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Andy Lees, Microsoft Corp.’s new corporate vice president for server and tools marketing, discussed the Redmond, Wash., company’s plans to increase integration across all its server products with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli late last month.

The [Windows Server System] Common Engineering Roadmap could be perceived by customers as a move to make the latest products work best together at the expense of older versions.

We aren’t forcing anyone to do anything. … The “better togetherness” is something we often can’t retrofit, but if there are things that we can retrofit so that products can be used in combination, I think we will go through and do that. But on average, I suppose, people using the latest product combination will get the most amount of benefit. The Roadmap basically says we are working on this, and we will have a set of criteria that we will be snapping to. All of our products that come out in 2005 will adhere to that criteria. We are also already working on the next round of criteria after that, which may be in 2006 or 2007.

Read what eWEEK’s Editorial Board has to say about the Common Engineering Roadmap.

Do you think the open-source development model has benefits that your model does not?

We’ve received a lot of feedback from customers, and they tell us that complexity and cost are the enemy. That is one of the things our model, maybe in contrast even to the Linux model, allows us to uniquely do.

You recently extended product life-cycle support to 10 years for most products but not to Windows NT 4.0. Why was that?

To be able to do that, we have to go through and do a sustained engineering effort, and so we have satisfied doing that for all products that are currently in market. … The number of NT 4.0 servers went down by more than 40 percent over the last 12 months as people moved on to Windows Server 2003, particularly. People want more predictability, and they want longer life cycles, and that’s what we’ve done with all our business software, which has gone from seven to 10 years.

Did the threats from Novell [Inc.] and Red Hat [Inc.] to target the NT 4.0 user base with their products factor into your decision to extend product support at all?

No. We’re focused in on what our customers’ needs are. It’s true that we want to make sure we’re offering unique value, and we have points of differentiation versus the competition, but this was 100 percent about customers wanting a longer, predictable life cycle across all business software in a consistent way, and that’s what we’ve delivered on.

There is speculation that Microsoft is considering a new Windows Server operating system version called Windows Server HPC [High-Performance Computing] Edition. Are you?

We are certainly looking at what we can provide in that regard. We look at the individual merits of each scenario. We want to make sure that we can enable customer scenarios; clearly, Windows is being used in high-performance computing in some respects today. We are committed to high-performance computing and to making sure that there is no place where Windows doesn’t add value for our customers. But no final decision has been made about a separate version.

What is the time frame for a decision about a Windows Server HPC Edition?

Well, we’re evaluating it. What happens with high-performance computing is that there tends to be a small number of very large scenarios, and they usually involve customized hardware and requirements, and the customer then looks at what the right thing to do is with the software. That’s kind of our approach, so having a general-purpose box-on-the-shelf for high-performance computing is kind of a contradiction in some respects. But is that a key scenario for us? Yes, it is, and we are looking at doing specific R&D [research and development] to help HPC be a scenario we can use as a differentiator. … But people don’t generally decide they want HPC in the bedroom or that they are going to go down to a retail store and buy it. Things do seem to be pretty customized in this area.

Linux and Unix seem to have the upper hand in this market at the moment. Is that correct?

I think, certainly, the history of where Linux came from out of the gate facilitated some scenarios for its use. But there are still advantages that Microsoft can provide through integrated innovation through being on the Windows Server System family. As a result of that, we can do a good job of adding significant value over and above Linux, which is one of the things we want to do, including with HPC.

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