MCSM (Microsoft Certified Solutions Master) Data Platform on SQL Server 2012

A few of my closest colleagues already know, and now I am announcing it publicly:

Since 31 December 2013 I am no longer “merely”
Microsoft Certified Master SQL Server 2008 (MCM) but also
Microsoft Certified Solutions Master Data Platform (MCSM), the highest certification that was achievable for SQL Server 2012!

Here the entry on the „Master-Blog“:
Introducing our latest MCSM: Data Platform Master – Andreas Wolter


MCSM: Data Platform Solutions Master

This makes for a truly crowning conclusion of a year with more than a dozen presentations at German and international conferences, which I will hardly be able to outdo due to Microsoft’s shutting down of the “advanced certifications”. At the same time, it is a great start into 2014.

I have made the decision to pursue this certification fairly late – at the German PASS Camp. However, I could only tend to the timing in mid-December.

This is how it went:

On 17 December, I signed up for the Knowledge Exam to be taken on 18 December. I then passed the exam within just under two hours during a stopover on my way to a customer in Hamburg.

I received the results immediately.
Subsequently, I was able to quickly register for the practical exam, the so-called “Lab Exam,” on the same day.

They had a slot available on 31 December, from 4 pm to 11:30 pm. Fortunately, they were able to move it to one day earlier on short notice so that I did not have to end up staying at the PC just shortly before New Year’s.

Since I was also travelling across Germany during the holidays, it actually left only few occasions for intensive study.

That previous Friday, I also launched my survey on Database Ownership & Security (to which I am inviting you all cordially to participate) and thus had one weekend to prep myself mentally. Add to this the extra pressure of knowing that this would be the last opportunity, as Microsoft carried out this exam one last time on 31 December 2013: meaning, there would be no chance to retake the exam. Which, ultimately, was not necessary: I passed the exam.

Exam 88-987: MCSM Data Platform Lab Exam

About the Lab Exam: Contrary to the 5:25 hours allotted for the „Exam 88-971: SQL Server 2008 Microsoft Certified Master: Lab Exam, it was 7 hours for the MCSM-Lab. Correspondingly, it consisted of more tasks as well. Evidently, I cannot go into detail.

However, presumably being the last examinee, I may say: It was fun! And all the efforts for the MCM and MCSM were worth it.

Some statistics at the end of the “race”:

Worldwide, there are (as of 2 January 2014):

MCM SQL Server 2005 MCA SQL Server 2005 MCM SQL Server 2008 MCA SQL Server 2008 MCSM Data Platform
33 23 154 7 6

Source: Microsoft Certified Masters and Architects: Microsoft SQL Server

– I suppose two or three more Masters will join the ranks once the last successful candidates are made public. So I am going to update this list in a few days.

According to this list, there are only six experts to have passed this certification on the SQL Server 2012. Most of the “new ones” thus have undergone the exam on SQL Server 2008.
Of the former, two are from the European region (both of whom from Finland), which means I am the first and last to be carrying this title in the entire German-speaking region.
Interesting to note: only two people worldwide have successfully undergone the exam based on both SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2012. Vesa Tikkanen (Twitter: @vesat | Blog) from Finland is the much valued MCM&MCSM colleague!

As it turns out, I have provided the answer to my article from September, “Who will be the last MCM SQL Server 😉 ?” myself… 😉

It’s too bad that only so few have tried and/or made it. Because, let’s be honest: The MCM/MCSM isn’t a “guru-only-certification,” but rather it verifies practical experience. If one has it also in its broadness, from security to performance tuning, database design to high availability and data recovery, one can, or rather could have, pass(ed) the certification in one shot, or two, to familiarize oneself with the exam format. In any case, kudos to those who endeavored the exams.

Update (3 January):
Because of the frequent and legitimate question as to “why,” I will shortly go into the matter:

Why have I even bothered to take this exam when the certification is no longer available as of 1 January 2014?
One may already notice through the careful phrasing that it is in fact not the case that the certification does “no longer exist” all of a sudden. It is simply no longer possible for anyone to take the exam from now on. That is why, for once, I did not see any reason why not to take it. The only difference is that the time pressure was greater – and I’m all for it 🙂

Then, there is a plainly rational reason:
The MCM is based on SQL Server 2008, and will be, with the release of SQL Server 2014, only the “pre-pre-version.” And even if the MCM is meant to generally prove “practical skills,” the connection to a specific version is not that beside the Point.

By contrast, the MCSM is based on SQL Server 2012, which contains some significant improvements, from Extended Events to ColumnStore Indexes up to AlwaysOn – all of which will be further improved in SQL Server 2014.

Also, I have always been attaching great importance to offering my customers a “certified” proof, and to being absolutely and comprehensively versed in the latest technologies.

Basically, it is hardly any different as to why I have done the MCM in 2012.

And last but not least, there is a personal reason as well:

I just couldn’t have borne not to know whether I would pass the MCSM Lab based on SQL Server 2012 off the cuff, and what this exam is made of 🙂
More often than not, curiosity has been the trigger to many things…
Ultimately, this was the final reason for taking the Lab even under the utmost pressure at the last day (turned day before last).
Or one could just call me plain “crazy” 😉

To those of you who just narrowly failed the exam or had planned on taking it at a later time: Don’t be demotivated by the discontinuation of this highest technical certification.

At the end of the day, one should study, above, all, for the sake of knowledge. Whether certified or not: expanding one’s knowledge and skills is always worthwhile.

First and foremost, certifications offer comparability and standardization. Consequently, the discontinuation is regrettable in the first place on behalf of the people “on the other side of the negotiation table.”

In this spirit,

Happy studies,


MCM SQL Server, MCSM Data Platform



I would like to express my gratitude to the following people who have made this exam possible: Cindy McCormack, who planned my Lab Exam and its last-minute bringing forward; Ralph Beatty, who proctored my exam from Redmond as early as from 5 am; Bob Taylor (Twitter: @SQLboBT | Blog) for grading my exam almost immediately afterwards and informing me on December 311th that I passed – plus for all the work for the MCM Community in general and even after expiration of his function(!) as MCM-Program Manager.
Finally, I am also giving my thanks to Ralf Dietrich who at the PASS Camp encouraged me with my idea of still doing the certification.

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