BOSTON (05/09/2000) - The real total cost-of-ownership benefits of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Professional won't come automatically, analysts warn. To reap the full rewards, they say, information technology departments must move to a managed desktop environment -- in other words, lock down end users' PCs.
If a company moves from an unmanaged Windows 95 desktop environment to a managed Windows 2000 desktop, its return on investment (ROI) can be attained in less than a year, said Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Group Inc. analyst Michael Silver, speaking at the Gartner Group Windows 2000 in the Enterprise conference in San Francisco late last month. But without centralized control, he said, ROI can take years.
Like many IT executives, John Scannello, consulting director of IT planning at Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc., said he sees his company's planned Windows 2000 Workstation rollout as the perfect opportunity to regain control of desktops. He said he expects some user resistance. "But our senior management understands we need to control (the total costs), and the only way you are ever going to do that is with a meaningful lockdown," he said.
Until now, imposing centralized control has been difficult, said Paul Cassidy, a technology consultant at IT services firm Alpine CSI in Holliston, Massachusetts. "People evaluated the Zero Administration Kit and Systems Management Server and saw there was a huge learning curve, so they decided to limp along with what they had," he said. But in Windows 2000, he said, features such as group policies ease that burden.
Cassidy said companies should formulate a clear policy telling end users what they can and can't do with company-owned systems, then "market" this policy.
"There's always going to be users who grumble about it," he warned.
Silver warned that it may be bad policy to first give a user a powerful new Windows 2000 machine, then lock it down later. Scannello agreed. "The way we would roll it out is that Windows 2000 systems would be locked down the day users get them," he said.
Consolidated Edison locked down about 10% of its desktops under Windows NT 4.0 about three years ago. "Once they get over the initial shock that they can't play games, it quickly becomes a nonissue," Scannello said.
Formulating a Plan
Cameron Cosgrove, vice president of information services at the life insurance division of Pacific Life Insurance Co. in Newport Beach, California, is still considering to what extent the company will lock down end-user desktops when it rolls out Windows 2000. End users will be blocked from changing the Windows registry or the screen resolution, but Cosgrove said he is still uncertain whether to block other features such as installing software.
Cosgrove said he believes Windows 2000's group-policy features by themselves will drive down support costs even without a lockdown.
Jeff Cranney, help desk supervisor at Pacific Life, said Windows 2000 group policies are too hard to manage. Before implementing fine-grained desktop control, Cranney said, it's better to wait for good third-party tools.