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State of the OS: Windows 2000 at 2 Years

Windows 2000 turns two years old this month. The operating system continues to enjoy a reputation for reliability and stability, and Windows 2000 made significant scalability strides in 2001.

Still migrations to the operating system continue to drag and serious doubts have emerged about Microsoft's ability to secure its products. Considerable confusion also exists about the direction Microsoft is taking with the next versions of Windows.

Migrations

From a financial perspective, 2001 was an extremely tough year for IT to consider rolling out new technology. An ENT survey taken late in 2000 indicated that IT managers believed 2001 would be a huge year for the companies' Windows 2000 migration efforts.

Economic concerns and budget cuts meant many Windows 2000 migration budgets evaporated leaving truncated rollout programs or abandoned efforts. (See related story).

The planning and effort associated with migrations to the Active Directory also continued to be a tough sell in 2001. An IDC survey of enterprises found that Windows 2000 deployment is broad but shallow. Many organizations have servers running Windows 2000, but few are running more than half of their servers on Windows 2000 yet. Nonetheless, administrators seem to be overcoming the Active Directory learning curve. (See story).

At the same time, Microsoft brandished the stick to move users off Windows NT 4.0. Late last year, Microsoft published its roadmap for ending support on Windows NT 4.0.

Scalability

Scalability got real in 2001. Microsoft established itself as king of the scalability benchmarks in 2000, with OLTP benchmark results built on clustered systems. Microsoft still has not produced reference customers implementing large scale databases using those clustering approaches.

But in 2001, Unisys culminated a campaign to prove that Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, running on 32-processor Unisys ES7000 servers, could compete with big iron systems from the Unix and AS/400 worlds. Last year, Unisys produced a top SAP performance benchmark and a top 10 result on the TPC-C benchmark.

At the same time, the large market for big boxes running Windows Datacenter hasn't materialized. Unisys' deals with Compaq and HP for those companies to resell ES7000s fell apart, and competitors claimed the market for large scale Windows systems didn't look like it would materialize before Intel releases its second-generation 64-bit processor, code-named McKinley.

Late last year, IBM rolled out systems built on its Summit chipset, which represents another approach to scaling up Windows/Intel systems. The Summit-based servers use a scale-out concept of ganging together four-processor bricks for systems capable of up to 16-way SMP. Like the Unisys ES7000, the IBM systems run either 32-bit or 64-bit Intel processors.

Security

The last year saw major security flaws in Microsoft's IIS Web server, including the Windows 2000 version, Internet Information Services 5.0. A new class of worms, including Code Red and Nimda, exploited vulnerabilities in IIS and Outlook to launch attacks. An analyst with Gartner went so far as to recommend that IIS users investigate switching to Apache Web servers.

Then, last month, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates issued a lengthy e-mail calling for a Trustworthy Computing initiative within Microsoft. The upshot is that Windows 2000 is getting the equivalent of a birthday bath -- as developers go through the code for security vulnerabilities during the month of February.

Support

2001 saw the introduction of a second service pack for Windows 2001. SP3 is in the works. Microsoft also recently introduced a Security Rollup Package, called SRP1, which rolls together all security fixes since SP2. The idea is to make it easier for administrators to bring systems up to date. An SRP2 is also in development.

Windows 2000 Pro Already Obsolete

The client from the Windows 2000 family went obsolete in October 2001 with the release of Windows XP Professional Edition. While Windows 2000 Professional is still available, it's no longer the newest business desktop or workstation operating system Microsoft has available. While Windows NT 4.0 lasted from 1996 to 2000, Windows 2000 Professional was the top dog for a scant 20 months.

Windows .NET Server Confusion

Microsoft has had some trouble naming its next generation server operating system. Originally code-named Whistler, the term fell out of common use when Microsoft split Whistler into the Windows XP client for release in 2001 and the server family for release in 2002. Microsoft officially announced in early 2001 that the name of the server products would be Windows 2002. Then, in a quick reversal, Microsoft roped the server products into the whole .NET initiative by calling them the Windows .NET Server Family.

There will be four versions, Windows .NET Standard Server, Windows .NET Enterprise Server, Windows .NET Datacenter Server and Windows .NET Web Server.

Users in the midst of Windows 2000 Server rollouts have expressed uncertainty about whether to continue their rollouts or wait for the Windows .NET Server Family. Microsoft's position has been that customers should continue with rollouts and swap in Windows .NET Server Family versions in mid-rollout when they become available. Windows .NET Servers are an incremental improvement over the Windows 2000 Servers and should fit into Windows 2000 Server infrastructures far more smoothly than Windows 2000 Servers fit in Windows NT 4.0 environments.

It Wasn't Confusing Enough Before:
Bring on the New Names!
The Whistler generation of operating systems brings all new names to the Windows 2000 lineup.

Old name/New Name

  • Windows 2000 Professional --> Windows XP Professional Edition
  • Windows 2000 Server --> Windows .NET Standard Server
  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server --> Windows .NET Enterprise Server
  • Windows 2000 Datacenter Server --> Windows .NET Datacenter Server
  • New SKU --> Windows .NET Web Server

  • About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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