Oracle Lords Over Windows Servers
One of Microsoft's big pushes is to have its management tools control Linux
and Unix boxes, letting these rivals remain in mixed shops but operate under
the thumb of Active Directory, MOM, SMS and what not. Two key third parties,
Quest (which bought Vintela
an impressive group of Microsoft execs-turned-venture capitalists), are helping
to realize this Microsoft master plan.
Now Oracle is turning the tables, pitching
its Grid Control system as a way of managing Windows servers. For major
Oracle users, the news is probably well worth checking out.
Have You Gotten Your Vista Yet?
Last week Microsoft talked about a new feature-complete test version of Vista
for the enterprise, and less than 24 hours later started shipping the code (wish
they could do that with commercial releases). The company also laid out a schedule
for more test releases, including one for consumers, culminating in the actual
release of the product.
Our man in Seattle, reporter Stuart Johnston, warns
that enterprises should look particularly hard at the new default security settings
and how these may affect user access to key applications.
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Have You Gotten Your Longhorn Yet?
Longhorn may be further away from release than Vista, but that isn't stopping
more test versions from coming out. The latest
Longhorn test version is up on MSDN and TechNet. You might want to clear
some disk space in preparation for a major beta release in the second half of
Both the Vista and Longhorn test releases are called Community Technology Previews,
rather than the simpler, more commonly understood word "beta" -- a
change that still galls me to no end. If you want to hear more about the logic
behind this nomenclature, check out reader Hal's letter below.
Betas vs. CTPs
As you all know, I have issues with Microsoft's terminology
regarding betas and its Community Technology Previews, which to me sound just
like betas. So what's the difference? Here's one reader who might have an answer:
"There really is a difference between betas and CTPs, although that difference
may be subtle outside Microsoft. And it may even be a little different between
teams at Microsoft. I’ll describe the difference as I understand it from
the standpoint of the SQL Server team.
Traditionally, betas are huge milestones with very specific criteria in terms
of both content and (particularly) quality. No, they aren’t release-quality,
but they still have a pretty high bar on quality and what tests need to be running
successfully before releasing them to customers. The earliest beta is usually
for a very limited audience, the second beta is for a broader audience, and
the third beta (if there is one) is a 'marketing beta' and made available pretty
much to anyone who asks. One of the key criteria with betas is that they are
always a step forward in every dimension, so in addition to new functionality,
the quality is uniformly better across all aspects of the product.
With the growth of these products from a dozen developers to tens of developers
to hundreds of developers (or thousands, in the case of Windows), and the related
growth in the number of different subsystems that make up these products, putting
out a beta has gotten more and more difficult. The time to stabilize each subsystem,
perform integration testing, and get the product to appropriate quality got
to be ridiculous. A decade ago you would target a maximum of three months between
betas. Today you’re lucky if you can get a truly new beta out in six months.
SQL Server 2005 went a year between beta 1 and beta 2. These long gaps between
betas aren’t good for testing both because functionality that is ready
for testing has to sit around a long time for the next 'bus' to leave, and because
customers grow tired of waiting stop testing. So you need to find alternatives.
The SQL Server group has, since 1996, had another type of release called an
IDW. Windows also has IDWs (and actually invented the acronym, whose meaning
isn’t really applicable any more). The IDW is an internal stabilization
point that is declared useful for some particular purpose. Initially that purpose
was to allow teams with dependencies to have a stable platform to do their development.
For example, while we rewrote the Engine in SQL Server 7.0 the Replication team
was frustrated by the engine developers breaking them every day. So, they would
only work against an IDW rather than the live build. Over time this was extended
to providing builds to external teams (e.g., Commerce Server) for them to work
against. Then IDWs were used to provide some customer test partners (e.g., early
adopters) with interim builds both before and then during beta. So for the last
nine years, some customers have been getting interim builds and not just the
official beta builds. The big difference with an IDW is that the quality bar
for them is lower than a beta. Even more specifically, you could have an IDW
where one subsystem (e.g., the Engine) is good but another (e.g., Analysis Services)
is not working, and provide that IDW to early adopters who needed the latest
Engine but weren’t using Analysis Services.
After the SQL Server 2005 beta 1 to beta 2 gap the SQL Server team decided
to alter its processes and regularly schedule IDWs to be released publicly as
part of the beta program. These became the CTPs. The reason for calling them
CTP, rather than some kind of beta update, appears to have been threefold: One
reason was to provide a differentiation from the level of polish that a beta
was supposed to have; a second reason was to differentiate something that went
only to formal beta testers from something that was available to anyone who
wanted it; and finally to leave room for true future beta releases. The original
plan seemed to be to issue CTPs for a while and then do one more beta, allowing
for major functional additions and the traditional Big Bang quality push. But
the CTP process appears to have taught them a few things and they changed the
plan. CTPs forced the development team to keep the product more stable at all
times rather than going through a 'do development then re-stabilize'
cycle. They realized that there really was no value in doing another beta and
that instead they could just stretch the time between a couple of CTPs for extra
internal stabilization. In doing so they may have permanently altered the beta
So now I think we are in a world where you enter Beta and then do frequent
updates. Each update is much smaller in scope then a traditional beta 2, 3,
etc. would be. The term CTP is indeed a little odd, especially since in some
cases (as with Vista) they are being targeted to specific customer segments
rather than the community at large. But the name is less interesting than the
concept behind it. Testers of SQL Server 2005 seem to have been overjoyed by
the switch to CTPs." -- Hal
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.