Although Windows 2000's scalability and interoperability aren't yet as strong as Microsoft advertises, IBM officials say, Big Blue is banking on big success for Windows 2000.
To support users during their eventual migration to the operating system, IBM Global Services (IGS) this week described new Windows offerings including a group dedicated to servicing Windows implementations. IBM Software, meanwhile, said it will begin offering Win 2K support next month for its key software products even while Windows 2000 remains at the beta stage.
"We think this is a strongly growing market," said Lothar Mackert, IBM's Windows 2000 project office executive. "We are investing massively to support this."
By the end of the year, IBM Global Services' Enterprise Services for Microsoft Technologies practice, a new group dedicated to servicing customers' Windows implementations, will employ 1,500 Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers, said Anne Fitzpatrick, manager of business development at IGS. Overall, IGS plans to increase the number of MCSEs on staff to 2,500 from 2,000 currently.
By the end of next month, IGS will begin providing Windows 2000 readiness assessments and architecture design services for customers and is developing technology to establish failover capabilities between Windows 2000 servers made by different manufactures, Fitzpatrick said.
Analyst Joe Clabby of Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston said IGS's beefed-up Windows emphasis will provide stronger competition for Compaq Computer Corp.'s services unit, which for the last several years has led the field in enterprise Windows support. Although IGS hasn't traditionally emphasized Windows-centric approaches, it has substantial experience deploying enterprise-scale systems that operate with multiple platforms, he said.
Across its software products, IBM will provide newsgroup technical support for customers testing products with Windows 2000, said Dick Sullivan, IBM's vice president of global solutions marketing. The products, which include MQ Series, DB2, Lotus Domino and the Java 2 virtual machine, won't have to be licensed while they are being used for evaluation, he said.
More than 300 of IBM's software products will run on Windows 2000 when it is launched, probably at Comdex in Las Vegas in November, Mackert said.
Despite its investment in building products and services around Windows 2000, IBM still has concerns about Windows 2000, especially about its scalability and interoperability. Patrick Gibney, director of Windows 2000 systems at IBM, warned that users won't see performance increases from Windows 2000's increased support for multiple processors if more than one major application is installed on the server.
Gibney also said Microsoft hasn't yet enabled Active Directory to fully synchronize with other directories such as Novell's NDS, and Windows 2000's version of Kerberos security remains incompatible with the industry standard. Gibney also criticized Windows 2000 for making its management console interface native to Windows rather than Web-based, because users of other systems won't want to use a Windows interface.
But overall, Mackert said, IBM expects that customers will begin to expand their usage of Windows both in its traditional role as a file and print server and also for bigger tasks such as serving e-business and enterprise resource planning applications.
Clabby said with highly disciplined deployment and management, Windows 2000 will also be powerful enough to handle server and storage consolidation, in which far fewer machines handle much more work. But he warned that the current dearth of well-qualified Windows administrators and developers in the marketplace will become even more serious after Windows 2000 is released.