Nelson: Feds taking the right approach to Vista

In recent weeks there has been a flurry of news stories about federal agencies planning to ban Windows Vista in their enterprises. Separately, other stories have noted that there is little inherent business, cost or technical value of migrating to the new operating system. Although these are fundamentally different issues, they have been lumped together to create a perception that agencies are opposed to migrating to the new technology.

In retrospect, I realize this is the first time a major new technology is being deployed since most agency chief information officers began managing desktop computing from an enterprise perspective. Governments today have some of the largest and most complex information technology systems in the world and agencies largely are doing a terrific job enforcing enterprisewide management policies. Agencies that have announced deployment policies should be congratulated for recognizing the significance of a new operating system and effectively managing its implementation.

Because Microsoft worked cooperatively with government in the planning of Windows Vista, we are as invested in the successful deployment of the technology as any agency. To help ensure this success, Microsoft has created a variety of programs and tools available to customers for the preparation, deployment and management of Vista. But it doesn’t stop there. We also know that as they prepare for Windows Vista, agencies also have begun to prepare for Windows “Longhorn” Server, the next major Windows Server OS in this process. This demonstrates how comprehensive enterprisewide management policies have become.

Our cooperation with government manifests itself in two significant ways:

Engagement. We worked closely with key agencies to gain feedback during the development of Vista. Those efforts included a variety of Technical Adoption Programs, tools and policies. Many agencies provided specific feedback and input on features and requirements, including those around technical specifications, design and deployment tools, networking, encryption levels, search and many others.

Security. Windows Vista has been fundamentally re-architected with security as a top priority. It clearly is our most secure OS ever and the first version of Windows to be fully developed against the Security Development Lifecycle, substantially raising the bar on security code quality. Vista features many new capabilities and improvements, including data-at-rest protection, user account controls, Internet Explorer security enhancements, Suite B cryptography, new firewall capabilities, anti-spyware, IPv6 support and more. Equally important for government has been the ongoing interagency collaboration on Vista security baselines.

OMB has made no secret it believes commercial technology offers government the greatest opportunity to deliver projects on time and on budget. Likewise, CIOs today are seeking enterprise-proven, interoperable technology, able to support sophisticated collaboration and information-sharing requirements. Microsoft’s partnership in developing Vista with government’s input holds us squarely responsible for delivering the best business value with regard to these requirements.

None of this should come as a surprise -- to well-managed agencies or the media. There are appropriate processes to introducing new technology into an enterprise. Agencies should plan for the development and implementation of standards, ensuring secure desktop and server configurations. It seems to me these very policies and technologies, the subject of recent stories, are exactly the strategies that will guarantee best business value, end-user productivity, reliability and security.

Kim Nelson is executive director for e-government for Microsoft U.S. Public Sector and former CIO for the Environmental Protection Agency.


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