Microsoft's new server OS may take time to catch on with feds

Microsoft Corp. threw a launch party in Washington today for its Windows Server 2003. But some federal users who attended the fanfare said government adoption of the new operating system will likely be less than speedy.

Many agencies still use the 6-year-old Windows NT Server 4.0, which the software giant desperately tried to retire last year as a way of prodding customers to migrate to Windows 2000 Server. Microsoft officials are canvassing the country, making stops in several cities to promote Server 2003, which officially launched April 23.

Now, with its new server OS on the street, Microsoft hopes many Windows users will step straight from NT 4.0 to Server 2003'bypassing Win 2000 altogether. Some government users said that might be too big a leap for their agencies this year.

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

Hardware also will be a limiting factor. Some of Labor's aged PCs may not support software released much after 1998, Mathis said. 'Most machines don't have more than 64M of RAM.'

But for other agencies, software is the hurdle. Legacy applications, which newer server OSes often don't support, keep some users clutching their NT 4.0.

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

Stanis doesn't expect any answers soon. He said the department, which now licenses the Windows 2000 Advanced Server, plans to buy one license for Server 2003 within the next few months. But anything beyond experimentation right now depends on the OS' performance and Commerce's budget, he said.

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

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