Microsoft aims to address NT crash tendencies

The two biggest complaints about Windows NT - the need to constantly reboot servers and systems failures that lead to the blue screen of death - are two issues that Microsoft expects to resolve to most customer's satisfaction with the release of Windows 2000 later this year.

After gathering data from an extensive survey of its customers, Microsoft this week said it expects to eliminate most of the conditions that lead to configuration reboots, while at the same time make use of new driver verifier technology to prevent system crashes.

According to Microsoft Senior Vice President Jim Allchin, most system failures are related to problems caused by NT drivers, whether they come from Microsoft or a third-party vendor. To address this issue, Microsoft plans to deliver more robust testing tools for drivers with Windows 2000.

By tackling these two issues, Microsoft hopes to restore some of NT's tarnished reputation in the enterprise.

NT's propensity to crash costs organisations in a number of ways, from the cost of installing redundant hardware as backups, to the cost if idle workers during reboots, to the cost of poor customer service if systems fail during business transactions, analysts said.

"I'm astonished that people run their business on a system [Windows NT] that may not be awake for the week," said Anne Thomas, analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston. "It can take up to 30 minutes to reboot the servers, databases, and applications."

Microsoft admits that NT customers are having a wide variety of NT experiences from site to site, which Allchin attributed to the fact that many customers do not maintain the same types of system management discipline. To help customers better implement NT, Microsoft has also made available a set of best practices guideline for NT.

At the same time, Microsoft has reached out to NEC to help develop better diagnostic tools to help speed recoveries from system crashes. Those tools have been developed in conjunction with NEC's mainframe technology group.

Other new features in Windows 2000 that will help bolster NT's reliability include a user disk quota and a tool, the ability to run a Web application out of process, and a CPU quota tool that will place memory limits on applications, officials said.

Such measures are needed because Unix-based platforms have proven to be much more robust than NT.

"Unix systems are generally a lot more solid and don't tend to go down as often," Thomas said. "Some haven't been cycled for years."

Windows 2000 -- which is expected to have 29 million lines of code, including about 3 million lines of code for the base operating system -- is expected to ship before the end of this year. Beta 3 of this release will ship in the next several weeks.

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