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Your reasons for running NT 4

May 17, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Readers give their top four reasons why they're sticking with NT 4

I asked you to write and let me know why you’re still running NT 4 servers, and write to me you did. Either everyone who reads this newsletter has an NT 4 server (or more – some of you have hundreds!) tucked up on the network, or the only people who read it are those with NT 4 servers. The outpouring of e-mail exceeded all but the time when I said Macintosh advertising was addlepated (see link below), but you know how those Mac fanatics can be.

I’d suggested that the reason people hadn’t migrated off of NT 4 was that they had applications and services running that couldn’t work on Windows 2000 or 2003 servers. That’s certainly true, as this was one of the top four reasons why people hadn’t migrated. Surprisingly, though, it only came in at No. 3. We’ll get to what beat it out in a second, but first a look at the No. 4 reason.

Quite a few people are using NT4 servers as basic “file & print” servers – no real applications or services running on them. Admittedly in some cases, it’s because there’s no Win 2000 driver for the printer they’re using, but for the most part folks simply don’t care. Their file storage is adequate and their printing needs are being met.

The No. 3 reason, as I said, was a need to maintain NT 4 because of the requirements of some service or applications.

The No. 2 reason, though, surprised me. I’d thought it was an issue that had been overcome – at the latest – with the release of Windows Server 2003. But evidently, people are still rather leery of Active Directory.

As one wag put it: “The main reason we are resisting migrating is Active Directory (or as my comrades call it, ‘Radio Active Directory’).”

Active Directory, compared to NT 4 domains (and even to Novell’s old NDS4NT directory service) is seen as a bloated, not-quite-up-to-standards, expense in terms of hardware needs, and is difficult to manage. I personally don’t believe that’s true. Although it does require an investment in hardware, it’s the perception that’s important when people are considering an upgrade.

The No. 1 reason why people have yet to migrate could be termed “the bottom line” – money, pure and simple. In general, Win 2000 and Win 2003 require more hardware than NT 4.

Active Directory requires hardware, bandwidth and management expertise. Licensing, especially Client Access Licenses (CAL), is a major issue. In some cases, it’s the absolute amount of money necessary but for many it’s the marginal expense: the amount you’re paying for the level of improvement you see.

As one correspondent put it, it’s not that vendors haven’t ported the applications to Win 2000, “…it’s because all that they have done is migrate to it.  In other words, most application managers at my office don’t want to spend the time and money nor take on the additional risk of an upgrade for the sake of an upgrade.  They want to give their users new functions or better performance or both.” Why upgrade if all you accomplish is to enrich a few vendor salespeople?

There’s also a strong undercurrent that I’m hearing and which I last heard when Novell was pushing people to get off of NetWare 3.1x and upgrade to Version 5 or 6. Moving to Windows servers was seen by some as an alternative to upgrading NetWare. Now a number of you NT 4 users are saying that Linux (or Novell’s Open Enterprise Server) might be the path you take should circumstances force you away from NT 4. We’ll take a closer look at that option in the next issue.