Army migrates away from Windows NT

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Despite some success, the Army might not be able to convert all of its desktop computers to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 operating system, enterprise directory and messaging system by the end of the year because of infrastructure and staffing concerns, Army officials said.

So far, IT officials have updated more than 60,000 computers to Windows 2000, Active Directory and Exchange 2003, with successful migrations in Korea and the Army Medical Command. But, they said, they must plan for the possibility that all service computers may not get converted from the Windows NT operating system by the Dec. 31 deadline. Officials are phasing out Windows NT 4.0 from Army networks because Microsoft officials plan to stop supporting the operating system at the end of the year.

The initiative is at risk because of infrastructure, staffing and training concerns, said an Army IT official last week at the Directorate of Information Management/ Army Knowledge Management conference sponsored by the service and AFCEA International. Maj. Earl Robinson, assistant product manager for the Active Directory and Exchange 2003 program, said the comments represent prudent management and planning.

"As the Army proceeds to continue updating service computers to Active Directory in upcoming months, it will assess the current status of the enterprise to develop a risk mitigation strategy ... for computers that will not make the deadline," Robinson said.

Army IT officials could put those computers into a separate network until they convert those PCs. But they remain hopeful that they will meet the deadline, he said.

The issues are security and cost, Robinson said.

Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer, signed a Feb. 4 memo titled "Army Policy for Windows NT 4.0 and Active Directory Implementation." The directive phases out Windows NT 4.0 because of security concerns, retires the Windows X and Millennium Edition operating systems, identifies all resources on a network and makes them accessible to users and applications.

Boutelle acknowledged last year that the Army still uses Windows 3.1, 95, 98 and NT 4.0. He said running one operating system servicewide will minimize costs and let service IT officials more easily receive updates when released or patches when viruses and worms are detected.

How to switch

Maj. Earl Robinson, assistant product manager for the Active Directory and Exchange 2003 program, offered five tips for Army information technology officials overseeing the migration to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000, Active Directory and Exchange 2003:

1. Get the support of the installation's commander, unit commanders and IT officials.

2. Hold regular meetings with them to keep communication open.

3. Update no more than 400 users per day.

4. Start the work late in the week and complete it on the weekend.

5. Conduct minipilot (25 people), pilot (1,000 people) and migration tests.

— Frank Tiboni

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