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Ballmer and Allchin Take the Wraps Off Windows 2000 for Desktops and Servers
By Dave Kramer

Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin On the eve of one of the final milestones before shipping Windows 2000, Microsoft execs Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin offered an insightful look into the process that went into building the new operating system. Designed to offer significant improvements in reliability, management, and device compatibility, the design goals for Windows 2000 were driven from customer surveys, feature requests, and a detailed analysis of thousands of server logs.

What the findings revealed is that customers really value reliability most of all, so this is the area Microsoft focused a great deal of its energy improving. Ballmer noted that the vision for Windows has evolved quite a bit over the past three years of development, and the result is that the product will really address key customer needs when it ships in February 2000.

Windows 2000 on the desktop: Knowledge worker's paradise
Steve Ballmer"I don't think we've said too much about the Windows 2000 desktop," noted Microsoft President Ballmer at the beginning of the press conference. But the truth is that the operating system has much to offer in this arena. Microsoft itself has migrated about 80 percent of its employees to a pre-release version of Windows 2000 Professional as well as virtually all infrastructure servers, and the results have been remarkable, he said.

Ballmer described the Windows 2000 desktop as "the best of Windows 98 and NT technologies, with key enhancements" such as improved reliability, roaming user support, dynamic system configuration, configurable system file protection, laptop support and features, and more. Windows 2000 Product Manager Sarah Lefko joined Ballmer to show how system and application files can be locked or made to self-heal by an automatic reinstall process if inadvertently deleted. Smart cards can be used to add an extra layer of security, and nearby network printers can quickly detected and added, too.

Steve Ballmer and Sarah LefkoThere was one dramatic moment when Ballmer tried to open a document transmitted by Lefko via infrared to his laptop, only to get an error message. However, the crowd's response turned around when the computer began to automatically install the missing Office 2000 software required to view it.

Ballmer said that while Windows NT Workstation has been deployed sparingly in the realm of small business, he expects Windows 2000's improved user interface and ease of use will lead to greater adoption by these customers and even some consumers. He noted that even after it ships, Microsoft plans to expand the number of Windows 2000 compatible apps to include more home and personal software by offering small downloadable code updates.

Windows 2000 on the server: Say goodbye to reboots
Though this level of reliability is great for desktop users, it's absolutely vital on the server side. Which is why Microsoft invested 500 person years and $162 million in people and tools to make Windows 2000 more reliable than ever before.

Jim Allchin"You're looking at the complaint department for Windows," said Senior Vice President Allchin, noting that he rolled up all of the negative feedback from users of previous versions of Windows to help analyze and shape the needs for Windows 2000. One result was a detailed analysis of all of the things that cause server reboots.

From an analysis of nearly 1,200 servers running Windows NT Server 4.0, Microsoft found that 65 percent of reboots were due to planned outages to install and configure hardware, operating systems, and applications or perform "preventative reboots" to try to proactively refresh server boxes. The remainder of outages were caused by either application or system failures.

NT Server Reboot CausesTo decrease the need for reboots with Windows 2000, Microsoft added a large number of features, including service pack slipstreaming, reduction in reboots for configuration changes, resource partitioning to prevent application failures from necessitating reboots, a task manager improvement that enables entire process trees to be killed, and more. Additional work was done to reduce the appearance of "bluescreen" system failures, including use of a new, thorough source code analysis tool and a new driver verifier testing tool, conducting labs with antivirus software and driver software developers, and performing intense stress testing.

Other solutions provide even better piece of mind for server customers. As demonstrated during Bill Gates' pre-opening day keynote, network load balancing and use of four-node clusters for persistent state offer "dot com" customers additional layers of reliability. Line of business customers enjoy rolling upgrades and rapid recovery from unplanned downtime. And branch offices benefit from unattended restarts of services and remote administistration and monitoring.

Early adopters agree: Windows 2000 delivers
Not only has Microsoft itself deployed Windows 2000 company-wide, but some early adopters have begun to reap its benefits as well.

Bluescreen, ranked the fourth largest e-commerce site on the Web, is one satisfied customer that has really put Windows 2000 to the test. "Nowhere else in business are the battles so fierce, and the competitors so aggressive, and the customers so demanding as in online retail," said CIO Gary King. "We've deployed Windows 2000 for our fulfillment and distribution - a very mission-critical application for us. What we're seeing in terms of availability, reliability, and ease of maintenance is dramatically better than what we've had previously with the Windows NT 4.0 environment.

King adds: "We're able to improve our scalability and reliability such that we feel very confident in deploying Windows 2000 for this, our most important shopping season."

Naveen Jain, CEO of content service provider, notes that Windows 2000 makes it easy for its site to scale with its expanding customer base. "Not only are we able to sign new customers, we're able to keep our existing customers even happier," he said.

Allchin urged Comdex attendees to take Windows 2000 on a test drive.

"Everyone who's touched this really likes this product," he said. "I think you'll have a better experience (with it) than whatever you're running today."

Dave Kramer edits the home page and Microsoft Backstage. He's covered Fall Comdex for Microsoft for three years, and, most recently, covered Spring Internet World.

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Last Updated: November 15, 1999