Microsoft tries to ease move to Win 2000

Microsoft has rolled out an upgraded tool designed to make it easier to build new applications or adapt existing ones to Windows 2000. But corporate users fear it will take more than a tool or two to keep application migration from becoming a messy venture.

Microsoft has rolled out an upgraded tool designed to make it easier to build new applications or adapt existing ones to Windows 2000. But corporate users fear it will take more than a tool or two to keep application migration from becoming a messy venture.

Microsoft announced two weeks ago that it was releasing Version 2.5 of its Active Directory Service Interface (ADSI), a group of Component Object Model (COM) objects designed to reroute an application’s queries from databases generally used in the Windows NT 4.0 architecture to the Active Directory that will be part of Windows 2000.

The objects, which can be dropped into applications like blocks, will change the old query coding into Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) code that will interface with Active Directory.

LDAP is a set of programming rules that lets applications access information inside directories. ADSI is a Windows-specific tool that drops chunks of LDAP code into the application so that developers don’t have to write it themselves. Because ADSI will be used with Microsoft’s Visual Basic tool, developers will have to know just Visual Basic rather than LDAP.

“It’s good that they’re taking existing technology like [Visual Basic] and COM and adding on to it for us,” said Brian McGuire, a vice president at Econometrics, a Chicago-based data warehouse marketing firm. “But tool or not, it’s going to be a lot of work to dig back into the code in all those existing applications. ... That’s going to be a pain.”

“It sounds like a complex strategy to me,” agreed Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at International Data in Framingham, Massachusetts. “People want simplicity.”

Windows 2000, the next version of Microsoft’s Windows NT platform, is slated to ship before year’s end (Microsoft has confirmed an internal target ship date of early October). But many users have said they won’t adopt it until sometime next year.

That will give independent software vendors time to develop and deliver applications that are Active Directory-ready -- but corporate developers may not have that luxury.

Users and analysts agreed that once an application is geared toward Windows 2000 with Active Directory coding signposts added, that application will be harder to run on Windows NT 4.0.

Peter Houston, an NT product manager at Microsoft, said an Active Directory-ready application can run on Windows NT Workstation, Windows 95 and 98 if the administrator installs a directory server using Windows 2000 on the back end. But if a shop wants to migrate applications before fully adopting Windows 2000, it will have to use the current release, Beta 3, in production.

That may not be a great idea, according to Kusnetzky.

“Microsoft acts like everyone is going to wholeheartedly abandon what they’re using now, rolling Windows 2000 out on all their servers and clients at the same time,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to work ahead of time because [NT 4.0 and Windows 2000] are two different structures.”

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