GCN INTERVIEW | Peter B. Hayes, Microsoft advocate for federal standards

|Peter B. Hayes, Microsoft advocate for federal standards


Under Hayes’ direction, the federal systems unit has
reorganized and started to promote use of more government requirements and standards
inside Microsoft products—one of Hayes’ priorities.


He joined Microsoft in 1991 and held sales and marketing positions before becoming
general manager of federal business operations. Before that, he worked for 12 years in
sales and management positions at IBM Corp.


“There’s an amazing difference” between the two companies’
cultures, he said. A 1980 graduate of the University of South Alabama, Hayes majored in
finance.


GCN senior editor Florence Olsen interviewed Hayes at his Washington office.


GCN: What impact
would a Justice Department verdict against Microsoft Corp. have on the Defense Department,
your biggest customer?


HAYES: I’m not going to speculate on that because I’m not sure where
it’s going. If you ask whether I have run this scenario through my head, I have. Any
good businessperson would. But whatever the outcome might be, I don’t think it would
have much impact on the way we do business here.


I don’t see the antitrust case as much of a distraction for us or even for
Justice, which is a customer of ours.


GCN: What effect has the
antitrust trial had on productivity and product development?


HAYES: The trial was interesting, but we’re focused on what we’re trying to
do. One thing you find out about Microsoft folks—we’re very focused. Everything
that goes on around us is almost secondary. The trial made for interesting conversation,
but that’s really about all.


GCN: What’s the story behind Defense Secretary William
Cohen’s recent visit to Redmond, Wash., to meet with Microsoft officials?


Hayes: It was part of a West Coast trip the secretary was making, and he had an
opportunity to speak privately with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates for a while and also to
address the Microsoft folks.


We had an Army conference out there that coincided with the secretary’s visit, so
Secretary Cohen got a chance to address the Army customers, too.


Then we had an opportunity to talk with the secretary in a much smaller group about
some of our training initiatives, such as Skills 2000. Security was an area the secretary
was interested in, as was speech recognition.


GCN: Is it true that the
Army is pretty much running its operations from camp to headquarters on Microsoft Exchange
Server and Windows NT Server networks?


Hayes: The Army is a very good customer, one of the largest. Actually, the Army and Air
Force are two of Microsoft’s largest customers. In general, I’d say the Army has
been a great customer for both NT and Exchange.


We’ve seen much faster adoption of Exchange inside the federal government than we
have in the commercial sector. That might surprise some people. The implementation and
rollout of Exchange for enterprise messaging has been greater in the federal government. I
would say the same is true for NT.


GCN: What does the
enterprise systems group at Microsoft Federal do?


Hayes: One thing is to make sure that our Windows NT systems interoperate with Unix
systems and Oracle Corp. databases. We know our customers aren’t going to get rid of
things they have out there, so we have to try to interoperate with them.


The people in that organization come from Oracle, Sybase Inc., Informix Corp. and Sun
Microsystems Inc. We hired them to ensure that our applications can interoperate with
other companies’ products and so we can present a good case to the government as to
why we have the better, longer-term solution, once the government gets the value out of
its existing products.


On the command and control side, where the government is still using Unix and Oracle
systems, there’s a lot of interest in NT. We’ve stepped up development work on
some federal-specific requirements and needs, and we set up an organization to feed those
requirements faster into development.


The government has a big initiative related to medium-assurance messaging with certain
security requirements. We need to make sure we have robust security inside Outlook
Express, for example.


Right now we’re working through certification for Federal Information Processing
Standard 140-1 on security. We want to try to be in a leadership position. The government
has become very aggressive in implementing new technologies for public-key infrastructure
security. I’d say the government is moving fast.


The other thing the enterprise group works on is scalable NT solutions and databases.
We’re going to be an enterprise player. We’re staffing up and changing our
organization to do that.


We have a consulting organization in Microsoft Federal Systems which is relatively
small compared with our competitors’ and the systems integrators’. But
we’ve tripled the consulting organization over the last three years.


Our competitors have done a pretty good job of labeling Microsoft a desktop [PC]
company. The bottom line is that SQL Server and NT can handle about 98 percent of scalable
applications.


GCN: Many
observers are skeptical that the next release of Windows NT can ever be fully debugged
because it’s so big—50 million lines of code—and complex. Are they right?


Hayes: No, we don’t see that as a problem. A lot of features in Windows 2000
actually will make implementation easier.


Sometimes you have lots of code in products because you’re trying to make the
products more reliable, easier to install, easier to support, easier for enterprise
networks. That takes code. One thing Microsoft knows how to do is code, and we’re
used to complex products.


GCN: How
concerned is Microsoft about open-source software?


Hayes: It will be interesting to see how well open-source is adopted in the enterprise.
Are we worried about it? We want to make sure NT is a great product. Our customers will be
the ones who decide which is the better product over the course of time.


But our customers are doing the right thing. They’re doing due diligence.
They’re looking at all the alternatives.


GCN: Are you seeing any
requests for proposals that make Linux appear competitive?


Hayes: No. But there are lots of discussions about Linux inside the government and
inside commercial accounts. You have to think about the way everything is getting
connected today and about how you pull all the parts together and make them work.


Today’s Web server could be tomorrow’s hub for electronic commerce.
Today’s application server could be what you need to build your knowledge management
system. The government is looking at itself more and more at an enterprise level.


GCN: What areas of
investigation within Microsoft research would be interesting to government managers?


Hayes: The area that piques people’s interest most is voice recognition—the
idea of being able someday to speak to your computer. What will computers look like three
to five years from now? Will you wear them on your wrist? How will you interact with them?
How will we make it easier to hook up computer systems and to install systems and
applications?


It’s “Star Trek” technology, and it’s fascinating. We’re
looking at different ways to communicate with computers and to make software easier to
use.


GCN: What are your federal
users doing to prepare their PC networks to operate smoothly after Jan. 1?


Hayes: Everybody is doing something a little bit different because everybody has a bit
of a different problem. Some people are replacing the PCs but leaving the software the
same. Some are upgrading the software. Many of them have to upgrade with software patches.
Everybody is very focused on it.


GCN: You worked for IBM
Corp. before you came to Microsoft. What makes Microsoft unique as a company?


Hayes: This is the most dynamic company—it’s an amazing difference. IBM was
and still is a very good company. The experience IBM gives you is great, but Microsoft
pushes it 10 levels further. People get a chance to do some fantastic things. It’s
very fast-paced, very entrepreneurial. We try to keep the entrepreneurial spirit inside
the product organization and outside in the field organization.


There’s no doubt that it’s a large company. But it still has a small company
feel. The people are smart. Everybody’s hard-working. And it uses leading-edge
technology.


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