Windows 2000 Professional: a more manageable desktop

As the desktop component of the new Microsoft Corp. operating system, Windows 2000 Professional provides some nice enhancements over Windows NT Workstation 4.0.

Furthermore, the product finally provides a solution that incorporates support for the latest generation of desktop hardware, including Universal Serial Bus and IEEE 1394 devices. It also provides plug-and-play compatibility and power management through support for the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface. These additions eliminate the need to deploy and support two operating systems to accommodate desktop and notebook computer users.

There are, however, two factors to consider before pursuing a Windows 2000 Professional upgrade strategy. The first is simply an issue of meeting an acceptable desktop hardware requirement: The minimum requirements for Windows 2000 Professional are a 133 MHz Pentium-compatible system with 64M of RAM, although our tests indicate that 96M to 128M of RAM will be the sweet spot for most users.

The second issue concerns power management. In our tests, we found that many machines — desktops and portables — will require BIOS upgrades in order to meet requirements for Windows 2000 power management support. Although newer machines may provide adequate support, some existing hardware may need to be upgraded to leverage the power management features of Windows 2000. Accordingly, you will want to investigate this issue for your department's systems before proceeding with upgrade plans.

Once you have the appropriate BIOS in place, the power management facilities of the product are quite capable and compare favorably to those available in Windows 98. One of the power management features that we especially liked is hibernate mode, which allows users to leave a session open (as in a locked workstation) and completely shut down and power-off the machine. The computer can then be unplugged and shipped somewhere, and the session can be resumed when the machine reaches its destination and is powered back on.

Windows 2000 Professional also has a number of great infrastructure management components. The integration of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) — Microsoft's implementation of the Desktop Management Task Force Common Information Model schema — provides a powerful interface for change and configuration management tools. This allows, for example, an administrator to use Microsoft's separately sold Systems Management Server to collect inventory and performance data about the desktops running Windows 2000 Professional, as well as to set configuration values through the WMI interface.

Another core management service is the Microsoft Installer (MSI) technology, which allows for automated, packaged-based installations and application auto-repair. Working with Windows 2000 Servers group policy objects in Active Directory, administrators can publish and assign applications to users based on MSI packages, allowing for fairly seamless application deployment. Unfortunately, MSI is a feature that requires deploying Windows 2000 Server in order to really leverage its potential.

Unfortunately, Active Directory only supports publishing or assigning applications to Windows 2000-based clients. This is one example of a strong Windows 2000 feature in which the benefits of that feature can only be realized by deploying Windows 2000 Professional and Server in the same environment. As result, deploying matched Windows 2000 desktop and servers operating system configurations will, no doubt, bring about the greatest short-term value.

— Symoens is a free-lance analyst and a senior IT systems

engineer at Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

SCORE CARD

Windows 2000 Professional

Grade: B+

Microsoft Corp.

(800) 426-9400

www.microsoft.com

Pricing and availability: Available Feb. 17 on the open market at an estimated retail price of $319 for a single desktop license

Remarks: Windows 2000 Professional offers lots of new features, but with the addition of plug-and-play and power management, the product is a strong candidate for OS standardization on both desktops and notebooks.

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BY Jeff Symoens
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