Windows NT Server users who were worried that they might be running an unsupported operating system next year have got some good news from Microsoft.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said that pay-per-incident and premier support for Windows NT Server 4.0 would run to December 31, 2004. Non-security hot fixes, however, would no longer be available as of January 1, 2004.
A group product manager in Microsoft's Windows server division, Bob O'Brien, said that many Windows NT Server 4.0 customers had been planning migrations but didn't expect to complete the upgrades by the end 2003 when the extended support phase for Windows NT Server 4.0 was due to end.
O'Brien said that "somewhere between 35 per cent and 40 per cent" of the Windows server operating system deployments were NT 4.0.
"Common sense dictates that if you want to have a relationship with these customers for the next seven to 10 years, you don't ignore their needs," he said.
However, he said that the decision to extend support was "not intended to send a message to customers that they should hold off and wait until the last minute to plan their migrations."
Many Windows NT Server 4.0 users would find benefits in the new Windows Server 2003 operating system due out in April, he said, particularly customers looking to do server consolidation.
The Windows System Resource Manager allows IT managers to allocate CPU and memory on a per application basis so they can run multiple applications on a single instance of the Windows server operating system.
Gartner analyst, Tom Bittman, said that Windows NT Server 4.0 had been around a long time and that Microsoft needed to do the marketing work to convince people to move.
At least 50 per cent of the installed base of the Windows server operating system was still NT 4.0, he said.
Microsoft might have underestimated the slow rate of migration away from NT, Bittman said, when it made its support phase-out decisions for Windows NT Server 4.0.
"Even though the deadline continues to shift, I think [users] need to take the deadline seriously, because they don't want to be caught without support," he said.
Microsoft set the timetable for the phase out of support for Windows NT Server 4.0 last October.
IDC analyst, Al Gillen, said the public announcement gave customers a chance to provide feedback to Microsoft, which, in turn, responded with the change in plans.
In a report issued last February, IDC projected that a third of the Windows server operating system installed base would be NT 4.0 at the end of 2002, Gillen said.
"The ones that are left are going to be harder to move," he said.
Users should do whatever made the "right business sense" for them, he said. That might differ on a company-by-company basis.
"If they're getting good service, if their applications are acceptable and nothing is driving them to upgrade the operating system or applications, there's no reason for them to move," Gillen said.
However, users who had been highly dependent on Microsoft for support may want to consider an upgrade, he said.