Reshuffle at Microsoft underlines NT delays

The new head of Microsoft's troubled Windows 2000 project, formerly NT 5.0, has dropped the requirement to use the beta software in a production environment.

The new head of Microsoft's troubled Windows 2000 project, formerly NT 5.0, has dropped the requirement to use the beta software in a production environment. Brian Valentine, former head of the Exchange Server development, took up the reins following the unexpected departure of Microsoft vice president Moshe Dunie in December.

Microsoft is easing its deployment requirements for companies in its Windows 2000 Rapid Deployment Program (RDP), which to date has required participants to use Windows 2000 in production environments prior to the operating system's general release.

Now, sources say Microsoft is freeing participants from what many felt were onerous contract requirements. What is more, Microsoft is considering changing the name of the program to the Joint Development Deployment Program. The move would seemingly abandon the pretence that anything about Windows 2000 is rapid. Microsoft declined to comment on the reported changes.

The RDP changes follow Microsoft's recent decision to delay widespread testing of Windows 2000 Beta 3 until April. The new beta will arrive four months after Microsoft issued Release Candidate 0 (RC0) of Beta 3. The news will serve as confirmation of major delays to the project. Typically a final beta release arrives only a few weeks after the RC0 version. Microsoft maintains that Beta 3 is on track and that the company is simply taking some extra time to polish the code. Microsoft has said Windows 2000 Professional, Server and Advanced Server are slated to ship this year, with the higher-end Datacenter Server following within 60 days -- although the company declined to discuss specific shipping dates.

Microsoft's integration partners are confident that the changes at the top of the Windows NT team will bring some much-needed motivation to the gigantic development effort. One integrator working with Microsoft in the RDP program, who asked to remain anonymous, said Valentine is "really changing the low morale" among the Windows 2000 team and partners. Under the auspices of the RDP program, Microsoft and its certified partners go on-site and assist customers. Microsoft conducts weekly troubleshooting conference calls and provides participants with access to fixes, interim updates and other pertinent information. The vendor selects those participants from its large commercial accounts, which are handled by its Enterprise Customer Unit.

Microsoft declined to provide details on the number of RDP participants or any other aspects of the program. It is reported that Valentine recently briefed RDP participants on expected changes in the soon-to-be-renamed Joint Development Deployment Program. Microsoft plans to combine its Tier 1 and Tier 2 members, creating a core group of about 20 partners for the development programme, according to sources.

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