Concern over server risks

Windows 2000 draws a cautious response from IT directors.

Many of the UK's IT directors plan to migrate their desktops to Windows 2000 this year, but are concerned about installing the operating system on their servers.

This is one of the main findings of exclusive research carried out by blue-chip corporate user organisation, the Technical Infrastructure Forum (tif).

The research, which drew responses from half of tif's membership, highlights key worries such as Windows 2000's compatibility with legacy applications, migration from NT4 and the threat to the business from bugs in Active Directory.

On the positive side, although users have little faith in any significant cost saving, they recognise a step change in terms of robustness and scalability over NT4. And they are aware of the benefits of centralised systems management and eventual better desktop/ enterprise integration.

Tif members are broadly confident about moving to a Windows 2000 desktop environment, considering it a low risk technically. Several factors, however, could persuade them to start later rather than earlier this year.

They are worried about poor initial support of lesser-used desktop legacy applications and hardware and a need for high calibre (and expensive) Windows 2000 support staff. Moreover, some boards could feel the change has come too quickly on top of all the other changes over the last couple of years.

It could be some time before the impact is felt in the organisation. "In the first stage we anticipate that there will be more advantages on the servers and workstations from an IT perspective than from an end-user view," said one respondent. Additionally, many are waiting for Service Pack 1 before starting.

Although they recognise the potential advantages of scalability/reliability over current NT standards and closer desktop/enterprise integration, tif members consider migrating Windows 2000 to the server level as high risk.

They are worried about bugs in the operating system - especially as it is not a simple upgrade from NT4, being technically different in terms of operation and the structures it supports. Most do not expect to start migrating Windows 2000 on their servers before 2001.

The biggest risk of all, agree respondents, is the Active Directory. Microsoft is considered to be behind in the directory stakes and users are unsure when Windows 2000/Active Directory will mature sufficiently to be in a position to compete with Novell's Netware/NDS for value, functionality and stability.

Windows 2000 risk and advantages

Perceived advantages

  • improved internal software distribution options
  • unified directory services across the organisation
  • centralised software management and workstation lockdown
  • server consolidation/ cluster features
  • better desktop/enterprise integration
  • better scalabity and reliability over NT
  • improved desktop control and management
  • internet integration
  • foreign language functionality

Perceived risks

  • low technical risk for the desktops
  • medium to high risk for servers
  • biggest risk: bugs in the Active Directory
  • apparent complex migration from NT4 to Windows 2000
  • shortage of high grade staff
  • negative impact on existing hardware
  • co-existence issues during migration
  • legacy applications compatibility

tif and the W2K survey

The Technical Infrastructure Forum (tif) has members from 80 of the top UK corporations. Between them, tif estimates that these companies spend about £16.5bn on IT and have budgetary responsibility for 1.8 million desktops. Tif's aim is to give better value to IT for the business through sharing best practice through workshops, discussion and supplier leverage. For more information telephone tel 01442 866634; e-mail or log onto the Web site.

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