Adopting Windows 2000

Today's Solution for Yesterday's Market?





"A computer on every desktop, running only Microsoft software" - Bill Gates.

They don't let him say it out loud any more, but that's still Microsoft's mission statement. Windows 2000 was designed to finally achieve that goal. Microsoft confidently expected a monolithic "Windows everywhere" world with one basic Windows from home to corporate data center. Windows 2000 would finalize world domination, forcing out all competitors.

Reality: Windows 2000 was delayed for years, and the world changed - a lot. Windows 2000 enters a world where Unix and mainframe hold an iron grip on the high ground (the last of them were supposed to be unplugged by now) while Linux rips large chunks from the small server space and owns the performance cluster market outright. Novell has returned from the dead, and is hungry.

The Internet has become the all important playing field, and Linux, BSD Unix, Sun and Apache rule most of it, while those "dead" mainframes move in at the high end. Windows based "Client Server" is breathing it's last as centralized data systems serving "Web appliances" and "thin" browser based clients take over. Modular is replacing Monolithic, "standards based" is replacing proprietary.

Recognizing how many people know about this new reality, Microsoft loudly proclaims all the "standards" it has incorporated into Windows 2000 to assure interoperability. In reality, most of those standards have been distorted so they "interoperate" only with Windows 2000. This strategy is clearly stated in the Halloween Documents.

Perhaps you feel your company isn't leading edge enough for this new reality to matter. Perhaps you enjoy the simple decision process of being guided by Microsoft. Even so, you should carefully consider the cost consequences of moving to Windows 2000. These costs may be much higher than you expect, because Windows 2000 isn't compatible with the "old reality" either.

Gartner Group estimates corporate costs at $56,000 to move a server from Windows NT to Windows 2000. They estimate moving 50 user workstations to Windows 2000 at more than $100,000 ($2,000 per workstation). For a small business, the server cost may be significantly lower, but that $2,000 per workstation is likely to be higher.

Want another opinion? I recommend this article by Maggie Biggs. Maggie is chief of the product testing department at InfoWorld, a trade rag noted for it's strong support of everything Microsoft.

Windows 2000 Desktop vs Windows 2000 Server:

By and large, users of Windows 2000 Professional, the desktop edition, are quite satisfied. For this application It's just a Windows NT Workstation that doesn't crash so much. It is as a server that the new features of Windows 2000 come into the forground, so most of the discussion here is about Windows 2000 as a Server.

What's Good About Windows 2000

First and foremost, it's the "safe" choice. It's what everyone presumes you are moving to, and what all the best known software vendors will be supporting. We can't say "nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft" (they have - big time), but it's the safe bet. Most important choices have already been made for you, and there's always someone much bigger to point to when things go wrong.

Stability: If your business is already committed to Microsoft products, this feature will be highly welcome. After years of assuring us Windows98 and Windows NT were bug free and highly stable, that the only problems are "third party software", Bill Gates finally tells the truth - they are unstable. His typical uptimes: Windows 98 - 2.1 days; Windows NT - 5.2 days; Windows 2000 - 90 days and still going! Much better (but compare this to Unix/Linux and NetWare uptimes of 1 to 3 years, or Mainframes and AS/400s which may have 0.00 minutes total unscheduled downtime between installation to retirement).

Active Directory: This is the most important new feature of Windows 2000. All Windows 2000 certified software packages must integrate with Active Directory to be certified. Previously, Windows administration became extremely difficult as networks grew in size, making it impossible to integrate into large organizations. Active Directory makes it possible to manage large networks. Active Directory is also the biggest problem with Windows 2000 (see "What's Bad" section).

Security: There is little question that Windows 2000 is more secure than Windows NT 4, and especially Windows 98 (which has no security whatever), even though the first Windows 2000 security patch was issued before the release date of Win2000.

Workforce: There is a huge pool of potential employees familiar with Microsoft products, and all MCSEs (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers) are being forced to certify on Win2000 or be decertified completely.

Software: Windows 2000 will run most of the software that runs on Windows NT, and much that runs on Windows95/98. Caution, you can't take full advantage of Win2000's advanced features except with Window 2000 certified applications, of which there are less than 30 in March 2000.

Clustering: Failover clustering is improved and load sharing clustering is working. Nothing like Unix, but better than Linux which is just getting into this sort of clustering (but Linux has a lock on performance clustering and Win2000 can't do that at all).

What's Bad About Windows 2000

Cost: - The big consulting firms tell us upgrading workstations to Windows 2000 will cost about $3,500. each. That's for the ones that are actually able to handle Windows 2000 (only about 20% of the installed base). Over 80% of installed business computers don't meet Windows 2000 standards and will have to be replaced (see "Enforced Uniformity" and "Hardware Requirements" below).

Active Directory: It's extremely complex, a real bitch to configure, and designed for large enterprises with dedicated support staff - but it's not optional. The mom-and-pop shop must deal with active directory too. A good simplified explanation of Active Directory can be found at ent ("The Independent Newspaper for Windows NT/2000 Enterprise Computing"). If you head spins from this, keep in mind, it's just a light brush over. All Windows 2000 certified software must hook into Active Directory.

Enforce Uniformity: If you support computers on you network that are not running Windows 2000, you can't take advantage of many of Windows 2000's advanced features on any computer. You must be 100% Windows 2000 for full functionality. Microsoft calls this the "Windows 2000 native environment".

There is now a downloadable module to add some Active Directory functionality to Windows95/98, but new computers will soon be shipping with Windows ME (Millennium Edition), for which such a module is not available (and will not be available according to Microsoft).

Performance: It's hardly (if at all) better than Windows NT's uninspiring performance (Microsoft's recent "independent" benchmarks showing Win2000 to be faster than NT were totally rigged in very obvious ways and completely at odds with their previous benchmarks showing how much faster NT was than Windows95).

Performance Degradation: Windows 2000 is the only significant operating system that degrades due to disk fragmentation in normal use (Unix, Linux NetWare and OS/2 may fragment if the disk gets over 90% full). A defragmenter is included with Windows 2000 (You had to buy Diskeeper for Windows NT), but it isn't very good and requires significant downtime. The upshot? You still have to buy Diskeeper.

Stability Degradation: Microsoft still hasn't fully addressed "DLL Hell".

Hardware Requirements: In practice, only a Pentium II 350-MHz or better, with 128-Megs of RAM and a 6-Gig hard disk is adequate as a normal Windows 2000 workstation. Servers and workstations doing heavy graphics will need a lot more.

Hardware Compatibility:. The list of successfully tested hardware is rather short, the list of incompatible hardware very long. Even for approved components, drivers may not be up to snuff, especially video cards which perform very poorly with Win2000.

Loss of Control - To adopt Windows 2000, you must accept, without reservation, that you no longer control your own Information System. Almost all basic decisions will be made in Redmond and passed down to your business, even without your knowledge or permission. "This behavior is by design".

An example of this control is Active Setup. If you visit a Web page of a company that uses Active Setup to update its software, you will be asked if you want the latest updates downloaded and installed, but, should you visit a Microsoft Web page, Active Setup will silently "update" your system without notice of any kind.

Microsoft has other silent "back doors" into your system, and UCITA, which Microsoft lobbied for intensely, gives them the right to enter your system without your permission, even to the point of completely disabling software you depend on.

Distorted Standards: Microsoft continues the practice of "Embrace, Extend, Exterminate" in its use of public standards. Microsoft loudly proclaims adoption of "standards" and uses the names of the standards in its promotional material, but in fact distorts the standards into "Microsoft standards" so Windows will not actually interoperate with systems adhering to the real standards. Their favorite method is to implement in a proprietary way a proposed (but not yet accepted) feature, or a feature not widely used, then threaten legal attack against anyone who reveals the code or reverse engineers its function.

Microsoft's distortion of standards has forced IBM to forbid attaching any Windows 2000 computer to their own production networks, worldwide, even while promoting themselves as the leading Windows 2000 support organization.

Example: Kerberos, the Unix standard for authenticating passwords for highly secure installations has been loudly adopted by Microsoft for Windows 2000, but they have implemented it in a non-standard way and refuses to release what they have done. By this means Microsoft forces use of Windows 2000 servers in places where they are neither required or desired. Further details may be found at ZDNet Inter@ctive Week. and at Network World.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol) is a widely adopted standard that makes TCP/IP administration easier. Instead of having a permanently assigned IP address, when a workstation is turned on it simply asks the DHCP server for one. Windows 2000 implements this in a non-standard way so that Windows 2000 workstations can only get an IP address from a Windows 2000 server. Almost all sizable organizations using DHCP use reliable Unix servers as their DHCP servers.

DNS (Domain Name Service) is another very important Internet standard that Windows 2000 implements in a non-standard way, causing compatibility problems.

BioAPI, the just finished standard for interfacing biometric security devices to computers, Microsoft has decided to undermine totally since it doesn't already have a large following. They have purchased a biometrics company and will incorporate a proprietary standard into Windows to make it incompatible with everything else. Details at Network World.

63,000 known "Points of Focus": - commonly known as "bugs". Details here. OK, only 22,000 are expected to be "real problems", but add that to the ones that haven't been found yet and it adds up. The big consulting firms caution against adopting Win2000 until at least well into 2001.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access
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