Test Center Rx

SAN MATEO (05/01/2000) - I'm trying to figure out exactly what to do about Windows 2000 Server. I manage a network of around 20 Windows NT 4.0 machines that run Microsoft Corp. Exchange and Internet Information Server and that also act as file servers. I'm starting to get pressure from some of the other IT people here to upgrade, but I'm scared to do it this soon. I had no end of trouble with NT 4.0, after my 3.51 servers had been working fine forever. You always hear "wait for Service Pack 1," but SP1 for NT 4.0 didn't really help me. My servers weren't stable until SP3, which took quite awhile to become available. So, I'm concerned about what will happen if I run out and install Windows 2000.

However, the database guy is pushing me because he wants to install SQL Server 2000 right when it comes out. (I think that's a bad idea, but that's his problem, not mine, thank goodness.) I also have users requesting Windows 2000 Workstation, which I'm OK with them using on their desktops; but, I'm worried that if I bring Windows 2000 Server in anywhere I'll have to upgrade all my servers, and it will be the unhappy NT 4.0 story all over again. What should I do?

Steve Gant

Brooks: It looks as if you're worried about the old Microsoft "foot in the door" trick, which is where you buy MS Golf and end up having to upgrade SNA Server to the latest version. And it's definitely something to worry about.

I'm with you about waiting to install Windows 2000 in production environments.

For small-scale projects or for experimental machines, sure -- go for it, and start learning. But if you really need a particular server to be up and to continue working the way it is, why in the world would you upgrade it?

One of the key benefits of Windows 2000 is the Active Directory, which is infinitely more scalable than the much-hated domain model from previous versions of NT. But with 20 servers, I'm guessing that you have 300 to 500 users and a single domain that's probably working fine. So, for the time being, you can likely get by just fine without Windows 2000.

When you do decide to make the move to Windows 2000, be sure to read up on migrating from domains to the Active Directory because there is definitely a right way to do it and plenty of wrong ways. Active Directory is more scalable and robust than what you're used to, but it's also more complex.

As for workstations, I don't see as much of a problem. Sure, there are probably user training issues, but if you're moving people from Windows 9x to NT anyway, why not go to 2000, especially if your users are fairly savvy?

You should note that Microsoft was very decent about not requiring Windows 2000 for SQL Server 2000. You can find the information at www.microsoft.com/sql/productinfo/win2kfaq.htm. Not having to upgrade to Windows 2000 should placate your database administrator while still keeping your servers in a known, reliable state.

Lori: I agree with Brooks that you should not rush into upgrading, but I do think it a good idea to get started on one machine and familiarize yourself and your organization with Windows 2000. As Brooks mentioned, your database guru can still get started with SQL 2000 without having to install Windows 2000.

However, if you will be installing SQL 2000 on new server hardware, then by all means go with the latest operating system.

Once you have decided to upgrade, I suggest you deploy Windows 2000 over time.

That goes for your users as well. I suggest you select a couple of savvy users, upgrade their workstations, and get their feedback and experience. Training may be an issue for many users, so having a couple of them up to speed before rolling anything out will help streamline the process. Then, they and you will be able to aid other users, and you'll know what to expect.

There have been reports and articles written in many publications regarding Windows 2000. I would like to point you to our Feb. 7 issue, which focused on Windows 2000, and specifically to advice from one of our Windows experts in the InfoWorld Test Center. Associate Technical Director Kevin Railsback described six important steps in migrating to Windows 2000: research, planning, prerequisites, test migration, server migration, and post-migration testing (see "Performing the perfect migration," www.infoworld.com/printlinks). These points are well worth following.

Microsoft supplies a wealth of information on its Web site for upgrading to Windows 2000, including systems requirements and complete guidelines for upgrading both clients and servers (see www.microsoft.com/windows2000).

In any case, moving to Windows 2000 may be inevitable, so good planning and patience are definite requirements.

Brooks Talley is senior business and technology architect for InfoWorld.com.

Lori Mitchell is a senior analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. Send your questions for them to testcenter_rx@infoworld.com.

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