.

Blogs to watch for more info on SQL Server 2008 Certifications:

Wednesday, 06 February 2008 17:52:41 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Just did my 71-647 (70-649 when it comes out of beta), without preparation... I just checked some links;

Permanent Link to 70-647 Windows Server 2008, Enterprise Administrator

Erfahrungsbericht 71-647 (German)

In general, my impression is in line with what Lucas and Noxx experienced. In terms of subjects, my exam was quite a lot of GPO, File Server, Clustering in combination with SQL Server 2005 ;-), AD DS, AD CS, AD FS.

Should I have to take this exam again, there still is a little I would look at based on today's experience. The only subjects I would be looking for are:

  • Feature overview of System Center (and a bit more specific System Center Virtual Machine Manager and SoftGrid)
  • Windows System Resource Manager
  • AD; what's changed from Windows Server 2003 to 2008
  • AD FS

In general, being MCSE 2003, proper preparation for 70-649 and a bit of reading on the four topics above should be enough...

Oh, I added my remarks on 5 out of 71 questions that had some serious flaws or were just plain wrong.

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Tuesday, 22 January 2008 16:12:30 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)