IBM’s Windows 2000 Strategy: Bad Ideas

ibmswindowsIBM had an aggressive support plan for Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000, but under the surface, the two companies’ love/hate relationship is stronger than ever.

As the largest independent developer of software for the forthcoming platform, IBM hopes to position itself as users’ go-to company for Windows 2000 by including in its plans readiness assessment; installation; integration; and a breadth of applications, service and support.

At the same time, IBM executives are more than willing to point out the myriad technical shortcomings of Windows 2000 Server and Microsoft’s inability to support it. They also predict slow adoption rates of the operating system. Above all, IBM officials privately say Microsoft has been unable to support very large software partners, like itself.

“This is more than just a ‘dot-oh’ release,” said Lothar Mackert, director of IBM’s Windows 2000 program office at IBM here. “Customers will want to do this alone, but they won’t be able to. There will be colossal costs associated with this upgrade, and we are in the best position to support it.”

On the support front, IBM may have a larger stake in Windows 2000 than it had in previous Microsoft platforms. Not only is the company a Rapid Deployment Partner, meaning it is committed to rolling out Windows 2000 early, but IBM’s Global Services Division is opening up 16 centers worldwide to help with deployment and integration of the operating system.

IBM also is developing more applications and hardware for Windows 2000 than it supported with previous Windows releases.

Some beta testers say they’ve seen a difference in the way IBM and Microsoft support Windows 2000. Al Williams, director of distributed systems at the Pennsylvania State University Center for Academic Computing, in State College, Pa., said IBM is more willing to drill down into reported bugs in Windows 2000 and help him deal with them. In contrast, he said, bugs reported to Microsoft tend to drop into a “black hole” on the company’s beta Web site.

“The key to successfully dealing with a vendor is to understand the strategy that you wish to follow in your business and then finding the vendor with the best fit,” Williams said. “In this case, we are saying IBM is the best fit for our Windows 2000 strategy.”

To prove that it’s better suited than any other vendor, including Microsoft, to take on Windows 2000 deployment, IBM is committed to having 300 certified Windows 2000 applications when the operating system becomes commercially available, which is expected later this year.

“Nobody, including Microsoft, will have more,” Mackert said.

Supported IBM applications will include DB2; Lotus Domino; Websphere, an application server; MQSeries; SecureWay Communications Server; merce; and VisualAge for Java. Other applications, such as software suites, will be available by next June.

But while IBM pumps up Windows 2000 with one hand, it points out its flaws with the other. For example, at a press event here last week to highlight its Windows 2000 efforts, the company said it anticipates very slow adoption of the operating system-so slow that it doesn’t expect to break even on its early investments until at least the end of next year.

“I would disagree with IBM on deployment,” said Aubrey Edwards, group product manager of Microsoft’s Business Enterprise Division, in Redmond, Wash.”The feedback we’re hearing is after the Y2K lockdown is over, about February, … Windows 2000 will certainly be a high priority for users.”

When it comes to supporting its software partners, Microsoft’s effort has fallen short, IBM officials said. For example, when IBM sought Microsoft’s cooperation on improving the multiprocessing capability of its Java-based Websphere Web server, Microsoft flatly refused, the officials said.

Edwards, however, maintains that Microsoft has a strong working relationship with IBM.

“The reality is we have been a good partner with IBM,” he said. “There are lots of examples of us working closely together. On the beta program, they’ve given us feedback, and we work with that feedback to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

Not all users think IBM is a guardian angel for their Windows 2000 strategies.

“The thing that struck me immediately was the naked greed that leapt out. IBM sees large dollar signs on [Active Directory] implementations, and they want to be first in line,” said Randy Grein, a network architect with Seattle-based Seitel Leeds and Associates.

IBM’s view of Windows 2000

The good:Supports more than 300 IBM applications/Offers improved scalability over NT 4.0Provides a solid client in Windows 2000 Professional

The bad:Instability of Windows 2000 ServerPoor “Designed for Windows” logo campaignMany “killer apps” require end-to-end Windows 2000 deployment

The ugly:Arduous Active Directory integration into heterogeneous networkKerberos, Microsoft Management Console and DNS take control of functions running on existing infrastructureNo standard LDAP synchronization forthcoming.

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