Users Want More From Server 2003

Enterprises need more interoperability.

Jeff ODell
Even as Microsoft Corp. rolled out its Windows Server 2003 product family last week, some of its largest enterprise customers were calling for greater interoperability with the Unix and Linux systems already in place in their IT infrastructures.

Jeff ODell (pictured), vice president of architecture for health benefits provider Cigna Corp., in Bloomington, Conn., which runs Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 and is testing Windows Server 2003, has told Microsoft he intends to continue to operate in a multiplatform environment. So far, the company is listening.

"They are making it much more possible for us to use Windows in greater ways than we would have been able to in the past," ODell said. "I am encouraged by the progress that they have made in working towards greater interoperability."

Massimo Villinger, chief technology officer for Lockheed Martin Enterprise Information Systems, in Orlando, Fla., agrees. "We have seen some reasonable progression of platforms like HP-UX. When we say interoperability we mean a fully integrated identity management so that the other platforms are consuming Active Directory management," Villinger said. "Interoperability is an interesting issue for us, and were working towards that so that we achieve the nirvana of single sign-on sometime."

Bill Veghte, vice president of Microsofts Windows Server group, in Redmond, Wash., said that with Windows Server 2003 and its metadirectory, customers do not have to use Active Directory as the main identity store. "You can pump it back and forth," Veghte said. "Id love the world to have one identity store in Active Directory, but customers told us they had more identity stores and want to be able to move integration back and forth."

Others are not as satisfied. Jason Greenwood, business development manager for a Web development company in Christchurch, New Zealand, which runs Windows, Linux and Mac OS, said he saw no evidence that Microsoft is changing its ways.

"Their way has always been to be proprietary and closed, from their Office formats to their code, everything," Greenwood said. "Even when they release limited quantities of code under the shared-source program, there are such onerous restrictions on the codes use as to make it worthless."

But Microsoft can take comfort from the fact that Cigna and Lockheed Martin see Linux as a complementary system rather than a replacement for Windows—at least for now.

"Linux is appropriate for an increasing number of workloads within the organization. The question is not so much what is most technically advanced or technically sophisticated but rather [whether it is] sophisticated enough for the job at hand," ODell said. In those cases where a modest Web server was required, Linux and Apache usually worked well, he said. Where more active content and functionality was needed, the company would use something else.

Lockheed Martin also uses Linux, and while "I dont think Linux is ready to replace a product like Windows Server 2003 just yet, it has its role, and it has become very cost-competitive with respect to many other flavors of Unix," Villinger said.

For more on Windows Server 2003, see our special section.