Microsoft NT 4.0 backlash has users eyeing Linux

Many users of NT 4.0 have rejected Microsoft's recently announced product support extension and are planning a migration path to Linux.

The backlash was revealed in an online Computerworld poll published earlier this month asking respondents if they will benefit from Microsoft's support extension.

More than 200 readers participated in the poll with 60 percent (124 votes) claiming they have plans to migrate to Linux, a further 60 votes welcomed the Microsoft announcement while the remaining 19 votes said they will need to read the fine print before passing judgement. Systems manager at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in Canberra, Justin Dorman, cited reliability and cost as two reasons why users are keen to migrate to Linux.

The AIHW has a mixture of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Linux and Solaris platforms.

“There are so many holes in NT and new ones seem to be appearing every second day,” Dorman said.

“Microsoft is trying to get new products out without [enough] testing for security holes. That’s why we don’t go to the latest version right away.” “Our Unix [systems] are up for a year to 18 months at a time. Try doing that with Windows,” he said.

“We’re happy with Microsoft’s products but are not on the Software Assurance (licensing program) as we want to upgrade when we choose to upgrade.”

Dorman said AIHW will migrate off its remaining two Windows NT servers before the December 31 support deadline and has looked at Linux but is likely to stay with Windows.

“We have Windows-only server software with no commercial equivalent for Linux, so migrations are very much application driven,” he said. “We’re not migrating due to support for NT ending.”

Golden Casket Lottery Corporation’s principal analyst for office systems, Vince Keller, said although migrating the last five NT servers to Linux “certainly comes to the fore”, the poll result is likely to be a “techy backlash”.

“When we see supportability and applications for Linux, and until it’s easy and cheap, people won’t switch,” Keller said. “Software Assurance is expensive so I wholeheartedly recommend buying a straight licence.”

Keller will upgrade its Microsoft platforms, but “not in keeping with Microsoft’s schedule as we can’t keep up with the upgrade cycles”.

Microsoft’s Windows Server product manager Michael Leworthy said the past year has been “very successful” for NT migrations to Windows Server 2000 and 2003.

“The challenges are applications that won’t migrate to 2003 and most are either in-house or [developed] pre-1998,” Leworthy said. “The migration is quite straightforward and uptake of Active Directory has been good.”

Leworthy said the timeframe for enterprise NT upgrade projects is usually six to eight months and upgrades have the potential to improve application resources by about 30 percent and by about 50 percent for file and print services resources.

“Upgrading results in more efficiency and easier management and with [the upcoming] Virtual Server 2005 you can ease migration by taking a complete image and running it in the virtual server,” he said. “We’re returning 15 percent [of costs] due to virtualisation.”

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