Tell Microsoft How You Feel

Two of the missing pieces needed for a strong Windows 2000 launch have been resolved. First, high-end eight-way Xeon hardware is now available. The second piece fell into place last month: Microsoft backed down on plans to reduce processor support for direct replacement versions of Windows 2000 from Windows NT. While it’s not clear exactly what motivated Microsoft to change its plans, the decision translates to a loss of revenue per license for the company -- so you can be sure the decision wasn’t made lightly.

This was not a technical issue; it was strictly a licensing and revenue decision. While Windows NT runs out of gas at four-way SMP – which is partly due to the eight-way Pentium Pro hardware that was available up until recently, and partly due to the limitations of Windows NT itself -- Windows 2000 is engineered for far higher levels of scalability. Datacenter Server is expected to offer scalability of up to 32-way. If it doesn’t, companies like Unisys Corp., which is betting its whole next-generation architecture upon the success of Windows NT Datacenter Server, will be pretty disappointed. Limiting Windows 2000 Server to two-way and Advanced Server to four-way was nothing more than a way to drive more customers to Datacenter Server.

Some sources say large customers were livid that Microsoft was going to force them to move up the product food chain to maintain the same SMP options they have today NT 4.0. What is clear is that there was enough pressure on the company to change a decision it had refused to discuss with the press for the past several months.

This brings up an important point.

We probably won’t hear more about the specific terms of the license until the Windows 2000 launch. Microsoft has briefed some industry analysts under NDA, but they’re still gagged from discussing the subject.

Users are concerned about this subject, especially if it means they lose the ability to buy a perpetual license -- something that has been speculated about. Consider the note sent to me from James Merrill of Analytical Software Corp.: "I haven't seen very much discussion of what I feel to be the most onerous proposal concerning the licensing of [Windows 2000] that, in essence, the licenses will expire. It is my impression that a W2K license will be for a year, and you will have to pay to renew the license or be in violation." He adds, "I haven't seen anything that says what will happen when the license expires. Will the machine stop booting?"

This issue has been raised in the trade press, but Microsoft declines to discuss in any specific terms. If users like Merrill are on the money with their concerns, this will be a huge issue for Microsoft. It’s something that needs to be told to the company if it concerns you. Redmond wants you to adopt Windows 2000 from client through to server in your network. And to take advantage of some of Windows 2000’s best features, you need an end-to-end Windows 2000 network. But if Microsoft’s licensing terms will threaten the likelihood of your building such a configuration, Microsoft needs to be told this.

There are other options. You could skip Windows 2000, stick with Windows NT for now and phase in Linux on either the desktop or the server side. You could move your application servers to Unix or Linux, and use NetWare for print, file and groupware services. You have options, and Microsoft needs to know this, too.

Now is the time to voice your concerns. If you don’t have any contacts at Microsoft, you can send your comments to me at I’ll make sure they get to the attention of the appropriate people at Microsoft.