How Microsoft is helping NT users to upgrade

Support for Windows NT 4.0 Server will cease at the end of the year, but the many users of Microsoft's ageing operating system...

Support for Windows NT 4.0 Server will cease at the end of the year, but the many users of Microsoft's ageing operating system will find plenty of options for help as they plot migration strategies.

Two weeks ago, IBM said it would offer free migration classes and some discounts on software and services for those who opt to move from Microsoft products to IBM enterprise software running on Linux.

Not to be outmarketed, Microsoft last week promoted improved migration tools, prescriptive guidance, discounted training, a freely available "online concierge" and services for file and print, directory, e-mail and database migration.

Microsoft also touted a total-cost-of-ownership assessment tool that has been extended to allow customers to evaluate Windows against competitive systems.

Many of those options have been available for two years, but Jim Hebert, general manager of the Windows Server product management group, also spotlighted previously unpublicised hands-on labs that were introduced in November to help customers move from NT Server to Windows 2000 Server or Windows Server 2003.

According to Hebert, Microsoft employees or partners will bring hardware to a customer's site and set up a lab so the user can do a dry run of its environment on the new Windows operating system without disrupting existing operations.

Windows Server product manager Troy Zaboukas said Microsoft will fund 800 of them by July and has, so far, opened 400.

Hebert highlighted some of the promotions partners have been offering to NT users, such as Hewlett-Packard's programme to allow users who trade in their old NT 4.0 hardware to get either a 15% or $15,000 discount off the list price of a new box.

Hebert said Microsoft was unfazed by IBM's quest to entice NT users to Linux. "From the shortlist of what they said that they were going to be offering customers, we actually felt pretty good, because we've been offering those same opportunities to customers for about 24 months now. So a short version of what we think about this is that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery," he added.

"We've been continuing to invest in our tools and making sure that we've got partners. And the most important thing for most of our customers when they're thinking about potentially moving platforms is whether the software they need to run their business, not just the operating system, is available to them on that platform. We've made huge investments over the years to build the largest ecosystem of software available for any platform that I know of."

Hebert would not be drawn on the number of users still on Windows NT 4.0 Server, adding that there was no chance of NT Server support being extended beyond the end of the year.

He did say, however, that a number of users were already moving to Windows 2000 when Windows Server 2003 became available. "Either one of those operating systems provides significant benefits to an NT 4 customer," he said.

Carol Sliwa writes for Computerworld

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