What's so special about Win2000?
Among the selling points, Win2000 is said to be more scalable than its predecessors, it goes down less often and has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) - that is, the total cost per user per desktop including support, which has been calculated at thousands of pounds a year for earlier versions of Windows.
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With these qualities, Microsoft believes it can oust Unix from the datacentre, and fight off the low-TCO network computer.
What implications are there for IT professionals?
Good news for software houses, in-house developers, migration and integration specialists. Not so good for support and admin staff if, as Microsoft and some analysts claim, Win2000 Professional is twice as reliable as NT Workstation and significantly easier to use. If the claims are true, there will be a lot less support work.
How quickly do you need to acquire Win2000 skills?
Win2000 training has been around since the third quarter of 1998. However, according to QA Training, no Microsoft-certified courses will be available until May at the earliest. The Microsoft official curriculum for Win2000 should be available from June. On the other hand, if you had taken one of the courses on offer before the launch, you could have enjoyed a hefty discount.
But there is no need to panic. According to industry analysts, wise users will not deploy Win2000 until it has had time to settle down. GartnerGroup says wait until the first service pack is delivered towards the end of this year. Meta says wait until next year.
Although Microsoft claims that 1,000 Win2000-ready third-party applications will be available by the launch, the company admits that only about 100 will make it through the third-party verification process by June.
Gartner says enterprises that use only certified Win2000 applications on Win2000 Professional machines can reduce the cost of desktop support and downtime. In-house developers should follow Microsoft's certification specifications to reduce TCO.
Microsoft says many existing NT applications will run on Win2000, but this does not include 16-bit NT applications. Some third-party installation procedures search for specific versions of NT or a service pack, and these may not port easily to the new operating system.
How does it differ from its predecessors?
Reliability, availability and scalability apart - these have yet to be proved - Win2000 builds on Microsoft's Active Directory for access to network resources, administration, deployment, security, and so on. For this reason, analysts are warning that people with unimproved NT skills are not going to be able to implement Win2000. The leap from NT to Win2000 is equivalent to the jump from Dos to Windows - and with far graver implications if you get it wrong.
If Win2000 is an unknown quantity, Active Directory is even more so. Users and partners are waiting to see what happens, and Microsoft is not anticipating industry-wide support for it for eight to 10 years.
How long will it take to upgrade NT skills?
QA training says the full course for Win2000 administrators could take 17 days. Those without NT experience would take 30 days. Microsoft's official curriculum promises 10-day skill transfers that advanced users could complete in five days of intensive training.
What will it cost to train?
With classroom fees typically £275 to £300 a day, getting Win2000 skills could be an expensive business. However, many training organisations offer "passports to learning", skills cards, training vouchers and other discount schemes. Learning Tree, for example, offers a four-course passport which reduces the cost per course from £1,475 to £774.
Where will demand be?
Designing Active Directory infrastructures. Integrating Active Directory with Novell's Netware Directory Services (NDS).
Few people know that
Windows 95 was named after the number of floppies it came on, not the year. The 2000 in Windows 2000 is actually the cost of upgrading each desktop
Microsoft's authorised training partners are the certified technical education centres (CTECs).
This site gives details of instructor-led classroom courses, online courses with access to trainers and self-study courses for those confident enough to work without a safety net. There are also self-study courses from Microsoft partners like SmartForce and NETg. However, non-CTECs like Learning Tree say they have more freedom to depart from the official curriculum and take into account the fact that Microsoft products have to coexist with those from other suppliers.