Microsoft's Partners Are Ready for W2K

Once again, Microsoft Corp.'s top-tier hardware partners have outdone themselves with a plethora of servers and value-added services to accompany the Windows 2000 launch. But rather than rolling out dramatically upgraded or modified machines to handle the more robust demands of W2K, most vendors simply recertified their current lines as Windows 2000-ready.

But when the high-end Windows 2000 Datacenter Server system hits the streets in a few months, vendors will unleash systems equipped with eight-way SMP processors and beyond. Microsoft ( has attached far more stringent requirements for hardware certification for Datacenter Server, requiring further development and testing. In fact, the Datacenter version of Windows 2000, expected to ship by mid-year (see story on page xx), will require more than tweaks, says Jean Bozman, research director at International Data Corp. (

While eight-way servers have been on the market for about three years, "The whole eight-way processor NT world got off to a false start," she explains. Early designs relied on separate instances of Windows NT rather than true SMP, she notes.

Most uniprocessor, dual-processor, and four-way processor servers on the market are capable of running the Server and Advanced Server editions of Windows 2000 with little modification, Bozman says. "Most of the systems that can run NT 4.0 will be able to run Windows 2000," she explains. "They may need a little more memory to soup them up, but it's targeting the same type of platform."

For example, Hewlett-Packard Corp. ( is bracing for a major migration to Windows 2000, with up to 40 percent of its larger customers expected to make the move to W2K this year, according to Winsun Hsieh, product manager at HP. The computer maker, however, had no new hardware announcements to accompany the W2K launch.

"Basically, all of our currently shipping servers will run Windows 2000," Hsieh says. The only exceptions are those that do not have a power management feature that is featured in W2K. The servers will still run Windows 2000, but are not certified, Hsieh explains. "The power management feature is not a really highly sought-after feature in servers, it's just an extra thing that they offer." HP will be aggressively marketing its NetServer 8000s and 8500s, which include beefed up memory and SMP capacity.

Likewise, while Compaq Computer Corp. ( recently rolled out a new line of ProLiant servers with 733 MHz Pentium III processors, its products have been Windows 2000-ready for some time. Compaq, which has had a comfortable relationship with Microsoft for almost a decade, began preparing Windows 2000-compatible servers more than two years ago, says Phil Lawson-Shanks, manager of Compaq's Windows 2000 server division. In fact, Compaq jumped the gun on W2K, and began shipping Windows 2000 servers in late January. "We shipped our first Windows 2000 server to a customer in New Zealand," Lawson-Shanks says. Compaq also intends to offer Windows 2000 on its 64-bit Alpha systems at a later date, he says.

IBM Corp. ( says it offers more than 400 systems compatible with Windows 2000 that incorporate Active PCI and embedded security chipsets. Through programs from both IBM and Microsoft, existing Windows NT customers can, for a limited time, upgrade Netfinity servers and other products to Windows 2000 at no additional charge. Upgrade packages from IBM include an IBM System Solution CD with BIOS updates, device drivers and installation tips.

Dell Computer Corp. ( is positioning its line of PowerEdge servers to support Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server. Final code was delivered and tested in all Dell products in December. Dell also announced that it will offer Windows 2000 Datacenter Server on its PowerEdge servers as soon as the high-end version becomes available.

Last November, Unisys Corp. ( unveiled its ES7000. The unit sports up to 32 processors and incorporates mainframe-like functions, such as logical partitioning. Unisys executives anticipate selling 16-way processors to support Windows 2000 Datacenter Server. The system will also support Intel's Itanium 64-bit processors.

Amdahl Corp. (, which offers Fujitsu’s line of TeamServer systems, plans a new rollout based on Intel Coppermine processors, says John Howell, technical marketing analyst at Amdahl. Amdahl is promoting storage capabilities, featuring support of the 160 Mbps SCSI protocol and rack-mountable drives.

EMC Corp. ( jumped into the fray by teaming up with Microsoft to combine Windows 2000 with its storage solutions. In addition, EMC announced end-to-end solutions and services from its Data General division, including its cluster-in-a-box high-availability solutions.

"You won't see a flood of larger Windows 2000 systems at first," IDC's Bozman says. "People may wait for IA-64 to come out, and there's lots of other different things that haven't fallen into place yet." Bozman predicts that larger eight-way systems will not begin shipping in large quantities until early 2001.

There will also be a long, sometimes painful, migration that vendors will be caught up in. "It's not like flipping on a light switch, from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000," Bozman says. "It's highly unlikely that all users would switch over to it in a short period of time."

The move from Windows NT to Windows 2000 is expected to be complicated, and vendors are positioning services to address these issues. Dell, IBM Global Services, HP, and Compaq all have announced comprehensive migration strategies for their installed bases.