Patchwork Begins

In the wake of Microsoft's release of the network installation version of Windows XP SP2 last week, partners have been advised of system crashes and incompatibilities with applications from Symantec, Lotus and Microsoft--including Microsoft CRM, Systems Management Server 2003 and Small Business Server 2003--among others.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec's security products could not plug into SP2's new Windows Security Center until a patch was made available; additional Symantec patches are due. Artisoft, Cambridge, Mass., advised resellers to hold off deploying SP2 until the PBX software ISV posts a patch for TeleVantage 6.0 client.

Partners expect a flood of patches from ISVs to fix major headaches. Yet, most caution SP2 requires as much testing and planning as any Windows upgrade.

"Not all applications currently running on an enterprise's desktop were coded for the default levels of protection," said Bart Hammond, CEO of the Interlink Group, Englewood, Colo. "We are recommending significant testing prior to general rollout, and we believe that organizations that do not have a proactive desktop management strategy should use this opportunity to roll one out."

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Microsoft's decision to turn Windows Firewall on by default and make changes to the DCOM stack make the operating system more secure, but often requires changes to application configurations.

"We're going to wait. XP SP2 is a major update, and we think it'll increase XP sales but we can ill-afford to cause our customers problems," said David Sahl, a principal at Computerware, Modesto, Calif. "If we tell customers they need to go to SP2 and it breaks things, they won't be happy with us because we'd have to go back and charge them high rates to undo what we did."

Microsoft made available SP2-related patches for MS CRM and SBS 2003, and workarounds for SMS 2003 and BizTalk. It also released a tool partners can deploy to prevent Microsoft's Automatic Update from automatically downloading SP2 to their clients' PCs. But it's not over.

"I'm worried about all the other applications running around in a network that may have problems with SP2," said Mike Cocanower, president of ITSynergy, Phoenix. "Small businesses tend to run a lot of little line-of-business apps, and some of them aren't very well-written. Those vendors generally aren't very quick to come out with patches or hot fixes."

IBM and Dell will ship SP2-based PCs in September. Microsoft has also prepared 40,000 system builders for SP2, said Kurt Kolb, general manager of Microsoft's system-builder channel.

The broad consumer download of SP2 won't be available for a few more weeks, a Microsoft spokesman said. He acknowledged SP2 causes incompatibilities with a small percentage of applications, and partners are advised to test before deploying.

One systems integrator, ironically, expects a good services business from SP2 headaches. "We are gearing up for a fair amount of emergency repair work between now and the first quarter of 2005," said John Parkinson, chief technologist at Capgemini, Rosemont, Ill.

BARBARA DARROW and DAN NEEL contributed to this story.