What do they mean?

In 1995, native Windows NT applications were rare. You couldn't assume NT compatibility, especially if you were shopping for desktop applications in a retail store. You looked for a "Designed for Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 95" logo before trying to run an application on NT.

Although many applications run natively on Windows 2000 (Win2K) today, you still can't assume every program will run or will take advantage of any special Win2K features such as Active Directory (AD), IntelliMirror, or the Windows Installer. Once again, you need to look for Microsoft compatibility logos.

Certified for Windows
Microsoft has a logo for NT Workstation applications, "Designed for Windows NT and Windows 98," and a separate logo for NT Server applications, "Designed for BackOffice." These logos present problems for software vendors. First, vendors can't get the NT Workstation logo if their application doesn't run on Win98. Second, the BackOffice requirement is awkward for vendors of non-Microsoft products such as Lotus Notes. Such vendors compete with Microsoft products (in this case, with Exchange Server) and need to demonstrate compatibility with NT Server. Microsoft has refused to accommodate vendors that want to certify NT compatibility without the attached Win98 or BackOffice requirements.

The new "Certified for Windows" logo addresses such concerns by letting vendors support just Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro) or Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server). However, vendors must support native Win2K features. Win2K Pro requirements include support for Windows Installer, Component Sharing, Data and Settings Management, OnNow power management, User Interface and Accessibility support, and Application Migration. The Server specification includes the Win2K Pro requirements, plus support for AD, Security Services, and Clustering Services (on Windows 2000 Advanced Server—Win2K AS—and Win2K Datacenter Server—Datacenter). These requirements will prevent reliability problems (for a perspective on how third-party drivers affect reliability, see Mark Russinovich, NT Internals, "Inside Win2K Reliability Enhancements," parts 1 through 3, August, September, and October 1999).

In addition, these requirements ensure that third-party products can take advantage of Win2K's full functionality. Take the Windows Installer. According to Veritest, which performs logo certifications, lack of support for Windows Installer is the most common reason applications fail certification. This feature requires an application to catalog its components in the Windows Installer database. One benefit to users is that Windows Installer lets applications self-heal by comparing the application components at runtime against the installer database to ensure that all the pieces are available and then adding missing components on the fly.

On the server side, an example is AD support. Applications that you can partition across multiple machines require AD support. Rather than hard-coding the location of components or users, an application must search the AD for the locations dynamically. This requirement lets an application distribute and balance the load of applications and users across multiple servers.

Designed for BackOffice
So, the new "Certified for Windows" logo is clear-cut, but the "Designed for BackOffice" logo is still around. What does it tell you? Not what it used to.

In the past, BackOffice was Microsoft's name to describe all its server products collectively (e.g., "the BackOffice Server suite") and separately (e.g., SQL Server was a BackOffice family product). No longer. Today, the term "Microsoft Server product" identifies each component formerly designated as "BackOffice." BackOffice Server 4.5 is a specific product that requires all the relevant Microsoft Server products to run on one server. BackOffice Server provides configuration and management to a single-server installation of Exchange Server, SQL Server, NT Server, and so on. The "Designed for BackOffice" logo now simply means that an application runs on the BackOffice Server platform.

The More Things Change
Although Microsoft plans to phase out the "Designed for" logos by June 30, 2000, only 2 percent of Win2K applications have the "Certified for Windows" logo as of press time. Look for Microsoft's logos to ensure that your Win2K applications take advantage of the new Win2K management features. If not, you might not be getting the best value for your Win2K investment.