Despite warnings from organisations such as Gartner Group that enterprises avoid the first iteration of Windows 2000, suppliers big and small are planning to deliver an array of integration, support and deployment services to support the operating environment.
At a Gartner Group conference on "NT in the Enterprise" held in early May in Palm Springs, the market research firm's head of research attested there would be too many bugs in Windows 2000 for businesses to deal with it comfortably, especially if Microsoft rushes the release to 6 October this year to claim "bragging rights".
However, beta 3 testing has only just begun and, in reality, should be a lengthy project for such a major product. As a result, Gartner Group has been telling customers for some time not to expect a full version of the operating system (OS) until the first half of 2000 and to wait for at least the first Windows 2000 Service Pack - or possibly the first version - before deploying it widely.
Tom Bittman, Gartner's director of research, says: "Yes, I know there's an October 6 date. There was also a 1995 date. But this is going to be a killer on the first release. The beta program is only going to catch the easy bugs."
He predicts that, although Windows 2000 will have benefits such as improved scaleability, it will not be as reliable as NT 4.0 is now. "Microsoft will catch up only in following releases," he claims.
Bittman also points out that, while Microsoft executives describe the OS as "reliable," potential users should compare it more with NT 4.0 and the Windows 9x consumer line than more mature OSs such as Unix, Linux or AS/400.
The skills costs associated with deploying Windows 2000 could also be daunting, he explains, with NT skilled professionals seeking raises of some 25 per cent since early 1998.
However, although Bittman says that Windows 2000 will never be "the end all and be all," he predicts it will be an important part of most enterprise architectures in the next few years as the number of applications written for it outpace those developed for Unix.
As a result, hardware manufacturers such as Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard and IBM and systems integrators such as Amdahl, DMR Consulting Group and Ernst & Young are providing new consulting and evaluation services focused on the OS.
These services range from systems architecture planning for exploiting new Windows 2000 features such as its Active Directory directory services and Intellimirror management to integration services such as applications testing, mainframe integration and interoperability with Unix.
Dell Computer, for one, has announced a Windows 2000 Premier Migration Program to help corporate customers move from their existing OS to the new one and emphasises Windows NT 4.0 deployment as a stepping stone to Windows 2000.
According to Carl Everett, senior vice president of Dell's Personal Systems Group: "Dell is committed to the direct approach of providing all customers with the right tools and education to help them make informed decisions on where, when and how to deploy Windows 2000."
He says the scheme will focus on three areas - determining how far legacy hardware will be able to support Windows 2000; identifying minimum future hardware support requirements, and ensuring that Dell systems support the relevant Windows 2000 device drivers.
Dell is also running an internal Windows 2000 beta programme as it intends to base portions of its own business on the new OS.
Since 1 April this year, Hewlett-Packard (HP) has also optimised and tested Windows 2000 Server running on its Netserver hardware family and Windows 2000 Professional running on its Vectra and Brio PCs, Kayak PC Workstations and Omnibook notebooks.
While the firm does not expect enterprises to run the servers in a production environment just yet, Hannah Lewis, HP's worldwide product manager for OSs, says: "We've taken advantage of the scalability features in Windows 2000 in order to support advanced architectures. We are ensuring that from a usability and deployment perspective these servers will perform running Windows 2000."
Compaq says all of its commercial desktops, portables and workstations that currently run Windows NT Workstation 4.0 are now Windows 2000 ready, and as Microsoft's primary hardware provider for the Rapid Deployment Program, it has been testing Windows 2000 on all its platforms.
IBM, meanwhile, is working closely with Microsoft to migrate 300 of its software products over to the OS, including MQSeries, Domino Notes and the Tivoli systems management applications. Big Blue generates about $1.5 billion annually from NT client and server product sales and is trying to ensure that all of its existing NT 4.0 products will work on Windows 2000 - something it says is not guaranteed with all Microsoft applications because of changes to the Windows security architecture.
And on the software side, Microsoft said last month that more than 75 independent software vendors were now supporting Windows 2000.
Mission Critical Software, which develops Windows NT based systems network management tools, for example, has unveiled a set of Novell Netware to Windows 2000 directory migration tools for its Onepoint EA suite.
Onepoint Domain Administrator 5.0 automatically populates Windows NT and Exchange directories with the contents of Netware binaries and NDS directories, preserving such Netware directory attributes as security equivalence.
The suite supports Netware Versions 3.x, 4.x and 5.x and automatically generates Windows NT security groups based on NDS Organizational Units, retaining file permissions associated with the Units.
Timpanogas Research Group, on the other hand, claims it has licensed the source code for the read and write versions of its Fenris for NT file system to Microsoft, although it expects Big Green to only use the read portion. This will enable IT managers to port Netware file systems to the Windows 2000 and Active Directory architecture.
The product, which supports symmetric multiprocessing, is expected to be bundled with Windows 2000 when the first Service Pack arrives sometime next year.
Entevo also says its Directmigrate directory services migration tool enables administrators to move users, groups and organisational units from an NDS hierarchy to either a flat Windows NT domain structure or to Entevo's Directmap virtual directory. Directmap enables companies to administer domains using hierarchical organisational units today while they wait for Windows 2000 and Active Directory to ship.
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