Microsoft gets tough on app certification for new OS
Microsoft gets tough on app certification for new OS
After six months of testing, just eight products have earned right to bear the Win 2000-certified logo
By Drew Robb
Special to GCN
Getting the right to slap a 'Certified for Microsoft Windows' logo on a product is no easy task. After six months of intensive testing, only eight products meet the Microsoft-imposed certification requirements for Windows 2000.
Though the gauntlet of tests may be rough on vendors, it is good news for government information technology shops, industry analysts say.
A study by GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., reports that the exclusive deployment of certified applications on Win 2000 could reduce total cost of ownership by up to $1,675 per PC. The consulting group recommends that federal buyers use the logo as a principal selection criterion when choosing third-party software.
'The certified classification is the only one that enterprises will find useful for evaluating purposes,' GartnerGroup said.
The certification specifications for the new operating system are much stricter than those the company has used for other products, said Brian Valentine, vice president of Microsoft Corp.'s business and enterprise division.
The Win 2000 certification 'program is a quantum leap ahead of anything we've done in the past,' he said. 'We've raised the technical bar through a demanding application specification.'Low hurdle
Previous certification programs had relatively lenient requirements and were mainly intended to highlight the vast array of products compliant with Windows 9x and NT, he said.
For Win 2000, however, the emphasis has shifted. To be considered a serious contender in many government circles, Microsoft has to demonstrate conclusively that it has developed a truly enterprise-class OS. Certification is seen as a means of holding the quality assurance line with third-party vendors.
Based on extensive surveys of federal users, Microsoft said its application specification for Win 2000 focuses on the use of Windows Installer to minimize Dynamic Link Library conflicts, component sharing, data and settings management, support for OnNow power management, user interface and accessibility support, and app migration.
On the server side, it also includes the proper use of Active Directory, a new security infrastructure and cluster services.
Only apps that meet the new specifications for Win 2000 are licensed to bear the 'Certified for Microsoft Windows' logo. The logo indicates the fulfillment of each step of a 500-page checklist. Microsoft's longtime testing partner, VeriTest of Santa Monica, Calif., is conducting the certifications.
Although few vendors have cleared the certification hurdle, many are promoting their products as being Win 2000-ready.
The ready designation is essentially a vendor's claim that its product will work under Win 2000 and that it will offer Win 2000 product support. But it is a vague classification that also could mean the product has been submitted for certification or that it has failed the VeriTest inspection.
There are about 4,000 apps in the ready category. And although Microsoft officials said the company has tested the top 500 and found them to work, being ready is not the same thing as being certified'in terms of taking advantage of Win 2000's power.
A third classification in use is the term 'planned,' which essentially means a vendor has committed to delivering Win 2000-compatible versions of an application.
The eight products that as of this month had earned the certified logo range from a smart-card application to enterprise resource planning software (see box below).
One of the products, OmniPage Pro 10 from Caere Corp. of Los Gatos, Calif., is an optical character recognition app that converts scanned images into editable text. The Government Printing Office uses OmniPage Pro to scan more than 6,000 pages a week, importing them into QuarkXPress, Microsoft Word and Adobe PageMaker documents before making the pages available to the public.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also uses OmniPage Pro to convert printed information into electronic text for posting on its Web site. A problem area for OSHA was the recognition and translation of tables, spreadsheets and statistics imported into the agency's huge database, said Jim Kallenborn of OSHA's IT Directorate, which manages the agency's Web site.
Eight products snare Win 2000 certification
OmniPage Pro 10 offers users precise table formatting and sufficient zoning options to recognize the various types of tables. 'I was shocked at the difference,' Kallenborn said. 'The OCR'd tables come out looking more like a high-quality photo copy.'
The only utility so far to win certified status is Diskeeper 5.0 from Executive Software Inc. of Glendale, Calif. The network defragmenter holds 80 percent of the enterprise market share.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Defense Logistics Agency have Diskeeper users who found maintaining files in contiguous blocks enhanced network performance significantly. Several agencies have reported file access times dropping from 10 seconds to one or two seconds, server reboot times reduced by 20 minutes and hours saved through faster backups.
A Defense Department site at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., has Diskeeper installed across its NT network. 'Diskeeper significantly improved our performance on servers running NT 4.0 and Microsoft SQL Server,' senior functional analyst Kevin Lindroos said. 'Many of the users commented on the noticeable improvement in speed.'
Another product to receive a passing grade is Reflection 8.0 from WRQ Inc. of Seattle for Hewlett-Packard Co. products. The host-access software provides Windows users instant access to HP 3000 and 9000 servers, a useful tool given that approximately 70 percent of government data resides on host systems. WRQ plans to release Reflection versions for other legacy platforms over the course of the year.
In light of recent figures from market researcher Survey.com of San Jose, Calif., predicting that 40 percent of networked desktop PCs will run Win 2000 within a year, the certification program takes on a high level of importance.
According to the GartnerGroup study, using only compliant applications would reduce desktop PC costs by $189 per user, or 3 percent, by decreasing support needs, system management, purchase evaluations and user downtime.
When the combination of certified products and the Zero Administration Windows features of Win 2000 are added in, however, improved user profile management and software distribution would reduce per-user costs by an additional $1,486, or 24 percent, the report said.