Ballmer Talks up Interoperability

Microsoft president acknowledges interoperability, availability concerns of the Windows NT operating system.

In the face of increased industry censure, Microsoft Corp. has assumed a much more congenial facade of late. Microsoft president Steve Ballmer has been the visible figurehead behind several of the software giant’s recent conciliatory gestures.

Speaking at the May Tech-Ed show held in Las Vegas, Ballmer offered an initial articulation of Microsoft’s reversal-of-course by indicating that "the world is a world in which there are a lot of other kinds of systems around." Speaking at the inaugural Microsoft Business Application Conference held during early September in Las Vegas, Ballmer once again keyed on Microsoft’s revamped interoperability focus and at the same time spoke candidly about the limitations of the Windows NT operating system itself.

Ballmer commenced his keynote with a decidedly un-Microsoft-like gesture by asking the audience to identify the number of different platforms from vendors such as Lotus Development Corp., Oracle Corp., Netscape Communications Corp. for which attendees had developed applications.

"I think that for us [this conference] was very different," Ballmer acknowledged. "We’ve tried to be very different in the sense of starting with the kinds of application and development problems that we think you face every day and backing into what we need to do to be able to put together the right pieces, products for Microsoft and others technically, as opposed to starting with a new product and telling you about it and trying to do some technical education."

In May, Microsoft announced a number of initiatives related to interoperability between Microsoft’s flagship Windows NT platform and the disparate Unix platforms in enterprise environments.

"Almost everybody in the room does have a set of applications, a set of code [or] a set of platforms on which they’re working that come from companies other than Microsoft," Ballmer conceded. "There has been … the prevailing view that we’re not very sensitive [to this fact,] and so we’ve been attuned to the issues of interoperability."

Ballmer also acknowledged that the Windows NT operating system that Microsoft has historically championed as a fit for any and every enterprise environment is not without its problems in crucial implementations that require maximum availability and reliability.

"One of the comments, charges, statements very frequently leveled against NT Server today is that it still requires too many reboots in the data center environment," Ballmer observed. "[Correcting this problem] is absolutely a job one focus for us, because we know that we’ll get a lot of resistance in building and deploying NT Server applications if those things can’t stay up 7 days a week, 24 hours a day."

A promise by Ballmer was that the forthcoming Service Pack 4 for Windows NT will do much to increase the availability and reliability of the Windows NT operating system. He also predicted that Microsoft will release service pack updates more regularly after the introduction of Windows NT 5.0.

"NT 5.0 has been designed to improve availability," Ballmer concluded. "There are far fewer things that require a reboot in order to do a configuration change, and so we think there’s been an architecture on NT 5.0 that promotes high availability [and] high reliability."