Microsoft's Windows 2000 Strategy

Microsoft designed Windows 2000 (Win2K) primarily with Windows shops in mind. When you want to administer a Win2K domain, you do so from the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). You can administer your Windows network from any console, but that console needs to be a Windows console. In an era when many large vendors, such as Oracle, are building browser-based clients and management tools to eliminate OS dependence, Microsoft is using embedded management tools. This methodology is no accident but a design decision. Microsoft's use of embedded tools gives NetWare an advantage in the heterogeneous network operating system (NOS) marketplace.

For the moment, let's put aside the problems of the complex MMC, the confusing wizards, and the difficulty administrators will have conducting complex policy management. Microsoft is bolting many of the tools that Win2K needs to interoperate with other NOSs onto the OS almost as an afterthought. Microsoft's acquisition of ZOOMIT for directory synchronization is one example. Eventually, Microsoft will build or acquire the right tools, but Novell is further along in winning the battle for the central management console in the heterogeneous network.

Active Directory's (AD's) advantages are that Microsoft incorporated it into Win2K, Microsoft has published and preached the Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI), and the company effectively expounded the benefits of AD to the IT community. NDS's advantages are that it runs on NetWare, Windows NT, and Sun Solaris; major vendors are adopting it; and it supports a more logical topology. Microsoft is counting on the coming integration of Microsoft BackOffice applications such as Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server (formerly code-named Platinum) with AD to be a crucial advantage.

Microsoft is certainly making NDS's interoperation with AD difficult. In NT 4.0, NDS could perform redirection of security and access calls from one DLL; in Win2K, Microsoft has forced Novell to deal with a few dozen DLLs. So, as a result, Novell now has to use DirXML to synchronize with AD and work through ADSI.

As Laura DiDio, senior industry analyst for Giga Information Group, said, "Microsoft wins with the installed base. Novell has the e-business advantage. With AD, Microsoft hasn't rebuilt the highway; it's only repaved the road." Overall, DiDio's contention is that NetWare is more stable, cheaper, and easier to manage than Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server).

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