Microsoft Friday announced that it's releasing the data center version of Windows 2000 to manufacturing, a move that sets the stage for a formal launch of the enterprise-level operating system next month.
Microsoft also said Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Unisys Corp. have signed on to sell the Windows 2000 Datacenter Server software on their systems. Those four companies join Compaq Computer Corp. as certified resellers of the data center release, and Microsoft said it expects to have other system vendors on board in time for the scheduled Sept. 26 launch of the software in San Francisco.
Systems running Windows 2000 Datacenter Server are expected to become available this fall, according to Microsoft. The new release rounds out the Windows 2000 family Microsoft unveiled in February, adding support for high-end computers running large-scale data warehouses, transaction processing applications and scientific simulations.
Features due to be included with the data center release include four-node clustering, 64G bytes of memory and up to 32-way symmetric multiprocessing, according to information posted on Microsoft's Web site. But one of the most significant aspects about the new release will be the way it's distributed to corporate users, said John Enck, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.
Users won't be able to buy the software directly from Microsoft. Instead, it will be available only through qualified systems vendors that participate in Microsoft's Windows Datacenter Program, such as the five that have signed up so far. The goal is to improve reliability and availability by certifying selected hardware for use with the operating system.
As a result, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server "is not Microsoft's technology per se," Enck said. "There has been a lot of really intense work to test out Datacenter [on specific hardware configurations]. We think that's a good thing for users."
The partnership approach is a significantly different strategy for Microsoft in the corporate market, agreed Al Gillen, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. Microsoft executives have realized that high-end users expect improved reliability and uptime that only can be provided by close relationships with hardware vendors, he said.
Microsoft began beta-testing Windows 2000 Datacenter Server at about 300 large companies nearly a year ago. Company officials said at the Windows 2000 launch in February that the high-end version would be ready for release by the end of June -- putting it about a month behind schedule.