There is a lot of debate about Microsoft, its various products and their impact on the realm of databases and data warehousing. Many questions are posed, and the varying answers disputed. Are they compatible enough? Can they scale well? Are the various versions of Windows robust enough to reliably support databases and warehouses? Can Microsoft really penetrate the large enterprise market it so obviously covets?

With the introduction of Windows 2000, Microsoft hopes to further its penetration of the larger corporate market. The new version is supposed to provide the key features and functionality enterprise IT demands ­ increased reliability, availability, scalability and lower TOC through ease of administration. Just how successful Microsoft has been in this endeavor to this point is a good question to ponder.

Windows NT has been popular as an operating environment for both database systems and data warehousing and data mart applications. Now that the vastly enhanced newest operating system (OS), Windows 2000, has spent a little time being dissected by users, we are beginning to get some clues as to how well it will make inroads into its intended markets.

Early reports appear to show Windows 2000 may gain a little more ground than its predecessor, but certainly not to the degree to which its parent would like. recently gathered extensive data on the deployment of Windows 2000. When examining the results for servers that are running databases and data mart/data warehousing applications, we find some interesting results. For servers that run databases, Microsoft will virtually make no gain in the next year. As shown in Figure 1, BSD/Linux is the only OS that looks to make any growth by 2002.

Figure 1: Primary Server OS for Database Applications

The same sort of result occurs for data mart and data warehousing servers, although the various Microsoft OS products have a smaller presence. There will be less than a two percent gain for Windows NT/2000 by 2002 (see Figure 2). UNIX's hold appears to be weakening although some of its share may be moving over to Linux. The various UNIX systems will hold up well within large organizations ­ about 30 percent of respondents from large organizations foresee still using UNIX systems to run their warehouses and marts in 2002. Linux starts to make gains, but mostly in the small and medium-size businesses.

Figure 2: Primary Server OS for Data Warehousing/Data Mart Applications

Thus, it appears that Microsoft may not achieve, in the near term, its desired position in the bastion of enterprise computing, at least not in these key application areas. What may be holding Windows 2000 back? Microsoft is running into the same issues and concerns that its longer establish brethren have faced for many years. The effort and cost to roll out a new environment is considerable whether you're a big iron shop, a UNIX shop, evidently, a Windows shop.

In the recently gathered data on the adoption of Windows 2000, survey respondents give us good clues as to what could be holding things up for Microsoft. More than 50 percent of respondents cited the cost and the complexity of migration as the reason for either delaying or not even evaluating and deploying Windows 2000. Another reason to delay and/or not migrate is staff training.

Once an organization gets to the point of implementation and putting the new OS into production, there are still concerns with its capabilities. Topping the respondents' list of the worst performance features for Windows 2000 is the total cost of ownership, interoperability and the impact it will have on help desk services.

These reasons all echo what users have had to deal with in both the OS/390 and UNIX worlds for years. Why would Microsoft believe it would be much different for them? The kinds of attributes that enterprise IT and database/warehouse technologists consider so essential ­ reliability, scalability, availability, manageability and interoperability ­ come with a price.

It is not all bad news for Microsoft. A number of those that have gone ahead and begun the transition to Windows 2000 do give it some fairly good marks. Organizations that are piloting, deploying or have already deployed, cite performance, reliability and stability, and security as Windows 2000's best performance features. In fact, 59 percent of the survey's respondents say it is the reliability and stability of the product that are its best features.

Microsoft's operating systems, database and related products clearly have a considerable presence and influence in the database and data mart/data warehouse markets. With Windows 2000, Microsoft continues its attempt to secure and expand its position. Microsoft's ability to deliver on the promised feature and functionality enhancements will determine whether it attains its desired position in database, data warehousing and broader enterprise IT markets.

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