Rallying behind 2003

Whether you love it or hate it, when Microsoft Corp. throws itself a party, everyone takes note. The recent Windows Server 2003 launch featured many IT vendors standing up and announcing their own applications for the server platform.

Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm that focuses on Microsoft, said even with talk of slow adoption rates, industry vendors have to jump on board because they don’t want to miss the boat.

“The problem you get into is what if it does take off? You could get left behind,” he said. On the other hand, one of the things that can drive adoption and make a platform take off is applications. So if you don’t come out with applications, maybe the platform wouldn’t do as well, he said. “It’s a proverbial chicken and egg problem.”

Overall Cherry is not surprised by the support, which at launch time included more than 200 applications for the server, with another 2,500 expected to be available within six months, according to Microsoft.

Todd Irie, director of marketing for Toronto-based NexInnovations, a technology services provider, said his company took that amount of application support for Server 2003 as a positive signal.

NexInnovations’ Readiness Assessment offering will help customers evaluate their network operating system environments to determine compatibility to Windows Server 2003.

“We think we’ve timed it well. It takes time to look at customers’ environments and then mapping the features of this platform against the infrastructure,” Irie said, which will allow for more adoption.

Kathy Wattman, senior vice-president of marketing for Burbank Calif.-based Executive Software, agreed that server applications and the steps leading up to deployments can take a long time to implement, so announcing support for the new platform this soon is not a big deal.

Executive specializes in system management tools, and Wattman said the company wanted to continue to be there for customers as they shift operating systems.

Don LeClair, vice-president of the office of the CTO at Computer Associates International Inc., said CA’s clients look to the company to support all platforms across the board, so it has to provide that.

On launch day, April 24, CA announced that it would support the server across all product lines.

“It remains to be seen how fast deployment will be. Microsoft has made an effort to put a lot of functions into this,” LeClair said, adding he has seen some interest from clients who will be upgrading to 2003, but that it hasn’t been overwhelming.

Still, given that CA has a mandate to support various infrastructures, “we had to be ready on this,” said LeClair from his Framingham, Mass.-based office.

Ken Jacobs, vice-president of product strategy for Oracle Corp. in Redwood Shores, Calif., doesn’t see massive upgrades happening, and added that many of the upgrades that do occur will be forced as Microsoft discontinues support for NT 4.0.

Oracle announced general availability of Oracle9i database for Windows Server 2003. Jacobs said Oracle did not want customers to feel left behind in any way.

However, in terms of the server’s 64-bit features, Jacobs said it seems like Microsoft just “finally got dressed for a party that happened years ago.”

Cherry said the 64-bit functionality plays to a new trend that is seeing enterprises running on big expensive systems looking to Intel and AMD as less costly alternatives.

“So (other vendors) cannot ignore this release or they ignore that trend as well,” Cherry said. “I anticipate that we will see a lot of vendors working hard to make sure they are part of this.”


The view on launch day

Despite already overseeing a largely Windows NT 4.0-based shop, Tony Fernandes said migrating to Windows Server 2003 wasn’t necessarily a simple decision.

That’s because there was a time when “you wouldn’t run certain, high-risk applications on certain platforms,” said Fernandes, vice-president of technology infrastructure at Inventure Solutions, the IT arm of Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, while at the Canadian Windows 2003 launch in Toronto last month. “But things have changed…it’s time to rethink what you were doing five years ago.”

Currently, VanCity is midway through its bid to boost IT ROI by upgrading its aging fleet of servers and PCs. As for VanCity’s 20 or so HP-UX servers currently “doing some of the enterprise stuff,” Fernandes said, “we’ll revisit that.”

With Linux making enterprise inroads, Windows finds itself once again fighting for the mindshare of CIOs, some of whom continue to be leery of Windows’ security and stability.

It’s a message that Frank Clegg, president of Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada Co., speaking at the launch event (mirrored in 172 other countries), says the company has heard loud and clear. It’s one reason why it delayed the release of Windows 2003 by four months.

“What you see today is the first OS we’ve launched in the world of Trustworthy Computing,” he said, referring to Bill Gates’ decision last year to halt all software production until Redmond developers learned to systematically code in a more secure fashion.

At least one analyst said Microsoft is focusing on the right areas. “Microsoft is really delving into the enterprise. With this latest iteration of their operating system they’re improving security, improving availability and [adding] the Web services aspect that will enable companies to populate their data centres and their enterprise infrastructure solely on Microsoft platforms,” said Alan Freedman, research manager for infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto

The new Windows features a slew of additions, including Internet Information Services 6.0, an updated Active Directory service with a focus on improved deployment and manageability features; integrated XML capability via Windows Real Time Communication, SharePoint. It ships in five different versions, from Enterprise and Datcenter to Small Business.