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Microsoft Manufacturing User Group Tackles DLL Hell and Legacy Support Issues

Company Press Release
May 4, 2000, 8:18 pm GMT

WEST CHESTER, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 4, 2000--The Microsoft Manufacturing User Group, or MS-MUG, recently issued its first feedback report detailing key issues faced by manufacturers when applying Microsoft technology in industrial automation applications. MS-MUG, currently operating as a working group within the Open Architecture Controller User Group, or OMAC, is devoted to addressing issues faced by manufacturers when applying commercial software technology to manufacturing automation applications. The group's first feedback report to Microsoft highlighted problems with DLL Hell, version management, and other issues that spawned the initial formation of this working group.

Dual-Track Update Approach Will Address Some OS Churning Issues

Rapid release of new versions of the Windows operating system, plus numerous service packs within each version, boosts overall lifecycle costs for manufacturers who must continually validate Windows-based systems containing the new releases. Microsoft has proposed to separate releases for bug fixes and new feature additions into a dual-track update approach, a technique that MS-MUG deems critical to manufacturers' ability to manage the rate of operating system platform change or ``churn.'' However, in spite of the proposed dual-track approach at the operating system level, the MUG expects that manufacturing customers will continue to experience a relatively higher degree of software churn due to the need to keep pace with both operating system and application software upgrades.

DLL and OLE Components Distribution Plan Reduces DLL Hell

``DLL Hell'' is a phenomenon experienced by most members of the User Group. DLL Hell occurs when Dynamic Link Libraries (DLLs) employed by applications on an existing system are replaced by updated DLLs contained in new operating system releases or application software upgrades. From the MS-MUG perspective, Visual Studio run-time libraries and components appear to be the most obvious contributor to this problem. MS-MUG believes that distributing Visual Studio run-time DLLs and OLE components with operating system releases will improve the situation considerably but not eliminate it.

DLL Redirection and Side-By-Side Versioning As Band-Aids?

The DLL-redirection functionality present in Windows 2000 holds promise as a means of fixing incidents where ``DLL-hell'' arises. The group's main concern with implementation of this functionality is that it still requires systems administrators to intervene to resolve the issue and eliminates the main benefit of dynamically linked libraries: the ability to save memory by sharing code space. MS-MUG would like to see a more seamless mechanism such as the Windows Installer used to resolve this problem in the future.

Five-Year Product Support Is Necessary For Manufacturing Users

In the past, Microsoft has typically supported the current release of a given product plus one previous generation. If this practice is continued, the new dual-track release schedule will likely result in annual product releases, thereby making the supported life of the product only 2 to 3 years. At a minimum, the group strives for support a full 5 years beyond when a product is replaced in order for it to be cost-effective in manufacturing applications. This will help manufacturing organizations to effectively plan and test migrations and ensure minimal production impact.

The Microsoft Manufacturers User Group (MS-MUG) is a working group within the Open Modular Architecture Controls User Group (OMAC) devoted to addressing issues faced when manufacturers apply commercial software technology to industrial applications. Members of MS-MUG include manufacturing companies, Microsoft, and both technology and automation suppliers, and anyone interested in the use of Microsoft technology in industrial automation is encouraged to join the effort.

Further information about the MS-MUG working group, including membership information and a copy of the MS-MUG's initial feedback report to Microsoft, can be obtained at http://www.arcweb.com/omac or by phone at 781-471-1112.

 

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