What is Windows 2000?
Windows 2000 is the newest incarnation of Microsoft's flagship Operating System, Windows NT. In fact, it was originally designated as NT 5.0 until Microsoft changed
its name for marketing reasons. Both Windows NT and Windows 2000 are extremely well built, robust, secure, and popular
Operating Systems that are designed specifically for businesses and high end applications. But Windows 2000 is a lot more than just a simple upgrade. It's almost a total rewrite of the Windows NT Operating System, with hundreds of new features and fixes. Just because you know Windows
NT, don't assume you'll know Windows 2000. This is especially true of the Windows 2000 Server product and the way it functions in an Enterprise environment.
Design Goals and new Features
Microsoft's goals for Windows 2000 were to build on the best of Windows NT, and incorporating some of the advances made in Windows 98. This includes extending Windows 2000's abilities, increasing
its stability, making it easier to use and administer, and
removing any annoying "features" that IT Professionals were complaining about. For example, Windows 2000 adds an updated user interface that looks more like Windows 98, supports Plug and Play and advanced hardware support, and more useful administration tools.
Microsoft has also removed over 30 reboot requirements, improved and stabilized the driver model, added Defragmentation and better Disk Management, improved Backup capabilities, and added a much needed Recovery console - all based on feedback from Professionals in the field.
Another goal for Windows 2000 was to be a better alternative against NT's biggest rivals, Novell and Unix. The ambitious introduction of Active Directory that is part of the Windows 2000 Server product
promises to make Novell a bit nervous. It is a head to head competitor against Novell's last surviving advantage,
its Directory Services. Against UNIX, Windows 2000 delivers it's ultra-reliable and scalable DataCenter Server. Microsoft also plans to make a 64 bit version of Windows
2000 as soon as it can.
Just like Windows NT, Windows 2000 comes in several versions:
||The replacement for NT
Workstation. Supports plug and play, up to 2 processors, and multiple video cards.
||Replaces NT Server. Adds Active Directory, supports 4 processors and 4GB of physical RAM. Better Disk management and recovery options.
|Designed for e-commerce and line-of-business applications. It includes everything in Windows 2000 Server plus supports 2 way clustering, up to 8 processors, and up to 8 GB of RAM
||To be released after Windows 2000 ships. DataCenter Server will include all Advanced Server features plus greater processing and memory capabilities to meet the needs of intensive online transaction processing (OLTP), large data
warehouses and large Internet and Application service providers (ISPs and ASPs). It supports up to 32 processors, and 64 GB of RAM! It also cascading failover among 4 nodes, and 32 node network load balancing.
Another similarity between Windows NT and Windows 2000 is it's very demanding hardware requirements. It's no surprise to anyone that Windows 2000 has a Hardware Compatibly List as NT does, but what came as a shock to
may was its steep hardware requirements. Windows 2000 was designed for tomorrows hardware, not for today's, and it eats processors and RAM for lunch.
Here are the minimum recommended hardware requirements...
||To be announced
||To be announced
||To be announced
Our personal view is that for best performance, you should double these minimums when buying a new workstation or server. Give Windows 2000 plenty of breathing room and the horsepower it needs, and it will actually run faster than Windows NT on the same
Upgrading to Windows 2000
For most businesses and consultants we've talked to, the question of upgrading to Windows 2000 isn't if, it's when. Many businesses are taking a "wait and see" approach to see what the feedback will be from the early adopters. Some plan to wait until the first service pack
is released, the conventional wisdom being that most of the major release bugs will be worked out from there.
If you are planning to upgrade your Workstations to Windows 2000, you'll be happy to know that you can upgrade your Windows NT, Windows 95, and Windows 98 workstations directly. The smoothest upgrades we've seen so far has been directly from NT. Unless
you just absolutely can't afford it, we'd recommend a clean installation of Windows 2000 on new hardware. Windows 2000 installation is similar to Windows NT, but has a cleaner interface and plug and play makes things a lot simpler. Check out our
Installation Resources for more info.
We'd also recommend getting plenty of "test time" in with Windows 2000 in a good sized computer lab before you try to upgrade your entire existing network. You'll want a very good understanding of Active Directory, and should set up a
completely parallel test PDC/BDC structure on your domain before you do a "live" migration. Backup everything in case there are any problems and have a well defined backout plan. (Check out our Deployment and Active
Directory Resource Guides for more info.) There is also a lot of preparation work that you can do before a full scale migration.
From what we've seen, Microsoft did an excellent job with Windows 2000. The sheer size of the Beta release has shown a commitment to getting it right, even if it meant delaying the release several times. The documentation Redmond has been providing has been much better than what was
available for NT 4.0, and the preview releases we've tested exceeded our expectations. Since Windows 2000 will work in a mixed NT 4.0 environment, a common migration strategy seems to be to deploy Windows 2000 Professional to the desktop while retaining the old NT 4.0 Domain
structure and PDC/BDC's. Some also plan to use a few Windows 2000 servers strictly as an applications platform, without actually migrating the entire domain to Active Directory until more documentation and real world Enterprise deployments have been completed.
Getting familiar with Windows 2000
Our final advice: If your a full time NT Administrator, download and read Microsoft's Course 1555a. It's free and will keep you busy for hours. You should also download Microsoft's Deployment
and Planning Guide, which is essentially one of the books from the new 7 volume Windows 2000 Resource Kit. Set up a lab and install Windows 2000 Professional and Server yourself, performing both
OS upgrades and new installations on a variety of hardware platforms. Run a few test unattended installations for Win2000 professional. Setup a small domain and get used to the new Administration tools, like the MMC, Disk Management, and the Recovery Console. Set up a regular Windows
NT 4.0 test Domain with 2 test BDC's and then practice a migration to Active Directory. Try to break it. Kick the tires. By all means get comfortable with it at all costs BEFORE you deploy it for real. Don't wing it in a production environment. It's really worth a look,
but it's not the same old NT.
impressions of Windows 2000 (Post Service Pack 1)
Windows 2000 is a solid product and a much more stable platform
that Windows NT 4.0. Windows 2000's plug and play capabilities
exceed that of Windows 98 and new installations on modern
hardware is a breeze. Laptops can be tricky, but a little
preplanning solved most issues. (Check your vendor's
recommendations first.) Upgrades from NT 4.0 Workstation or
Server went well 90% of the time. Upgrades from Windows 9x, were
often painful but still succeeded in most cases, if planned
properly. (see our installation
buglists for more info.) We also tested over 2,500
applications for a major oil company, and found that most 32 bit
applications work well if they aren't dependent on OS specific
drivers. (Scanner software written for Windows95, printer
specific graphics programs, CD-R Software, etc.,) 16 bit
programs worked well 80% of the time, depending on how well they
were written. Security is improved across the board, and the new
Group Policy templates allow for an amazing amount of control
over users and resources. Active Directory works well if planned
properly, and appears to scale well. However we discovered that
new features such as IntelliMirror, Dfs, Dynamic Disks, Remote
Storage Services, and Removable Storage Manager have more than a
few bugs and are more trouble than they are worth. Windows 2000
Server rocks as an application or web server, and the clustering
capabilities in Advanced Server are much improved over NT 4.0's
Wolfpack. All in a all, a worthwhile upgrade if you stick to the
basics of what you currently use Windows NT 4.0. You should se
an immediate benefit simply by rolling out Windows 2000
Professional to your current workstations. Replacing your
application servers with Windows 2000 server should improve
stability and reduce downtime. If (or when) organizations decide
to migrate to Active Directory, you'll be able to take advantage
of the improved administration capabilities, delegation, and
granular control that it provides.