Bugfest! Win2000 has 63,000 'defects'

Urging developers to clean up their code, a Microsoft exec says: 'How many of you would spend $500 on a piece of software with over 63,000 potential known defects?' It ships Thursday.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Not everyone will be having fun at Microsoft next week. While the software giant and its partners celebrate the arrival of Windows 2000 on Thursday, Feb. 17, hundreds of members of the Windows development team will be busy cleaning up the mess.

Not the launch-party mess. The code mess. According to an internal Microsoft memo viewed by ZDNet's sister publication, Sm@rt Reseller, the company needs to fix tens of thousands of bugs contained in the final Win2000 release code. Fixing these bugs is the top-priority assignment for Microsoft group VP Jim Allchin's Windows team.

"Our customers do not want us to sell them products with over 63,000 potential known defects. They want these defects corrected," stated one of Microsoft's Windows development leaders, Marc Lucovsky, in the memo. "How many of you would spend $500 on a piece of software with over 63,000 potential known defects?"

According to the Microsoft memo, the Windows 2000 source-code base contains:

  • More than 21,000 "postponed" bugs, an indeterminate number of which Microsoft is characterising as "real problems." Others are requests for new functionality, and others reflect "plain confusion as to how something is supposed to work."
  • More than 27,000 "BugBug" comments. These are usually notes to developers to make something work better or more efficiently. According to Microsoft, they tend to represent "unfinished work" or "long-forgotten problems."
  • Overall, there are more than 65,000 "potential issues" that could emerge as problems, as discovered by Microsoft's Prefix tool. Microsoft is estimating that 28,000 of these are likely to be "real" problems.
  • "Our goal for the next release of Windows 2000 is to have zero bugs. The only way this happens is if you take it upon yourselves to fix the bugs that should be fixed, and close the bugs that should be closed," continued Lucovsky in his note to the development team.

    He added that no new code for future Windows releases, such as Whistler and Blackcomb, will be allowed to be "checked in" until the development team has fixed the existing Windows 2000 bugs.

    A spokeswoman for Microsoft strongly defended Windows 2000's quality. "Bugs are inherent in computer science," she said. "All software ships with issues. The difference is (that) no software in the history of Microsoft development has ever been through the incredible, rigorous internal and external testing that Windows 2000 has been through."

    The spokeswoman said 750,000 testers received each beta version of Windows 2000. She said "hundreds of companies have signed off on the incredibly high quality and reliability of Windows 2000."

    The result, she said, is that hundreds of companies are deploying Windows 2000 before general availability.

    One developer, informed of Microsoft's bug estimates, said all new software ships with lots of bugs but few software vendors are willing to acknowledge this reality. "The fact that Microsoft found that many bugs indicates to me just how thorough their testing processes are," said the Windows developer, who requested anonymity.

    But others aren't so sure. Market researchers have repeated warnings to their clients against upgrading immediately to Win2000. Several outfits have advised customers to wait until Microsoft issues its first or second service pack before deploying Win2000. And research outfits made these suggestions before the exact bug tallies came to light.

    Despite these bugs, Microsoft has made Windows 2000's reliability a key focus and part of its marketing message for months. At Comdex/Fall last year, Allchin detailed the two-year-old reliability initiative upon which Microsoft had embarked to insure Win2000 would be more stable and reliable than NT 4.0 or its predecessors.

    Allchin said Microsoft spent 500 person-years and $162m (£99m) on people and tools specifically to improve reliability of the product. In more recent weeks Microsoft has plastered ads on buses, billboards and telephone booths in a number of major cities. "Windows 2000 is coming. Online or off, a standard in reliability," reads the text.

    Windows 2000 is hardly Microsoft's only worry in the coming months. Another big hurdle is application support for the OS. Microsoft has been working on a slew of Windows 2000/Active Directory-optimised applications that ultimately will ship as some type of BackOffice 2000 or BackOffice 5.0 package.

    The first BackOffice 2000 beta isn't expected until some time in the second half of this year, but the first BackOffice 2000 app upgrade, Exchange 2000, is expected to arrive at midyear. Other BackOffice Server updates -- the next releases of SQL Server, Proxy Server, SNA Server and Systems Management Server -- also are in the development pipeline. But exactly how far along they are is unclear.

    At the same time, Microsoft is developing several BackOffice add-ons. Microsoft preannounced some of these add-ons, such as its BizTalk Server, Commerce Server and AppCenter Server, a full year ago. But first betas of these point products have yet to appear. The company doesn't plan to move any of these new point products into the BackOffice SKU, said Russ Stockdale, director of server applications marketing with Microsoft's Business Productivity Group. Stockdale said Microsoft's plan is to continue to offer current and future BackOffice SKUs to branch-office customers and midsized organisations.

    Stockdale acknowledged that BackOffice 2000 will have little appeal to e-commerce and dotcom customers -- even though Microsoft is pitching its anchor, Windows 2000, as an e-commerce-optimised operating system.

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