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Should IT Trust SP1? Microsoft’s QA Process on the W2K Patch

Even before Microsoft Corp. announced Service Pack 1 for Windows 2000, pre-launch users discovered two broken personal firewall applications that slipped through the quality assurance process.

A Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) official says the quality assurance program for this service pack on Windows 2000 exceeded the programs on Windows NT and other Microsoft application service releases and service packs.

Given Microsoft’s recent track record with quality control, it’s hard to fault IT professionals for skittishness.

The last Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack (SP6) was hastily re-released as SP6a last fall when it turned out the patch broke the popular enterprise application, Lotus Notes from Lotus Development Corp. (www.lotus.com). Microsoft also ran into difficulties with quality control on the recent Service Release for Office 2000.

Windows 2000 SP1, released Monday, apparently breaks the personal firewall applications BlackICE Defender from Network ICE (www.netice.com) and ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs Inc. (www.zonelabs.com).

“We did get a report over the weekend regarding the two personal firewalls,” said Mark Perry, Microsoft’s director of Windows 2000 Server marketing. “We are talking with [the vendors] to go through the analysis of what the specific issues are, and working with them.”

Perry’s take is that while Microsoft is treating the firewall issue as serious, it is not indicative of quality control problems with SP1, especially among enterprise accounts. “One thing we do not feel at this particular moment is that it is very severe. We don’t see the products in enterprise accounts much,” Perry said. “We feel confident that we’ve taken the steps to ensure that SP1 is high quality.”

The Windows 2000 SP1 quality assurance program consisted of deployment of the service pack in 200 internal servers at Microsoft and on Microsoft.com. Microsoft distributed the service pack to more than 2,200 premier customers in 20 countries.

The main difference in quality assurance was requiring customers to sign off on the service pack, something Microsoft also did with the Windows 2000 OS.

“It’s subtle,” Perry said. “That is the one thing that was new in Service Pack 1. One of the things that we’ve done in the past was pretty much left it up to the customer to send us their go/no go feedback. What we did specifically with Service Pack 1, we called down to really reiterate, ‘Is this product done?’”

Five of Microsoft’s top OEM customers and a “very significant portion” of beta customers signed off on SP1, Perry said.

The personal firewall issue is the only known application that SP1 breaks, Perry said.

Users brought the problem to light in the days before the announcement Monday. While the quality assurance program reached out to 2,200 organizations, some 60,000 users downloaded Windows 2000 SP1 between Friday and its official release on Monday.Scott Bekker

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More Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 news:

W2K SP1 is Here

Windows 2000’s unofficial underwriter arrived today in the form of Service Pack 1, a key component that many IT professionals have been awaiting before committing to upgrade to the new operating system. (More)

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Fixes vs. Features:

Microsoft Still Determining How to Handle OS Updates in Short Run

Windows 2000 Service Pack 1 follows in the fixes-only tradition started with Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 5. Microsoft officials are still wrestling with the issue of how to wedge new features into the operating system. (More)

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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