Q & A: Sean Murphy, Microsoft Federal

Early deployment put some government users in the driver's seat

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy, technical specialist manager for Microsoft Federal, has been on the front lines of Microsoft Corp.'s efforts in launching Windows 2000 in the government market.

The company's rapid deployment program gave some users early experience with running Win 2000. GCN checked in with Murphy shortly after the product's official release in February.


Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from federal users, particularly those of your rapid deployment program?

A: There are a number of things that federal customers like about Windows 2000. One is all the industry standards we've put in the box. Windows 2000, as it ships, is compliant with Federal Information Processing Standard 140-1 for both the Web browser and the Web server. For once, we're ahead of the curve and we're actually compliant on the day we ship the product, as opposed to three years later when we get in compliance with the standards, which is what it usually takes because of the evaluations.

Compliance with IP Security and Kerberos and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and all the other protocol and standards support we have in the box'the federal customers demand it, quite frankly. and we're pleased to be able to put it in the box for them.

Q: Are the orders coming from agencies installing new systems, or upgrading from Windows NT or other OSes?

A: All of the above. Obviously, if you are putting out a new box, it makes sense to put in the new OS and do it all in one fell swoop.

Because of our rapid deployment program, a lot of customers have been planning for this for a while. They've had access to the beta, and they know what's coming down the pike in terms of requirements for hardware. There are customers out there who either have deployed it on new hardware or are upgrading it on existing hardware because, in making purchasing decisions, they've been keeping Windows 2000 in mind.

Q: Have there been any incompatibility reports with software?

A: We did a really big push to find those issues and get them worked through. One of the things we've done is, because we made our push early, we've had time to work with the industry to get those issues resolved in ways other than letting them slide by.

Having said that, it's prudent for customers to test their applications in Windows 2000 before they go out and deploy it. There are issues, especially if you have older applications or homegrown applications that maybe weren't written by a professional developer, somebody who really understands the platform, but by someone who kind of does coding on the side.

Q: How important is full certification?

A: There is a real value to the certification process, not least in the world of device drivers. What we do in the certification process for drivers now in Windows 2000 is we actually sign the driver.

So, if you buy a parallel port camera and the driver has not been certified for Windows 2000, the system will actually come up and warn the user and say, 'Hey, this product has not been fully tested for Windows 2000 and is not fully on the compatibility list.'

You can install it, but we don't warrant that the system is going to work real well if you do.

In our efforts to make the system more reliable, we've gone through and really cleaned up and made sure that everyone is doing the right things to make the system work more reliably.

For example, there was a driver company that would certify the drivers once, but when they would update the driver, they wouldn't recertify them. There are a lot of problems there. So much so, in fact, that on the Datacenter version that we're about to release'which is really for the big iron'the system just will not install an unsigned driver. It will just refuse to do it.

Q: When is Datacenter Server expected out?

A: That's expected out this summer. We've started our rapid development program, and there are federal customers now who are running it and kicking tires on it.

There are three different versions of Windows 2000 Server.

Server is designed for the things that you do with Windows NT Server today. It will go up to four processors and up to 4G of RAM, just with the server box. There is no need for a user of Exchange 5.5 Enterprise Edition to do any more than Windows 2000 server.

If you need clustering capabilities, or if you need four to eight processors, or if you need more than 4G of physical RAM, you may want to use the Advanced Server product.

If customers want to cluster with more than two nodes, use up to eight processors or expand RAM to 64G, then they want to use the Datacenter product.

I see a lot of use for federal customers of the Datacenter product. A lot of federal customers have traditional mainframe applications that they would love to move over to a more modern system, but they'll still want to run in a very centralized way.

That's what Datacenter is all about, for customers who need the centralized model of the mainframe but want the flexibility and the ability to write applications easily on a Microsoft model.

Q: Maybe it's a bit early to ask, but what can users expect from the next version of Win 2000?

A: The only thing the next version would have is to take it to 64 bits. We're not going to put any other features in there.

It will be a quick release; it's due out in about a calendar year. It will simply provide a 64-bit platform for customers who choose to use that in conjunction with Intel's Merced chip.

Most customers, we feel, will continue to use 32-bit versions and use 64-bit versions as appropriate. So they'll mix and match nicely.

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