Microsoft to wind down support for Windows NT 4.0

Corporate users can plan ahead now that Microsoft Corp. has disclosed the support discontinuance dates for the 5-year-old Windows NT Server 4.0 operating system.

As of Jan. 1, 2003, users will no longer be able to obtain nonsecurity Quick Fix Engineering, or hot fixes, for free. A year later, such nonsecurity hot fixes will cease to be available, even for a fee. Premier and pay-per-incident support will also end for Windows NT Server 4.0 at the start of 2004.

Users said the support end dates are reasonable and shouldn't present any hardships for their companies especially since many of them are in the process of moving to Windows 2000 Server.

Al Gillen, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., noted that Windows NT Server accounted for approximately 80 percent of Microsoft's Windows server shipments last year. But this year, Windows 2000 Server will comprise the vast majority, he said.

Roger Gariepy, chief information technologist at Air Products and Chemicals Inc. in Allentown, Pa., which is about halfway into its Windows 2000 Server migration, said the support end dates for Windows NT Server are "adequate." Gariepy said his upgrade strategy takes into account that when Microsoft releases a new version of a product, the software vendor generally still supports the version that preceded it.

"You get forced into doing some upgrades, but you've got to move forward, too," said Wayne Richards, a senior technical support analyst at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio. Richards said he understands that vendors must eventually discontinue support. "You can't support everything, and [Microsoft was] getting stretched thin a bit on the number of operating systems they were supporting," he said.

Server Group to Follow Suit

In addition to several desktop operating systems, Microsoft now supports three server operating systems Windows 3.5x, Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000. Support for Windows 3.5x is scheduled to stop at year's end. The support end date for Windows 2000 has yet to be announced.

Microsoft group product manager Bob O'Brien said his company "proactively sought customer feedback" in making its decision on the support end dates for Windows NT Server 4.0. Microsoft will engage in a similar exercise beginning next year with Windows 2000 Server users, O'Brien said, adding that he doesn't expect an announcement to be made before the second half of the year.

Several users polled by Computerworld said they expect Windows 2000 Server, which shipped in February 2000, to be supported for at least two more years.

"I just finished the migration to Windows 2000, and I do not want to be forced to upgrade again in the near future," said Susan McKay, vice president of customer and information systems at Aircast Inc. in Summit, N.J. She noted that her company used pay-per-incident support three times during its Windows 2000 migration.

Rick Waugh, a technology specialist at Telus Corp. in Burnaby, British Columbia, said his company would like support to extend beyond the next two years, since it made a multimillion-dollar investment in Windows 2000 and doesn't see a great benefit in rushing to Windows .Net Server.

Tom Bittman, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said Microsoft won't "preannounce the death" of Windows 2000 Server before Windows .Net Server ships. But he expects .Net Server to ship in May and the life cycle announcement for Windows 2000 to closely follow.

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