While Microsoft cooks NT Server 5.0, NT 4.0 Enterprise is half-baked

The E word has gone into his official Packet Rat kill file mail filter, along with its
cousins: robust, paradigm, scalable and integrated. Marketeers have taken all these words
hostage, and the Rat has a zero-tolerance policy for adverterrorism.


So naturally, when Microsoft shipped Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition, no word
of it ever reached the Rat until someone cleverly started labeling the operating system NT
Server 4.0/E.


Not that the cyberrodent would have given much consideration to it by any other name.
It's snake oil.


Of course, Microsoft isn't trying to make people pay attention to Windows NT Server/E
anyway. It's pumping up the hype volume for Windows NT Server 5.0, which just came out in
beta form and probably won't ship till late next year.


So 4.0 Server/E may just slip by without showing up on most users' radar screens.
That's probably a good thing, since the product doesn't have a whole lot to offer. But
somehow a set of 4.0/E disks ended up in the Rat's possession.


Still stinging from the Baltimore Orioles' loss in the American League Championship
Series, the Rat rubbed his paws at the opportunity to really trash something.


Too bad Microsoft isn't based in Cleveland, he sighed.


All the same, Microsoft certainly made it easy to bash NT 4.0/E. It's like a big, fat
Benitez fast ball waiting to be walloped. It does everything just about halfway but
doesn't finish.


The applications that can take advantage of NT 4.0/E aren't available yet. It can't
really do smooth failover. It only kind of does clustering, and it's expensive to
implement.


All of its basic technology will change by the time NT 5.0 arrives. So does the E
really stand for enterprise? Or does it stand for enormous, expensive or egregious?


Most of what NT 4.0/E attempts to do can be done cheaper by third-party products
already on the market. So, after a brief trial, the Rat dumped the NT 4.0/E CD-ROMs into
his rapidly growing coaster collection.


The cyberrodent has noticed that Microsoft will skip a subrelease of NT between 4.0 and
5.0. That's probably because of the dreaded Service Pack Syndrome the Redmonders have
fallen into lately.


Every time they build another set of software products for NT, they ship a pile of
changes to the underlying operating system and call it a service pack, rather than making
the software compatible with what's out there or delivering a .x release.


The furry one suspects this only hints at what is to come. With all the stuff they're
shoving into NT 5.0, the Rat suspects it will become known as the Mother of All Service
Pack Generators.


Want to install SQL Server 99 on that 5.0 server? "You'll need Service Pack
923.5," the Rat expects to hear over the phone from a tech support flunkie in a few
years.


Of course, there aren't a lot of alternatives right now that the Rat can get his
superiors to support--at least until he convinces them that Linux is spelled with a /E.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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