Earlier this month, IBM held a press conference to discuss the company's plans surrounding the impending Windows 2000 (Win2K) launch. Two major stories emerged from the press conference. The first story identified IBM's difficulties in trying to integrate Win2K and Active Directory (AD) into the heterogeneous computing environments that IBM services. The second story involved IBM’s new Windows 2000 Enterprise Services for Microsoft Technology group that is under the IBM Global Services Group. In a recent interview with Pat Gibney, IBM’s Win2K system director, he stressed that IBM is very positive about Win2K business opportunities. According to Gibney, IBM is thoroughly committed to Win2K compatibility throughout its hardware and software line. Beyond simple compatibility, IBM wants its products to take advantage of Win2K features. The company intends to be aggressive about being early to market with versions of its Win2K software. As a result, IBM is making a major investment in Win2K technology. IBM has been writing software for Win2K since it got the first software build in November 1997. IBM’s Win2K software products will number in the hundreds, and IBM is one of Microsoft’s First Wave partners. Gibney predicted a strong start for Win2K in small- to medium-sized enterprises, particularly those that are all Windows shops. He also predicted that conversion to Win2K in large, heterogeneous enterprises will come more slowly. He admitted that optimizing Win2K for enterprise use will present certain difficulties. “If you know NT 4.0, then you don’t know Win2K," he said. "There’s a lot to learn.” Gibney noted that Microsoft “builds an excellent distributed OS for homogenous systems.” But he believes that certain Win2K features (e.g., AD, Kerberos, and the GUI4 system administration tools) present problems for those who want to integrate Win2K with the kinds of heterogeneous networks that IBM specializes in. For example, IBM has not yet succeeded in synchronizing its directories standard LDAP directories with Win2K’s AD. However, IBM plans to have a synch agent ready by the time Win2K ships. IBM is in the process of introducing a program supporting its customers' applications (e.g., DB2, Microsoft Message Queue Server—MSMQ) on Win2K Beta 3 and Release Candidate 1 (RC1). Key products that IBM expects to upgrade first to take advantage of Win2K upon launch are the company's suite of NT products, IBM's WebSphere product, Domino/Notes, net.Commerce, the Java Virtual Machine, and Tivoli Storage Management (formerly the company's ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager—ASDM—product). On the hardware side, IBM already has 200 systems on Microsoft's Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). The company also plans to start a program in October that will let anyone purchasing a Netfinity server, an Intellistation, a desktop system, or a Thinkpad laptop from IBM to freely upgrade to Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) or Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro). IBM will give 30 days of free support for the upgrade process. IBM has about 2000 qualified MCSEs companywide, but plans to build the new Windows 2000 Enterprise Services for Microsoft Technology group to include 2500 employees. As a result, IBM will be actively hiring for this group. The Windows 2000 Enterprise Services for Microsoft Technology group, which IBM has integrated under its Global Services group, will play a key role in bringing new software versions to market. Among the services IBM will offer are education, technical support, integrating systems, and desktop management. IBM currently has 1 million desktops and thousands of servers under contract, and IBM's Global Services group is the world's largest service organization overall. Not only does IBM hope to be at the forefront of Win2K technology to service its current clients, but the company also hopes that its early experience will let IBM expand its market share among the new adopters that will come later. Although complete symbiosis from the early days of Win2K’s release seems unlikely, IBM plans to have early participation in such Win2K features as policy-based management and roaming users, and ramp up to participation in other features over time.