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Commentary: Microsoft tries to prove itself--again

Although the company's software still may not be ready for every workload, real-world references, business model changes, and new product announcements show that it's getting there.

    By Thomas Bittman, Gartner Analyst

    Three years ago, Microsoft staged an ill-fated marketing event called Scalability Day, aimed at dispelling concerns about its software's ability to handle business workloads. Unfortunately for Microsoft, its claims that "any business of any size can now run its enterprise applications on Microsoft software and industry-standard hardware" proved misleading at best.

    Today's release of Windows 2000 Datacenter and

    See news story:
    Microsoft targets high-end computers with new Windows
    other related products is a reprise of Scalability Day, and it shows that the company has made real progress in addressing the needs of the business market. Although Microsoft software still may not be ready for every workload, real-world references, business model changes and new product announcements show that the company is getting there.

    The agenda of today's announcement is ambitious: to introduce new products targeted at business workloads; to try--again--to convince business users that the company's software is capable of meeting their requirements; and to differentiate it from the competition by tying its push to its recently announced .Net strategy.

    The products are certainly impressive. Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, for example, shows Microsoft understands businesses care more about partnerships and service and support than they do about speed and feeds. The major difference between Datacenter and the other Windows 2000 servers is a limited set of certified configurations (a "gold" hardware compatibility list), and a unique service and support arrangement using the skills of Microsoft and hardware makers.

    The other .Net products introduced--including SQL Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2000--are important, too. But the big news is probably BizTalk Server 2000, the first release of Microsoft's collaboration platform based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) and the center of its current DNA 2000 strategy and future .NET vision. Like the first release of Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS), BizTalk Server will need time to mature; it is not yet up to par with competitive products.

    As good as the new products are, it will take more than demos for Microsoft to prove itself to business customers. Although customer references were included in today's event, the primary focus was still on manufacturer testimonials.

    One mistake that Microsoft made today--one that is likely to slow its acceptance by businesses--was tying the Enterprise Server announcements to the .Net strategy. The .Net vision--a revolutionary change from today's DNA 2000-based products--is still more than a year away from delivering real product changes. Although .Net appears to be a move in the right direction for Microsoft's enterprise software architecture, it will also cause a certain amount of product upheaval.

    Instead of differentiating itself from the competition, Microsoft may have allowed its future vision to cloud what its products can do today.

    (For related commentary on Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.