Microsoft Finalizes Server Application Testing

A programmer's life never gets easier. Once one development pattern is established, a new one needs to be learned. In the past six months, many developers have been breaking their backs bending to the will of Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) to re-engineer applications so they comply with the Application Specification for Windows 2000.

These efforts were undertaken to certify for the desktop specification only. In December, Microsoft established its Server Application Specification for Windows 2000. A superset of the previous specification, the new one includes all the bells and whistles of the first, such as avoiding DLL conflicts, along with its own, more advanced features.

"They have to put some things in there that customers need the most," says Peter Ollodart, group manager for the certification team at Microsoft. "What we're trying to do is incur some standardization so applications behave in a uniform fashion and give the benefit of reliability to customers."

The new specification provides enough specifics to have a uniform performance among applications, but it does while not lock those application developers into the Windows platform. This way vendors that design large server applications for Microsoft, but also have their own platforms to develop for -- such as IBM Corp. (www.ibm.com), Novell Inc. (www.novell.com), Oracle Corp. (www.oracle.com), and Hewlett-Packard Co. (www.hp.com) -- could get certified on Windows 2000 and not have to abandon their own technology.

There are, of course, some requirements that Microsoft will test for. The first is Active Directory. While developers don't have to tie themselves in for server certification, vendors must have some kind of availability to Active Directory. Another requirement is the support for single sign-on to network applications. "We thought that was enough of a requirement, without scaring off competitors, to become certified," Ollodart says.

Microsoft's new Certified for Windows 2000 logo lists the precise versions of Windows that an application is certified for, whether that be Windows 9x; Windows NT Workstation or Server; or Windows 2000 Professional, Server, Advanced Server, or Datacenter Server. To get higher-level server certification, such as Advanced Server or Datacenter Server, an application needs to provide a function that fits that platform, Ollodart says, such as clustering support.

Ironically, of Microsoft’s biggest groups of applications -- Office, BackOffice and Visual Studio -- not one is certified. Once the Redmond camp is done eating their proverbial dog food, when can customers expect certified applications?

The answer to that question can be found somewhere between the Microsoft marketing department and the Microsoft development camp. Since Office 2000 is out and a new version is not expected for some time, the developers will go back and update Office 2000 to become certified.

As for BackOffice and VisualStudio, new versions are expected out this year. The company will focus on certifying them, with no reported plans to update previous versions.

So for organizations eager to begin Windows 2000 deployment this quarter or next, it appears there won't be many applications certified for the operating system. In anticipation of this, Microsoft tested 586 commonly used applications -- 500 desktop and 86 server -- on Windows 2000. Ollodart declares he is 100 percent confident of their stability.

Those applications that are declared Ready for Windows 2000, a step before certification, can be found on the Microsoft Windows 2000 Certification Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/upgrade/compat/search/default.asp). Ollodart says he has confidence in these as well. To become Ready, vendors have to sign an agreement with Microsoft that the company has tested the application and that the company will support their customers if they use it on Windows 2000.