A straw poll of IT managers found many with plans to migrate to the new operating system this year - especially those who have recently finished or are in the process of completing a move to Windows 2000 Server.
However, there was keen interest in some of the latest features in Windows Server 2003, particularly the improvements to Active Directory, and some IT professionals said they would start migrating this year.
James Hudson, director of IT worldwide at J Walter Thompson, said he expects the advertising agency to move to the operating system in three to six months because of the added stability of Active Directory. The company is running a mix of Windows NT and 2000 and Novell NetWare.
Hudson said the efficiency designed into the replication topology of Active Directory would be important, since his company has a large global Active Directory deployment distributed across several offices.
"Having greater control in how we manage replication across Wan links with bandwidth constraints will allow us to efficiently schedule replication intervals," Hudson said.
Andre Mendes, chief information officer at the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), said his company's migration within the next six months will be driven by new Active Directory and Exchange 2003 features, improved security and the shadow-copy feature for creating backup copies of files or folders to prevent inadvertent loss of data.
Mendes said PBS has been testing Windows Server 2003 for several months and has been satisfied with its features and stability. Plans call for a near-immediate migration of domain controllers and Active Directory. Other systems will follow within six months, as PBS moves off Windows 2000 and Sun Solaris operating systems.
But PBS hardly represents the norm, according to Gartner analyst Tom Bittman. He expected only about 5% of Windows 2000 users to move by year's end, with another 15% to follow by the end of 2004.
Bittman also predicted that companies still using Windows NT 4.0 would not rush to upgrade either, despite a 2004 end-of-support deadline. Those companies tend to be conservative by nature, he said, adding that he does not expect more than 25% to 33% of the existing NT base to migrate to Windows Server 2003 by the end of next year.
"Nobody is making any kind of IT purchases unless they have a good business case," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies. "People are not going to be looking at Windows Server 2003 purely in technical terms."
Jim Hebert, general manager of Windows enterprise servers at Microsoft, said the company is well aware that IT spending is flat and probably will be next year as well. So Microsoft will focus on trying to help customers understand the benefits they might see from an upgrade, he said.