Page Two

By eweek  |  Posted 2002-11-18 Print this article Print

: Microsoft Unleashed"> Besides attempting to fix Software Assurance, Sinneck has been busy, among other things, revamping Microsofts 6,000-person support organization. By introducing new triage and escalation procedures, Sinneck said he has been able to improve support to the point that 80 percent of customer problems are resolved within seven days. At the beginning of the year, the number was 50 percent. Microsofts goal, said Sinneck, is 98 percent.

In addition to striving to fix perceived software licensing and support shortcomings, Microsoft officials said, although many IT managers may not yet acknowledge it, the company is finally getting a handle on the security and reliability problems that have chronically plagued product lines Windows, Exchange and Outlook.

The companys Trustworthy Computing campaign has led to the creation of a Security Business Unit. And that unit has been overseeing a systematic push to ingrain security consciousness into all the companys product units through training, new software development practices and organizational structures. So far, said Craig Fiebig, general manager of SBU, 11,000 Microsoft employees have gone through the security training. And, within the product groups, individual developers have been given security responsibility for specific software modules in Microsoft products.

Various product groups at Microsoft are also attempting to build in better reliability in addition to better security. The upcoming Outlook 11 messaging client, for example, will recognize the speed of the network over which its connecting with an Exchange server and adjust accordingly. Still, the only valid way to evaluate Microsofts Trustworthy Computing campaign is to look at whether fewer vulnerabilities are turning up on the companys platforms. And, so far, many enterprise customers remain unimpressed as flaws such the recent hole in the Windows 2000 and XP Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol continue to appear.

Microsoft officials also admit they have stumbled in at least one other task that is key to the companys mission: helping IT managers not only understand the companys .Net initiative but also giving them compelling reasons for adopting it by migrating quickly to .Net-enabled platforms and tools.

Two years ago, when the company introduced .Net, Microsoft made two mistakes. It failed to make clear that it was committed wherever possible to supporting Web services standards such as SOAP, or Simple Object Access Protocol, and Web Services Description Language. And, it placed too much emphasis on the distant consumer benefits of .Net/Web services—to be delivered through self-describing Web-born services such as Passport and HailStorm—at the expense of the more immediately feasible benefits to enterprises from using Web services for behind-the-firewall integration.

Now, Microsoft executives are not only emphasizing integration, but theyre also pledging allegiance to Web services standards such as those being developed by the Web Services-Interoperability organization. The idea, said Flessner, is that Microsoft will support Web services standards while pushing its own APIs in those niches where standards have not yet appeared.

"The big opportunity in my mind is going to be around this end-to-end diagnostics and services management," said Flessner.

Microsofts refined .Net message may finally be getting through. Not only can the company point to a few enterprises such as Bank of New York Company Inc.s European Fund Services Group and Deutsche Bank AG that are beginning to use technologies such as Visual Studio .Net to deploy integration-oriented systems, but also Microsofts own product groups are finally beginning to bake XML into their offerings. One leading example is Microsoft Project. (See story.)

But what about Microsofts broader message: that company executives recognized they stumbled on software licensing and other issues but that they intend to do better by enterprise customers? While many are skeptical, others are clearly willing to give Microsoft another chance.

"Sure, they arent perfect, but then no company really is," said Randy Dugger, formerly IS director at Sequus Pharmaceuticals and now a consultant, in Menlo Park, Calif., and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "With all the different permutations of hardware and software, I just dont believe you can fully make everything work all the time."


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