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No support loophole for NT 4.0

Microsoft says its new Virtual Server 2005 can help customers with migrations off NT 4.0, but they are mistaken if they think it will win them any more free support for this older version of Windows.

IT administrators who thought they could eke out more free support for NT 4.0 by running it on Virtual Server 2005 will get exactly the same amount of free support as the financial companies who are members of BITS: zilch.

Microsoft caused a minor flurry of interest last week when it said it would offer some additional support for Windows NT 4.0 through a partnership with BITS, a Washington-based

… we think the majority of [Virtual Server 2005] users will be in the testing environment, and in server consolidation.

Eric Berg, Microsoft

group product manager

consortium of 100 of the largest financial companies in the U.S.

But Microsoft reiterated that free support would end on June 30 for Windows NT Workstation and on Dec. 31 for Windows NT 4.0 Server. It turns out that BITS members are only getting some paid custom support, on which Microsoft declined to elaborate.

Some experts also wondered if Microsoft might continue to get some type of patch support by running NT 4.0 Server as a Virtual Server 2005 virtual machine. Virtual Server 2005, which is due out later this year, creates a "sandbox" for each instance of an operating system.

Any OS residing there would have the same issues as if it were running solo, said Lee Benjamin, a consultant, author and director of the Boston Area Exchange Server User Group.

Designed as a migration aid

But Eric Berg, Microsoft's group

For more information

Read about Microsoft's Common Engineering Criteria


See what the obstacles are for Microsoft Virtual Server

product manager for Virtual Server 2005, said, essentially, no. Most customers have plans to migrate off their older OSes, Berg said. The intention of running NT 4.0 on Virtual Server 2005 is to help customers buy some time as they undergo their migrations to more modern operating systems.

"There is a subset of customers who are running applications that they are not going to rewrite, or they are ending that application," he said. "Virtual Server is just giving them more flexibility of that timing."

Berg said that in terms of security, customers can set up the "guest OS," or virtual machine, and just not have it connected to the virtual network, therefore isolating the instance of the operating system. This isn't an option for everyone, but it is one option nonetheless.

"Keep in mind, that overall, when we are looking at opportunities for Virtual Server 2005, we think the majority of users will be in the testing environment, and in server consolidation," Berg said. "The legacy migration is a piece, an important piece, but not the whole opportunity."

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