Windows Decisions: Mark Minasi's Microsoft musings

Many a truth is said in jest, especially when the speaker is Mark Minasi, teacher, speaker, author, self-proclaimed alpha geek and a long-time observer of Microsoft and the Windows operating system. Minasi sat down at the TechTarget Windows Decisions conference with SearchWin2000 Site Editor Marilyn Cohodas and shared some of his more serious thoughts.

Why did people wait so long to adopt AD?
Microsoft's biggest mistake was hooking up Windows 2000 and Windows 2000 Active Directory in our minds. I think a lot of people didn't do Win2000 Server because they thought Win2000 Server equaled Active Directory. Windows 2000 Server has wonderful features that don't need Active Directory. Win2000 Pro and Server are slam dunks. You've got a great Web server. You've got great routing stuff. Terrific new DNS. Improvement in DHCP. WINS finally works. I could go on and on. But if you'd been my CIO two years ago and I said to you, 'Hey, let's get Windows 2000,' you would have said, 'We're not ready for Active Directory,' because Active Directory itself is the scariest, most high-risk part of Windows 2000. In your presentation at Windows Decisions, you noted that more enterprises have adopted Active Directory over the past few months. That is supported in our own recent survey of 950 Windows IT professionals. Why do you think that is?
I'll bet among the most popular reasons people are migrating to Active Directory is because of Exchange 2000. Exchange 2000 is going to be the killer app for Active Directory. The other reason for the recent adoption of AD in the enterprise is because Microsoft is withdrawing support for NT. Something else we found out from our survey is that customers are really mad at Microsoft. They're mad about volume licensing, the upgrade treadmill, support and security, just to name a few. They are so mad, in fact, that more than half of them said they are more seriously looking at alternatives today than they were one year ago.
They won't find them. Customers always stamp their feet and say, 'I'm going to Linux!' Good luck. Call me back when you get there. Because first of all, Linux has no directory structure. There isn't even anything in Linux as lame as a NT 3.1 domain. The closest thing Linux has is NIS (Network Information System). On the server side, does Linux fit? It's a great DNS server. It's a really nice Web server. If you send me e-mail, you are talking to a Digital Alpha running Red Hat. But those are stand-alone appliances that are not really integrated to your domain. I've never met a single company that went from NT 4.0 domains to NDS (Novell Directory Services) in terms of a directory product. Yes, if Microsoft really angers people, then there would be alternatives. But Sun Microsystems' iPlanet (and Sun's other) products are just as buggy. If you don't believe me, just look at the list of hotfixes for Solaris. On the desktop, there's not much of a different story. For companies that have recently installed AD or will be doing so soon, what issues can their IT departments expect to face in terms of deployment and maintenance?
Active Directory works reasonably well. Global Catalog was a good, real-world addition. Sysvol automatic replication means we don't have to figure out directory replication. Site-awareness is a great advance. The bad news are things like, if two people both modify a group membership nearly simultaneously, one person's changes get lost. You can't rename a domain or a DC. DNS domain names really DO have to match AD domain names. What about security. Can we trust Microsoft's trustworthy computing initiative?
There are a whole lot of forces in play when it comes to security and Microsoft's commitment to security. When new technology comes out, the first thing we do is start adding features. Then at some point, the big slam dunks are gone. I'd argue that the next level of (customer expectation about product quality) will be defined in terms of security and reliability. I think the market was going to take us there one way or the other. Microsoft had to do this. Are you saying that the rap on Microsoft is undeserved? You spend a lot of time beating up on Microsoft in your speeches.
Microsoft got to be where it is because it walks into a technology field, and it has the money to keep trying and trying until it gets a product that is in the same ballpark as the leader. When NT came out, no one looked. I looked at it, expecting it to crash in interesting and funny ways. And it didn't. NT wasn't the fastest thing in the world, but it was reliable. It had a good basic directory structure. And I said, compare this to NetWare 3.x. Is NetWare 3 better? Yes. But they are in the same ballpark. And once you are in the same technological ballpark, then who wins? The marketing guys, and sure enough, Microsoft is mopping the floor with Novell. People are going to stay with Microsoft.

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