Will feds do more than test waters on Server 2003?

Microsoft Corp. threw a launch party in Washington earlier this month for Windows Server 2003, but some federal users said government adoption of the new operating system will likely be slow.

Many agencies still rely on 6-year-old Windows NT Server 4.0, which Microsoft tried hard to retire last year to speed migration to Windows 2000 Server. But customer pressure kept NT alive, and company officials are now canvassing the country to promote Server 2003.

Microsoft wants NT users to bypass Win 2000 and go straight to Server 2003. Federal users at the launch party, however, said that's too big a step.

Dave Mathis, a computer specialist at the Employee Benefits Security Administration, said IT managers at his agency 'haven't even talked about Server 2003 yet.' The Labor Department agency in December finished an upgrade to Win 2000 and plans to run Server 2003 only for a test bed, he said.

Hardware also is a limiting factor. Some of Labor's old PCs can't support software released much after 1998, Mathis said, and 'most machines don't have more than 64M of RAM.'

For other agencies, software is the hurdle. Legacy applications, which newer server OSes often don't support, keep users hanging tight to NT 4.0.

'We'd still like to hear more about legacy software' and Server 2003 compatibility, said Greg Stanis, a Commerce Department network manager. He said three out of every 10 servers at the department still run NT 4.0.

But Commerce, which has a Win 2000 Advanced Server license, plans to buy one license for Server 2003 within a few months, Stanis said. Anything beyond experimentation depends on the OS' performance and Commerce's budget, he said.

'We won't do a full-blown installation until after the first service pack comes out,' Stanis said. Microsoft is 'saying 2003 is much better, but we have to actually experience it.'

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