Thomas Bittman, a senior analyst at Gartner, said mission-critical Windows servers should be moved off NT 4.0 no later than the end of 2003, when Microsoft will start charging for bug fixes. But for non-critical systems his advice is to keep going.
"There is no reason why Windows should not be like other operating systems - you still come across old systems running tried and trusted applications," he said. "There is no need to rush off and upgrade if everything is working fine. Wait until the server runs out of steam and upgrade when you upgrade the hardware."
Dan Kusnetzky, IDC's vice-president for systems and software research, said, "There are something like five million NT 4.0 server licences out there. Even if only half of them are active, the system is not going to disappear before 2005, maybe later. For many applications, Windows NT 4.0 is good enough and managers do not want to touch it."
He advises caution in the uptake of Active Directory. "Microsoft still has to address some serious issues [with Active Directory]. Novell had similar problems with Directory Services in Netware 4.0 but soon provided the necessary tools. Microsoft has yet to learn this lesson," he said.
Windows NT 4.0 withdrawal roadmap
1 July 2002: Standard, Enterprise and Terminal Server editions withdrawn from Direct OEM channel. Standard and Enterprise full-packaged product (FPP) withdrawn from resellers.
1 Jan 2003: QFE (Quick Fix Engineering) will be charged for.
1 July 2003: Windows NT server 3.0 no longer available through System Builder channel.
1 Jan 2004: Pay per incident, Premier support and QFE will be withdrawn. Online support turned off.
Security updates will be available throughout this period.