Windows NT 4.0 users who have been wary of Service Pack 4 (SP4) had better get used to it, because their systems will not be completely year-2000-compliant without it.
Microsoft now is recommending that NT 4.0 users implement SP4 to achieve year 2000 compliance -- a shift from the company's previous position that Service Pack 3 (SP3) would do the job, albeit leaving minor year 2000 issues.
However, implementing SP4 -- which includes more than 650 new bug fixes, repair of 28 memory leak conditions, several new features, and all the patches from Service Pack 1 to SP3 -- could be a big project for many IT shops.
SP4's size and scope, along with the difficulties and incompatibilities associated with it, led analyst companies such as the Gartner Group to recommend that shops spend months testing, evaluating, and deploying SP4.
The complexity of the service pack, coupled with the approaching year 2000, has left many users anxious.
One corporate user told Microsoft officials that his shop did not intend to deploy SP4 because "we have assessed the risk to be too high", and had created a Systems Management Server package of year 2000 fixes that were issued after SP3. The user was not sure how to proceed, however, after Microsoft's pronouncement that SP4 is required for Y2K compliance.
"We are now putting that deployment on hold, pending Microsoft's response," the user said. "There is no point in doing it if Y2K problems will still exist."
Mark Light, Microsoft year 2000 product manager, said that SP3 -- even with all of the hot fixes issued in the meantime -- would not offer users the year 2000 compliance available via SP4.
The company has no plans to release the hot fixes necessary to bring SP3 into full compliance, Light said. But it does intend to maintain SP3 at "compliant with minor issues" status, a rung down from the "compliant" status of SP4. It will release a document about SP3 and its issues this month.
Microsoft will maintain SP4 at "compliant" status -- issuing fixes to it if other year-2000 flaws are discovered, and assuring users who upgrade to SP4 that they will not have to implement yet another service pack by the end of the year.
Still, some may want to stay with SP3, Microsoft officials said.
"Customers have to look at their definition of compliance," Light said. "We recommend that customers move to SP4 for Y2K compliance, but some customers have built their euro solutions upon SP3 and want to stay there for a while."
Other users are also waiting for more information before deploying SP4.
"We are very leery about the SP," said Robert De Cardenas, distributed systems and network coordinator for the State of Florida Supreme Court. "I have heard from other colleagues that the SP did not go as expected, and this scares me."
But analysts at the Gartner Group are recommending users do the upgrade.
"IT managers need to deploy now or take the risk," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner.
Gannett, a publishing company, is already in the process of implementing SP4 after completing the extensive testing that it performs on any new product, according to Eric Kuzmack, a senior analyst at the company and a member of the InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board. The testing revealed only one application conflict on something that was not mission-critical.
What SP4 has to offer
The following is a partial list of features added to Windows NT 4.0 by Service Pack 4.
* Year 2000 compliance
* Distributed Component Object Model/HTTP tunnelling* Support for the new European euro currency* Microsoft File and Print Service for NetWare (FPNW) Support for Client32* User profile size quotas* Compaq Fibre Storage Driver* Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 1* Security Configuration Manager (SCM)* Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) services* Microsoft Windows NT Server NetShow services* Option pack fixes and enhancements to:
Microsoft Certificate Server
Internet Information Server (IIS)
Microsoft Message Queue (MSMQ) for NT
Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS)