Users hold off Windows 2000 upgrades despite support drop

IT managers and CIOs are holding off upgrading Windows 2000 systems despite mainstream support for the operating system ending this month, a Computerworld investigation has revealed.

IDC Australia's December 2004 'forecast for management' survey showed as many as 42 percent of Australian organizations were still using Windows 2000, and 54.5 percent had made the jump to XP.

University of Technology Sydney IT infrastructure and operations director Peter James said although a significant proportion of the 140 servers are running Windows 2000, any decision to drop support is unlikely to be dire.

"There's no reason for us not to upgrade and we will be moving to Windows XP shortly," James said. "I think Microsoft will be forced to extend support because of the number of users - as it did with Windows 98."

A number of the university's student systems run on Windows 2000, including FileMaker Pro for content, the Web application server front-end, and a 36-server Citrix environment. The Web server environment is a mixture of Solaris and Windows 2000 and James said as new servers are installed, Windows XP is being run on them.

"Windows 2000 was an improvement over Windows 98 and XP is over 2000 so it's getting better," he said. "I remember the days when you had to reboot a Unix system every day to make sure everything was running OK."

James said the UTS is in "good communication" with Microsoft and he sees no issues with Microsoft apart from its software licensing.

"What I would like to drop is the licensing which is the number one issue - it's too confusing and very difficult to work with," he said. "There is a lot of administrative overhead and some of its licensing stops you from using its technology."

James said universities are constantly looking for ways to improve value and it could move to Linux and StarOffice, but Microsoft has come to the party and contracts are reviewed.

"It's not like Microsoft is unwilling [to bargain] and is no different to dealing with companies like Novell or Cisco," he said.

One NSW government department IT manager, who requested anonymity, is in the middle of an upgrade from Windows 2000 to XP.

"We have just upgraded our entire infrastructure because the treasury made us update all our leasing requirements," the IT manager said. "Up until recently we had Windows 2000, but we are in the middle of deploying XP right now."

However, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service senior IT officer Sudershan Goyal was surprised so many organizations are still running Windows 2000, claiming his organization has been using XP "for ages now".

However, Independent Commission Against Corruption information management and technology manager Prakash Chordia said the organization's machines only moved to XP four months ago after moving to a 2003 server.

A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed that mainstream support for the Windows 2000 product family, including Windows 2000 server, advanced server, data centre server and Windows 2000 Professionals client, will end on June 30, 2005.

However, the vendor stressed that there will be a transition from mainstream support to an extended support phase, lasting until June 2010.

"This transition marks the progression of Windows 2000 through its product lifecycle, originally announced in 2002," the spokesperson said.

"Microsoft is not ending support for Windows 2000. During the extended support phase, Microsoft will continue to provide access to all security updates and self-help and online support options, including knowledge base articles and online product information."

The spokesperson said Windows 2000 support will be at Service Pack 4 baseline and an update rollup for SP4 will be released in mid-2005.

The analysts' view

IDC Australia IT management program analyst Vipul Bhargava believes the survey indicates that many organizations are waiting for the next generation of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, rather than spend money on Windows XP.

"Do you think people are going to install XP and then move straight to Longhorn when it comes out? I don't think so," Bhargava said. "It makes sense that if you stick with 2000 now, you can move straight on to Longhorn when it's released."

Gartner research director Phil Sargeant claims that organizations could still be running Windows 2000 for a number of reasons.

"Firstly, people don't change operating systems unless they're doing a refresh of their hardware," Sargeant said. "Also, with licensing to consider, they could have budgeted for a certain licensing period that hasn't expired yet. And thirdly, organizations could look at the relative cost and think that XP doesn't provide much more functionality than 2000, and that could turn them off upgrading."

In fact, Gartner itself only standardized on XP this calendar year during a refresh of hardware, and with Microsoft ending its mainstream support of Windows 2000, Sargeant suggests that "maintenance and support can always end up spurring people on."

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