Facing Windows 2000: The upgrade imperative
Like many in the technology business, I used to look forward to trying out new
software. I was eager to experiment with new features and find out how to put
them to good use. But somewhere in the countless service releases and service
packs that software vendors release these days, my eagerness has been replaced
by fear and anxiety. As software has grown increasingly complex and buggy, I find
that the new features aren't always worth the price and risk.
I'm not the only one. As federal agencies have become more Internet-focused,
government technology managers know that it's the taxpayers who usually suffer
first from an ill-advised or inadequately tested upgrade of government systems.
Now along comes Windows 2000, the soon-to-be-released version of Microsoft
Corp.'s Windows NT enterprise operating system. With Windows NT rapidly chomping
up market share in the federal server market, agency IT managers have kept a
careful eye on the development of Windows 2000. Most of them are aware of its
promised benefits such as performance improvements, greater scalability and more
However, with the release of Windows 2000 plagued by delays and the number of
Windows NT service packs climbing (now on Service Pack 6a), I can't help but feel
more apprehension than anticipation toward Windows 2000.
Don't get me wrong. Windows 2000 should provide agencies with some great
benefits — cost savings not being least among them. But the benefits will be elusive
unless the organizations adopting the new software plan and execute the upgrade
very carefully. For instance, agencies running older Windows software applications
may run into compatibility problems with Windows 2000. And to take full advantage
of its performance improvements, you may have to upgrade your applications and
database software to new versions that were designed to run on it.
Many IT managers have been experimenting with beta versions of Windows 2000 for
several months. If you have the time and resources to do this, it will be worthwhile.
For those managers planning to take the plunge with the initial release of Windows
2000, do the taxpayers a favor and make sure the benefits outweigh the risks.
Remember: The risks are immediate, but you may have to wait for a couple service
packs before the rewards kick in.
Barring any drastic court rulings in Microsoft's antitrust case, I expect Windows
2000 to be the dominant server operating system in the federal government in two
to three years. But could this rise happen sooner if Windows 2000 really delivers? I
don't think so. Agencies have taken a "wait and see" attitude toward new
technology. Despite the promises of Windows 2000 and the product's importance in
the federal market, I don't expect this pattern to change.
— Plexico is as vice president and chief technology officer at Input, an IT market