Mighty Microsoft limits access on NT Workstations upgrade

Does your LAN even need Microsoft Windows NT Server to operate an NT-based World Wide
Web site? Here are some points to ponder as NT 4.0 hits the market.


If you already run an NT PC as a Web server and plan to upgrade to NT 4.0, you probably
know that Microsoft Corp.'s beta 4.0 software limits the number of unique IP addresses
that can contact an NT Workstation 4.0 Web server to 10 or fewer in a 10-minute period.


That's a problem if your site gets a lot of traffic; the beta software stops accepting
connections when the maximum number is reached. Many people, especially publishers of
third-party Web server packages, have raised a ruckus, so Microsoft recently decided to
"remove the physical limitation" in the final software, a company spokesman
said.


However, the 10-users-in-10-minutes legality survives as part of the licensing
agreement.


That puts federal users of NT Workstation 4.0 in the awkward position of having to
monitor constantly to see if they're complying with the terms of their licenses. For now,
Microsoft likely won't enforce the rule, but if the limit is exceeded, you're technically
in violation.


The only real way out is to switch to the more feature-rich Windows NT Server software.
Pricing for 4.0 hadn't been announced at this writing, but the 3.51 version is
entry-priced at $269 for NT Workstation vs. $699 for NT Server.


Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly & Associates Inc. in Sebastopol, Calif., has
urged an e-mail and letter-writing campaign to change Microsoft's mind about this limit.
His company sells the WebSite and WebSite Professional server packages, which have found a
niche on desktop NT machines.


O'Reilly said he believes Microsoft is blocking an important new direction for the
Web--""a return to its roots as a groupware information-sharing system.'' NT
Workstation makes it so easy to turn a desktop machine into a server that offices can
pepper their intranets with several small, specialized servers to the point where they
might not need a larger NT Server.


Microsoft officials told me the license limit is intended to encourage users to
""rethink their needs and their system design'' as networks grow. Translation:
Microsoft doesn't want NT Workstation cutting into its NT Server business, even if
Workstation can handle the demand.


For more information on NT Workstation 4.0, visit http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/.
Details on O'Reilly's WebSite package appear at http://software.ora.com.
 


Now for the good news. Let's move on to some tools that can make the job of a federal
webmaster easier.


Shawn P. McCarthy is a computer journalist, webmaster and Internet programmer for
GCN's parent, Cahners Publishing Co. E-mail him at smccarthy@cahners.com.


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