REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 7, 2001 — Nearly a quarter of a century ago, in 1977, Dave Thompson started his first job out of college. On Thompsons first day at Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), version 11/780 of the mainframe computer known as VAX was released to manufacturing. A year ago last week, Thompson led the development of distributed services for the release of an operating system whose server version alone Windows 2000 Server — has since sold more than a million copies. Thompson, vice president of Microsofts Windows Product Server Group, recently sat down with PressPass to discuss the success of Windows 2000 Server during its first year.
PressPass: In its first year, Microsoft Windows 2000 Server has shipped more than a million copies. How does that feel?
Thompson: To know that theres not even a close second when it comes to the number of operating systems that are out there? It feels great. It confirms that the work were doing really matters.
PressPass: Why has Windows 2000 Server met with so much success in the year it has been available?
Thompson: I believe its experienced the success it has because its quite simply the most reliable, manageable and scalable operating system out there. Its also cost-effective, and customers tell me all the time that it is one of the best deployment experiences theyve had with Windows.
PressPass: What kinds of businesses have adopted Windows 2000 Server over the past year, and why?
Thompson: The Windows 2000 Server family is being widely adopted. Businesses and organizations of all sizes are benefiting from greater flexibility and faster time-to-market. Customers report that they expect to see incremental profitability through their use of Windows 2000, saving from 5 percent to 30 percent per year in total cost of ownership. Studies audited by independent analysts show, and weve seen that customers are projecting, an average of 18 percent in savings per year. Many of our customers are anticipating payback on their total IT investments in nine to 12 months. These are the kinds of numbers that keep Windows 2000 Server momentum growing strong.
PressPass: Microsoft has said that Windows 2000 Server is the most reliable operating system its produced. How has that been demonstrated by customers?
Thompson: Weve worked very closely with enterprise customers and dot-coms, monitoring literally thousands of servers for uptime and operational issues. We have seen four- and five-nines level of availability [99.99 and 99.999 percent]. Weve attacked directly any problems weve seen, including bugs and operational issues. In the Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, weve worked with computer manufacturers to develop and test the most reliable combination of software and hardware that can be shipped. Customers are thrilled with the reliability the Windows 2000 Server family brings to their businesses.
PressPass: There are a couple of other key features of Windows 2000 Server — manageability and scalability. How is Windows 2000 Server scalable?
Thompson: Scale is what this is all about — the number of users, the amount of data stored in the database. The platform is used for more and more functions all the time, so we developed the Windows 2000 Server family to attack scalability on all fronts. Throughout the system, we tuned for multiprocessor scalability. Weve built scalability into the infrastructure, in terms of Active Directorys capabilities to support millions of users, which are many orders of magnitude higher than Windows NT 4. We have scalability in terms of the number of sites that can be supported in the Web server. And because we ship high-volume servers, weve got the best core platform for what we call scale-out, as well.
PressPass: Why is scalability so important to customers?
Thompson: In enterprises, companies need to scale their internal infrastructure and services as they grow. Now, they also want to use that infrastructure to extend their businesses to their customers and partners via the Internet, often introducing whole new levels of scalability requirements. The other thing is that the Internet introduces very dynamic and unpredictable scalability demands. If a service on the Internet is popular, it can explode in terms of the load applied to the system and the demand on the service. There have been lots of examples of companies putting up a service and having it behave very unreliably, because of the instant, peak demands on those systems. That means lost business. As the saying goes,
“on the Internet, competition is only a click away.”
PressPass: What about manageability?
Thompson: Manageability was one of the key themes in developing the Windows 2000 Server family. Theres a confluence of things here. When your operation is entirely run on distributed services and server-based applications, the biggest issues you next confront are managing that platform for changes, recovery from failures and performance management to keep the system youre dependent on running optimally. Active Directory is the core element in that. Its used to deploy applications to the desktops, to manage policy on desktops and in servers, and to manage secure access to systems.
PressPass: Windows 2000 Server was engineered to deliver
. What does that mean?
Thompson: When I use a system like Windows 2000 Server to bring goods and services to my customer, such as a consumer site, or an interaction with a partner for ordering supplies, or email — which, as a flow of information, is a key element of most businesses — everything needs to be available 24×7, worldwide. We built Windows 2000 server to support that — servers that are individually reliable, that are manageable around failures, and that have clustering capabilities for availability for large systems that support major concentrations of data. Business availability is about making sure that the business is not interrupted.
PressPass: How flexible is Windows 2000 Server in terms of deployment?
Thompson: In Windows 2000 Server, as we have in our past releases, we put forth a huge amount of effort focused on migration and interoperability. That means customers can roll out desktops, servers, or infrastructure services such as Active Directory at the rate that makes sense for them. They dont have to upgrade all the systems at once, or even the types of systems all at once. Thats a very powerful thing.
PressPass: How does Windows 2000 Server measure up to systems released by Sun and Linux?
Thompson: Look at the numbers. In server shipments on OEM [original equipment manufacturer] platforms, Windows by far continues to grow faster than Unix and Linux, based on IDC’s Server Tracker. We win hands down in the enterprise area against Linux every day, in terms of desktops, distributed infrastructures and servers. Linux is nowhere on the desktop, where quality business-productivity applications are critical. We win against Sun in dot-coms for deployment of our solution. Its much faster. And we win against Sun with Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, because it offers more cost-effective computing than any of the Sun systems.
PressPass: How cost effective is Windows 2000 Server?
Thompson: The cost-effective computing capabilities of the Windows 2000 Server family are key, especially when theres the possibility of tough economic times. Reliability is key because businesses lose a ton of money when theyre down. At the same time, Internet businesses need to drive to very high scale to become profitable. Lastly, manageability is key because of administrative costs. The number of operators it takes to run a system is often one of the biggest ongoing costs beyond the initial purchase of hardware and software.
PressPass: What was your role in the launching of Windows 2000 Server? What was your experience like?
Thompson: I was responsible for distributed services — directory and security technology. At Microsoft, we had been working on directory technologies in one form or another for quite some time. With Windows 2000 Server we had the opportunity to deliver the first true, general-purpose directory service that provides a common infrastructure for all kinds of applications and systems management capabilities. We spent a lot of time talking to customers and built a fairly aggressive plan in terms of addressing as many of their needs as possible. It took longer than we thought, largely because we were aggressive in trying to meet our customers needs. While we built it, we deployed it internally and then supported it as if we, the development group, were IT professionals. Releasing an operating system is hard work that goes on day after day, but the system steadily gets better, and thats what keeps you motivated. When it went out, we had a great party.
PressPass: The team that developed and launched Windows 2000 Server has been noted for its extraordinary level of dedication. What was it like to work with them?
Thompson: This team is the most dedicated and professional team Ive ever worked with. Theyre always looking to build better systems, in better ways. People worked incredibly hard on every piece of the system. On the other hand, we wanted to make sure that people had balanced lives, so we tried hard to lead the team in a way that kept the project moving constantly — seven days a week — but didnt burn out individuals. Since we had a team of 4,000 people, not everyone was working without a break. The leadership of the team made sure that we were on top of what was going on with daily project meetings, and that provided the basis for how people would push and drive in areas that needed attention in the system.