Microsoft Corp. is ratcheting up its efforts to ensure that independent software vendors, partners, system integrators and component vendors address potential application compatibility issues with the upcoming Windows .Net Server 2003 family before it is released next April.
Application compatibility is often a thorny area when new products are released, and Microsoft is trying to limit, as far as possible, any negative user experiences with .Net Server.
The Redmond, Wash., software company is moving to make the new server platform more secure by default; as a result, some default settings, group policy controls and security settings have been changed in the upcoming server release. This means that ISVs and others now have to thoroughly test their applications to ensure ongoing compatibility.
Bob OBrien, group product manager for Windows .Net Server, said Microsoft has cleaned up, removed and updated components and drivers in .Net Server, and so it is critical for ISVs to check their products against it.
"We made a move to clean up and remove components which we thought were not necessary in a server—things like Universal Plug and Play and some scanner support—so in some cases these will not be available to solutions that expect it," OBrien said.
"We also removed some other things, which some ISVs still use in their solutions, so were trying to be pretty transparent about those changes and the removed components so each ISV can make the right assessment for their customers and business," he said.
One change in .Net Server is that Internet Information Server 6.0 is no longer installed by default and, when it is installed, this is done in a secure way and in a locked-down mode. Those vendors whose applications are affected by this will have to test to make sure the installation and operation of their applications still work as expected, he said.
The Windows Application and Customer Experience Web site is also available to ISVs and other partners to test their applications and identify differences.
"Also, between the release of the first and second release candidate, we test more than 100 third-party applications ourselves on pre-releases of the .Net Server code to get a feel of the things we will have to do to help those ISVs bring their applications over," OBrien said.
This involves identifying the critical documentation and tools they need, as well as the programs and facilities that Microsoft needs to put in place to achieve this, he said.
Microsofts application compatibility lab is also working "one-on-one" with some 27 of the leading ISVs, including Citrix, BMC Software and Computer Associates International Inc., to determine what needs to be done from a performance and design point of view to allow a good user experience on Windows .Net Server 2003.
Microsofts Application Compatibility tool kit, currently at Version 2.6, further provides some of the tools and documentation needed to design, deploy and support applications on the Windows .Net Server platform, OBrien said.
"Some 100,000 of these tool kits have already been downloaded as we drive this initiative out as broadly as possible. These tools deal with the challenges around taking advantage of the new services and new driver models in .Net Server, which are things that affect the performance of their applications on the new platform," he said.
The "Certified for Windows" program for Windows .Net Server was kicked off in August to define the criteria for certification. The program, run by VeriTest, tests ISV applications for security, reliability, performance and compatibility issues. But actual certification can only take place after the final code is released to manufacturing, expected in the first quarter of next year, he said.
Microsoft is hoping to have, at product release time, all of the certified and tested applications populated into a catalog that customers would be able to search and determine whether the application they currently have is ready for Windows .Net Server, OBrien said.