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NEW YORK—Microsoft Corp. is quietly working on a new initiative, internally code-named Mission Critical Microsoft, to help fight the rising specter of Linux running on enterprise mainframes.

“Mission Critical Microsoft is an internal initiative, but it will probably result in a new program announcement from Microsoft within the next year,” Paul Corriveau, group product manager for Windows Servers, told at the IBM SHARE conference here.

The resulting program will replace Microsoft’s existing tech support and maintenance offering in the data center space, according to Corriveau. Microsoft’s existing partner program for data center implementations will be impacted, too.

“Microsoft wants to beat Linux to the high end. In fact, I’d say that we already have,” Corriveau said.

Under the current Mission Critical Microsoft initiative, Microsoft is “realigning its resources” in areas such as tech support, maintenance and marketing to better meet the needs of enterprise data center managers, who are typically more accustomed to working with mainframes than PC servers.

Click here to read about Microsoft’s latest update to its mainframe connectivity server.

Microsoft’s overriding plan is to focus on “solutions” such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management or business intelligence, rather than on “applications,” he said.

Also under the upcoming program, Microsoft will figure in “supportability requirements” when planning deployments. “We’re going to start offering our customers SLAs [service-level agreements], too. This is something they’ve been requesting from us for a long time,” he added.

Corriveau didn’t discount the possibility that pricing for data center services might rise as well.

As the plan moves ahead, Microsoft will continue to use long-time systems integrator partners such as IBM Global Services, Accenture Ltd., Unisys Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to deploy and maintain its top-end software. “But we’ll be realigning our efforts there, too, and we might be adding some more partners,” Corriveau said.

Microsoft didn’t overtly promote Mission Critical Microsoft at SHARE, a week-long conference traditionally geared toward enterprise mainframe administrators. But Windows and Linux were both highly visible at the week-long show, which draws a large crowd of IT professionals, especially systems administrators in New York’s financial community.

SHARE attendees at the show reacted positively when they heard about the new initiative.

“Very good!” said Robert Dio, a systems administrator from Delta Dental Plan. “If solutions are going to be more important now, that means Microsoft has been listening to what we’ve been telling them. When we have a problem, we want a solution, not an application.”

Another user, a security manager for an enterprise specializing in printing services for banks, pointed out that data center managers often hold perspectives quite different from those of the departmental Windows administrators who traditionally handle Windows servers. “A lot of mainframe administrators have the concept that PC servers aren’t yet ready for primetime,” said the user, who requested anonymity.

He pointed to several factors that could be responsible for this “data center mindset,” including different schooling for data center managers, different support programs for mainframes vs. PC servers, the need for mission critical applications to stay up and running all the time, and the fact that many PC servers have been introduced by staff outside the data center.

“At many companies, the ‘glass house’ is now broken. You might see [PC servers] in the data center, but you might find them everywhere else, too, sometimes outside the firewall,” he added.

But he also said he has installed Windows XP SP2 on two of his own laptops without any problems so far, and he gave credit to Microsoft for making recent strides on the security side. “Actually, Linux is more vulnerable than Windows to worms,” he contended.

On Wednesday of this week, SHARE held “Microsoft Day.” Other Windows-oriented sessions went on throughout the week, including at least two seminars delivered by IBM. Other sessions at SHARE covered Linux, open source and MVS mainframe operating environments.

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