I would like to take this opportunity to publish an open plea to Microsoft: try honesty. I know how difficult and scary it can be to venture into uncharted territory. But try it. Trust me. Do it for your old pal Nick.
I offer this advice to Microsoft because it is increasingly apparent that its reputation for dishonesty does more damage to the company than do the problems with its products.
Take the Windows 2000 test server, for example. Microsoft set up a Web server at www.windows2000test.com and challenged people to break in to it. What followed was one of the most embarrassing weeks Microsoft has ever suffered through.
Microsoft started with the most unrealistic setup possible. The Windows 2000 server ran only Web services, and it allowed incoming traffic only on port 80, the default port for the Web. Yet even with this artificially restrictive configuration, the server was down more often than it was up. It crashed when the system log filled up. It crashed when the traffic got too heavy. It crashed for no apparent reason at all.
During this fiasco, Microsoft published one suspicious excuse after another. Most of the time, it claimed that routers were down due to thunderstorms. But even outsiders could easily trace the problem to a location somewhere within Microsoft's jurisdiction. In the unlikely event that a router was really brought down by a power failure, you'd think a half-trillion-dollar company could afford a $99 uninterruptible power supply to keep its routers running during a storm.
Not even Microsoft's account of success is believable. Now that the server stays up for a few hours at a time, Microsoft notes that there is a traffic bottleneck somewhere on the network that is preventing the heavy loads the server had to deal with previously. If I had to guess, I'd say Microsoft installed a firewall or configured a router to prevent fragmented packets from reaching the server.
The irony is that I'd probably be praising Microsoft if it had simply approached this process honestly and humbly.
In the first place, Microsoft should not have positioned the latest iteration of Windows 2000 as a release candidate. The behaviour of the test server demonstrates that it needs far more stress testing. Therefore, Microsoft should have positioned the test as a beta test instead of a challenge. It should have admitted that it was starting with an unrealistic configuration to isolate problems, a little at a time. And if Microsoft installed a firewall to make it easier to isolate problems, it should have said so.
But if Microsoft insists on being crafty, then I recommend you follow suit, especially if you have no choice but to migrate to Windows 2000. So I've assembled a Top 10 list of responses to user gripes that you should memorise to be fully prepared for the consequences of Windows 2000 server failures.
(10) "Our Windows 2000 server was up the whole time, but our routers were down this week due to power outages caused by thunderstorms. In Argentina. Last year."
(9) "Sure the AS/400 is better, but the Windows 2000 mouse pointer has a drop shadow!"
(8) "Windows 2000 is supposed to crash when the system log fills up. Honest."
(7) "We may have lost 3000 customers in the process, but we've learned ever so much about the TCP/IP stack from the 43 system crashes we experienced this week."
(6) "Yes, it's true that we have uninterruptible power supplies for our routers, but they failed due to a freak cosmic-radiation storm emanating from Venus."
(5) "Weren't we planning to send all our secret company files to Microsoft anyway?"
(4) "Windows 2000 may seem slow, but it got the best benchmark results money can buy."
(3) "Of course you can't log in. The server needs an existential, intransitive, real-time, metamorphic, three-way trust relationship with the prereplicated state of the hierarchical, active domain group thingy. But don't worry, Microsoft plans to release one soon."
(2) "Yes, it's true that the power came back on quickly, but America Online trained storm-trooper Siamese cats to sneak into the building through the air conditioning system and turn off our routers."
And the No. 1 response that you'll need to memorise if you plan to bet your business on Windows 2000: "You want fries with that?"
Nick is editorial director of LinuxWorld (www.linuxworld.com). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit his forum at www.infoworld.com.