Analysts warn against early Win 2000 deployment

Always cynical about Microsoft's Windows NT claims, the GartnerGroup warned corporate users on Monday to steer clear of the first version of Windows 2000.

Tom Bittman, the analyst house's director of research, opened the organisation's NT in the Enterprise conference with a prediction that although Windows 2000 will have its benefits, it will not be as reliable as NT 4.0 is now. Microsoft will catch up only in following releases, he said.

When Microsoft executives call Windows 2000 "reliable," potential users should view that in comparison to NT 4.0 and the Windows 9x consumer line, not operating systems such as Unix, Linux, or AS/400, Bittman said.

"This is going to be the killer on the first release," Bittman said of Windows 2000's reliability. "The beta program is only going to catch the easy ones."

Bittman also said the skills costs associated with a major project such as deploying Windows 2000 -- according to the GartnerGroup, NT-skilled professionals have been seeking raises of some 25 per cent since early 1998, with the option of "walking across the street," he said -- could be daunting.

The warning did not fall on deaf ears.

"I'm concerned about the skills resources," said John Camarillo, vice president of operations at one of Chase Manhattan Bank's four call centers, in Tempe, Ariz.

"The technicians have to have an equal level of attention, in every way," Camarillo said. Chase Manhattan's Tempe call center runs about 2,000 NT Workstation desktops on Novell servers, he added.

For some time now, the GartnerGroup has been telling its customers not to expect Windows 2000 to ship until the first half of 2000. Bittman said Microsoft might indeed meet a release date of October 6 -- which the company has floated in recent weeks -- but it would be only for "bragging rights," because Beta 3 testing began just last week, and would need to be lengthy for such a major product.

"Yes, I know there's an October 6 date. There also was a 1995 date," Bittman said. As early as 1993, Microsoft began talking about releasing a product called "Cairo," which would offer the functionality that eventually became Windows 2000's Active Directory; Cairo's first target release was 1995.

Although Bittman said Windows 2000 would never be "the end-all and be-all," he predicted that in the next few years, it would be an important part of most enterprise architectures. He said that the number of applications written for NT will outpace those for Unix when Windows 2000 is out next year, and said Windows 2000 will go a long way toward addressing NT's scalability problems.

Still, enterprises will adapt Windows 2000 early at their peril, Bittman said. Users should wait for at least the first Windows 2000 service pack, or possibly the first whole-scale upgrade, before deploying it widely, he said.

"If NT 4.0 is a house of sticks, then Windows 2000 is the foundation for a house of bricks," Bittman said.

Microsoft is at www.microsoft.com. The GartnerGroup is at www.gartner.com.

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