Aggressive Adoption Plans: Realistic or Not?

Survey information is starting to surface that suggests Windows 2000 will roll over any obstacle in its way, and that 18 months from now we will arrive at the Windows 2000 nirvana that Microsoft has promised for years.

Unfortunately, these enthusiastic expectations suggest that many of those being surveyed don’t fully comprehend the broad ramifications of moving to Windows 2000. Have these respondents taken into consideration the fact that true application exploitation on a widespread basis will lag far behind Windows 2000’s release?

Consider the results of an extensive, 150-page survey conducted by World Research (www.survey.com). More than 80 percent of the 1,300 respondents to the survey said their Windows 2000 Server deployment would begin by the fourth quarter of 2000. That’s reasonable, since deployment could entail placing a single Windows 2000 server into use. But the survey also finds the completion dates for Windows 2000 deployment will ramp up immediately. By the first quarter of 2000, about 25 percent of respondents say their Windows 2000 deployments will be complete; by the fourth quarter nearly 50 percent say the deployments will be complete. That includes workstations and servers. Now this is harder to believe.

Likewise, IBM Corp. is citing an as-yet-to-be published survey recently conducted by IntelliQuest Inc. (www.intelliquest.com) that shows almost 60 percent of respondents expect to have Windows 2000 Server deployment complete by the fourth quarter of 2000.

There’s more to this picture, and part of it is trying to interpret what users consider "full deployment." Additionally, what’s not immediately evident from these numbers is the fact that many users are not planning to upgrade every single Windows NT 4.0 system to Windows 2000. In fact, the World Research report shows that the average site expects to have about 17 percent of its servers running Windows 2000 by the fourth quarter of next year, the same timeframe in which 50 percent of respondents say deployments will be complete. Coexistence of NT 4 and Windows 2000 is expected until 2001 or later by 35 percent of those surveyed. I will bet coexistence will be a significant issue in 2005, as well.

The availability of Windows 2000-aware applications will play into these trends, but one thing appears certain: it won’t accelerate adoption. Upgrading software to leverage the capabilities that Windows 2000 offers -- particularly the security, Active Directory and installation services -- will take a long time.

Consider IBM’s portfolio. Despite the memories of the stormy relationship between Microsoft and IBM in the late 1980s and early 1990s, IBM has focused its considerable clout as a software developer to address a broad range of business software needs in the Windows NT market. The result is one of the industry’s largest middleware and application suites developed for Windows NT. There are plans to have a subset of those products upgraded and ready to launch in parallel with Windows 2000, but the upgrades will only partially exploit the most desirable Windows 2000 features. Full exploitation won’t take place until late next year, possibly even longer.

Microsoft’s porting challenge will be huge. The next version of Exchange Server, cited by Microsoft as one of the first major Active Directory-enabled applications, won’t be available in beta form until next spring, months after Windows 2000 is expected to ship.

If you have not yet done so, you may want to visit the Windows 2000 readiness list at www.microsoft.com/windows/server/Deploy/Compatible/default.asp. How many of your preferred applications are listed? One thing to note about being on the readiness list is the terminology used. "Ready" for Windows 2000 means a product will work with Windows 2000, but it says nothing about whether the product exploits the new features that Windows 2000 brings to the table. Another curiosity: Only a few BackOffice products are listed on Microsoft’s readiness list, and all of those entries are all listed as "planned," none of them are labeled "ready."

Another holdup is that Windows 2000 certification testing by VeriTest (www.veritest.com) won’t get under way until later this fall, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see a significant number of applications certified until sometime next year.

Don’t let anybody fool you. The transition to Windows 2000 is going to be anything but instantaneous. It will be something that we will be talking about and working on implementing for years to come.