Hold off on NT's last rites

Microsoft may be pulling support for Windows NT. But there's no need to pull life support just yet. Users aren't quite ready to let the system go.

Slowly, Microsoft has halted various kinds of support for Windows NT. But some searchWin2000 users think it's premature to administer last rites to NT.

"It comes as no surprise to me. I actually was surprised Microsoft was going to support NT that much longer," said Brad Gruber, president and owner of Relief Data Services, LLC in Uniontown, Ohio.

"If you have NT still, running in production, you no longer need support. At that point the technology will be so outdated that upgrading is the only (best) option anyway," Gruber said.

Earlier this fall, Microsoft stopped selling volume licenses for Windows NT Server 4.0 and the client version of NT 4.0. In July of 2003, the System Builder channel will also stop selling NT. Microsoft will charge for hotfixes in early 2003, which will be scrapped altogether in January of 2004. Online support will end in 2005.

Microsoft has been forthcoming about its roadmap for the platform, so the sunset of support for NT shouldn't be surprising, said Laura DiDio, an analyst with Giga Information Group.

"It is not realistic or reasonable to expect Microsoft (or any software vendor) to expend considerable time and resources supporting multiple versions of multiple OSes and server operating systems," she said.

While most users recently contacted by searchWin2000 weren't surprised by Redmond's move, they did take some issue with the way it cranks out new operating systems, piling new ones on top of "old" ones.

"I believe the user community is exhausted, and we are forcing too many changes into their environment without providing demonstrative proof that the changes have made anything better," said Andrew Moffat, CEO of Ottawa-based EDUCOM TS Inc., software development firm specializing in e-mail management.

Such tight release cycles may force some users to decide whether to upgrade or go forward with unsupported software. Such a situation may eventually make some users "resent being held hostage and seek other alternatives," Moffat said.

But users are catching on to the upgrade curve, according to Kimberley I. Matthews, manager at Second Foundation Consultants Inc. of Waterloo, Ontario. "For the next little while, most will stay where they are unless there is a really compelling reason to move, i.e. Active Directory, Remote Access, etc.," Matthews said.

So will some users continue with NT without support? DiDio said Giga has heard anecdotally from users that they will handle their own support and continue to use "NT Server and other legacy client platforms like Windows 98 for some months to come."

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