FRAMINGHAM (03/24/2000) - For network professionals considering Microsoft's Windows 2000 for their server operating system, planning ahead to deal with hardware and training requirements could save a lot of trouble in the long run.
And because most companies considering Win 2000 are still in the planning or testing phase, now is a good time to do a little homework.
For example, server makers such as Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. already have rolled out Win 2000-ready systems. Making sure applications are certified to run on those servers and the correct hardware drivers are in place is key. There are tools available to help, such as Fast Lane Technologies Inc.'s DM Migrator Tool, which assists with Domain issues.
For individual third-party software packages, network managers should consult their vendors. Microsoft Corp. also has information available, and hardware makers have support programs in place that can help deal with drivers and server issues.
Peripheral server devices, such as shared network printers and scanners, can cause problems if they are not tested ahead of time.
Network professionals comfortable with Windows NT 4.0 shouldn't assume they can handle Win 2000 without additional training, Giga Information Group Analyst Laura DiDio says.
"Companies have to make sure their people have training, and while the average cost of training is $1,500 per person, it can amount to a lot more depending on how experienced the person is," DiDio says. She adds that companies also need to take into account that training often means finding someone else to fill in while classes are being taken.
For companies with remote offices and servers, upgrading to Win 2000 may be easier with Microsoft's IntelliMirror tool. IntelliMirror's ability to help with remote installs and upgrades can ease management issues. But if a problem occurs, experienced IT staff will have to be on hand to help out. A single server upgrade from Windows NT 4.0 to Win 2000 can take up to 90 hours to complete, as network managers deal with issues such as setting up domains, DiDio says.
Jason Lochhead, chief technology officer at Data Return Corp., an application services and Web-hosting company in Dallas, says careful planning made the transition to Win 2000 fairly smooth at his company. Data Return migrated more than 260 servers to Win 2000 in February.
"The most difficult thing for us was making sure all our software was compliant, mainly because we received conflicting information from some of our vendors," Lochhead says. "For the most part, Microsoft has done its best with its own applications, but it can't account for mistakes in all the third-party products that are out there."
Data Return chose to migrate its Web servers to Win 2000 first, based on anticipated performance gains, Lochhead says. The result was 30% to 40% better response times compared with Windows NT 4.0 running on its shared-site Web servers, which can accommodate up to 10 corporate Web sites each.
Lochhead says server hardware requirements are beefier for Win 2000 and recommends that network executives allow for some headroom when buying new servers. For example, instead of relying on several single or dual-processor Pentium-class servers, companies may want to consider four-way machines that can be upgraded to eight-way systems. In addition to gaining better performance, there will be fewer servers to manage.
For SQL Server, users may want to start with a four-way system that will allow you to get to eight processors, he says.
Data Return also made use of a home-grown application that helped out with unattended installations of Win 2000 in remote locations. "Our customers could run a Visual Basic script file that pretty much automated the installation," he says.
In addition to recommending training and careful hardware inventory prior to implementing Win 2000, Giga Information Group has come out with some minimum server hardware requirements that call for a Pentium II-class processor and at least 256M bytes of associated RAM with 1G byte of free hard disk space.
"Network mangers should be thinking more, not less, because too little is going to be like putting a 500-pound man on a Shetland pony," DiDio says.
In a Giga Information Group survey of 1,100 companies, only 10% of respondents said they planned to migrate to Win 2000 within three months of its February ship date. Fifty-four percent said that they will take the more conservative path of waiting six to 18 months after the ship date to install the operating system.