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Extended support provides a buffer for users who are not ready to upgrade to later releases of the operating system, but wish to continue receiving support.
Upgrade options are limited to just one: migrate from Windows 2000 to Windows 2003. Some organisations may be tempted to delay upgrading and run Windows 2000 with extended support until the next major Windows release, Longhorn, which is due to ship in 2006.
David Roberts, chief executive of The Corporate IT Forum, said, "There is no need to jump into an upgrade." The financial arguments for not upgrading was winning, he said. "IT opinions are having to shift towards paying for upgrades and maintenance when the business says it is essential."
Mike Thompson, principal analyst at Butler Group, recommended upgrading to Windows 2003 rather than waiting for Longhorn. "Longhorn is not expected until late 2006 and I am not convinced it will be available in time," he said.
Users would be better off moving to Windows 2003, according to Thompson. "Windows 2000 is reaching its sell-by date and there is a lot more functionality in Windows 2003."
In particular, users will need to upgrade to the x64 edition of Windows 2003 to begin taking advantage of the hybrid 32-bit to 64-bit processor technology in modern PC servers.
The argument to migrate to Windows 2003 will be even stronger, according to Thompson, when Microsoft begins shipping the interim operating system release, Windows 2003 R2, later this year.
Mark Tennant, Windows server product marketing manager, said users should not experience the same level of disruption as some did during the move from NT4, since Windows 2000 and 2003 are architecturally similar.
He said, "It is a lot easier to upgrade from Windows 2000 to 2003: 70% of Windows 2003 involved enhancing Windows 2000 by improving performance and security. The code base is very similar."
Extended support will mean users continue to receive free security updates for the next five years. But Microsoft is not planning to develop any non-security related software for Windows 2003. A version of the forthcoming Internet Explorer 7.0 web browser is not expected to be available on Windows 2000.