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Windows 2000 Server death watch begins

Microsoft has begun reminding customers that it will stop selling Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server in the spring. The software maker also issued an end-of-life schedule for these enterprise products.

Just eight months after the release of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft has issued a heads-up that Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server will be entering the first phases of retirement, beginning this spring.

The software, which many IT administrators are still in the process of installing in their enterprises, will not be available in the reseller channel as of April 1, 2004, and will not be available for volume licensing programs, according to Microsoft.

By April 1, 2006, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server disk kits will no longer be available. Mainstream support for Windows 2000 Server ends March 31, 2005, and extended support ends March 31, 2007.

"This is just a reminder," Steve Kleynhans, a vice president at Meta Group, a Stamford, Conn., consulting firm. "This information was all posted a year ago."

IT administrators might at first be shocked that Microsoft is already talking about retiring Windows 2000 Server. The company is still phasing out Windows NT. That process is winding down now, with online support ending this month. Non security hotfix support for NT ends Jan. 1, 2005.

Earlier this month, Microsoft said it was pulling the plug on many of its legacy products, including Windows 98 and SQL Server 7.

But the real impact of this news is minimal. The fact is, there is speculation that Microsoft may back down on these dates -- though not yet, Kleynhans said.

Microsoft will first eliminate licensing of Windows Server 2000, but that doesn't mean that the product will no longer be available. Customers can get "downgrade" rights. That means that, if they buy the new product, Windows Server 2003, they can install the older product if they choose. The other important date is when mainstream support ends. Customers will then have two years beyond that date to receive extended support.

"They are putting a stake in the ground," Kleynhans said. "[Microsoft reminds everyone of these dates and listens to what the customers say. If the screaming is too bad, they may back down a little."

Another analyst said that it's a good idea for Windows customers to keep copies of Windows 2000 around because it doesn't require activation to work, unlike Windows XP and Office XP.

"It makes me nervous that, if something happened to the activation servers, you couldn't re-install an older product," said Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm. "But things happen, and sometimes servers don't work. Windows 2000 is not susceptible to that."

Customers tend to lag far behind Microsoft's product timelines, but Microsoft makes no money when you run its software, only when you buy, DeGroot said. "They want to push this market forward," he said. "They are quickly going to make Windows Server 2003 the only available option."

For one customer already on Windows 2000 Server, the warning seemed fair.

"We've had Windows 2000 Server since April 2000, and we've had a few years to work with it," said John Logan, IT manager at AngioDynamics Inc., a Queensbury, N.Y., medical equipment maker. Logan said that he plans to remain on Windows 2000 Server for at least another year.

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