Windows 2000: A Review
by Faust Gorham
After several false starts, Microsoft has set the release date of Windows 2000 to February 17. Windows 2000 is the latest release of Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, aimed at servers and desktop machines in a business environment. It is not a replacement for Windows 95 or 98 machines in the home market. In fact, Microsoft is developing a new release of the operating system for those machines. Called "Millennium," it will be released next year.
This article will present an overview of the main features available in the Windows 2000 product line and what Information Technology is doing to prepare.
What are the different products in the family line?
There are four products available in the family line: Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, and DataCenter Server. Professional is aimed at client machines and is targeted to replace Windows NT Workstation. Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, and DataCenter Server will replace Windows NT 4.0 Server and Enterprise Server.
- Windows 2000 Professional comes with a new GUI (Graphical User Interface), File System, Network settings, and power management features. The GUI has gone through an upgrade; the icons are sharper in detail and have been reorganized. Professional also provides support for Plug and Play and laptop power management, which makes it a better laptop operating system than Windows NT workstation ever was. Microsoft has increased the availability of their enterprise operating system, reducing the number of cases requiring reboots from 75 to 7. The changes at the disk management level allow for volume extensions, fault tolerance, disk mirroring and striping. Professional offers disk quotas so administrators can be notified when users use too much disk space. These are Professional's main features.
Many of these features bring about new complications. Most of the advantages found in Professional cannot be leveraged without a flavor of the server. To take advantage of the disk management features, you must have a machine that runs only Professional. No dual booting. In addition many new security holes have been created which will require patching.
- Windows 2000 Server has made the same base level changes to Windows 4.0 Server as Professional did to Windows NT Workstation. The most dramatic changes can be seen in the administrative functions. Windows 2000 comes with Active Directory, a directory service for keeping information about users, servers, desktops, network resources, and disk volumes. A brand new release of Internet Information Server has also been included. Microsoft has made significant changes in how application and services are run making the whole server more reliable. Adding support for Kerberos, the ability to use Certificate Authorities, support for Public Key Certificate Servers, and an Encrypted File System has bolstered Windows 2000 is security. Server also offers support for up to 4 CPUs to be running at the same time (Symmetric Multi Processing) and up to 4 GB of physical RAM.
All of this comes at a cost. Without Active Directory, Windows 2000 is a null product. This means that organizations have to update their skill sets and start the process of creating an organizational directory structure. This will take time and require continuous refinement. No one department or area should adopt this product without first considering how they will deploy Active Directory. (See sidebar on evaluating the deployment of a new technology.) In addition, the stability of Windows 2000 for mission-critical applications has not been fully tested.
- Windows 2000 Advanced Server adds to the features in Windows 2000 Server by adding clustering and load balancing (which was provided in NT 4.0 Server through the Wolfpack extension) and support for up to 8 CPUs per box and 8 GB of physical RAM.
- Windows 2000 DataCenter Server expands the processor support to 16 CPUs per box and support for 64 GB or RAM.
Note: If you currently have the maximum number of processors in your systems, when you upgrade you can actually double the number of processors listed above. Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise users currently running 16 processors could upgrade to 32 processors by transitioning to Windows 2000 DataCenter.
What is Information Technology doing to prepare?
Information Technology is sponsoring a group to evaluate Windows 2000 and develop sets of recommended solutions for use of the new operating system at UC Davis. We look forward to working with representatives from the campus technical leads group and other departmental technology support personnel.
If you are interested in evaluating Windows 2000, joining the workgroup, or discussing these issues, contact Faust Gorham at (530)752-6387 or email@example.com.