Microsoft covets seat at high-end Unix table

Although the stringent testing process Microsoft put in place for Datacenter brings the server closer to the realm of Unix-based hardware and software integration, competitors are not convinced that Windows can compete with Unix. Vendors that build both the hardware and software can more effectively integrate the two, said Rich Sands, analyst for Solaris marketing at Sun Microsystems.

"[Microsoft doesn't] quite clear the bar on the high jump," Sands said. "In the dot-com space, where we really are focusing, we are the gold standard."

Microsoft will line up its usual harem of hardware vendors and make several related announcements, including an initiative with McData and Hitachi Data Systems to increase Windows high availability.

"Getting data-centre levels of uptime takes experience, and the folks who have it got it from years of practice," said Tony Iams, senior analyst at D.H. Brown Associates. "Microsoft will have to go through that, but this is a key step in the right direction."

Michel Gambier, Microsoft's group product manager for enterprise-server marketing, said the software giant and its OEM partners provide services to help companies achieve high levels of reliability and scalability.

Dell Computer, for example, is rounding out its support and service programs for Windows 2000 Datacenter, including migration services and technical consulting.

"[Our customers] are very much receptive to an industry standard, high-volume type of server," said Charlie Neet, product manager for Microsoft server operating systems at Dell.

Although Datacenter is a key part of its high-end strategy, the Enterprise Servers, such as SQL Server 2000 and Commerce Server 2000, are important components as well, according to industry observers.