Windows NT 4

Windows NT 4 still has a major presence – IDC expects at the end of 2004 nearly 17% of all Windows Servers will still be running Windows NT 4. Microsoft will cutoff support for Windows NT 4 server at the end of this year. Microsoft will offer individual tailored support plans to comanys wanting to stay with NT4 but only if a company submits a migration plan to newer Windows Server software.

Now given that NT 4 technology is 8 years old and has seen two major revisions with Windows Server 2000 and 2003, one can hardly fault Redmond for wanting the companies to upgrade. On security and scalability issues alone the upgrade would appear to be compelling. But I have one of the reluctant upgraders as a client. They also use AS/400 software and systems along with NT4. One can detect a pattern here – the organization latches onto good technology and then sticks with it. They have excellent ROI and IT project delivery record. Their programmers and operational staff would easily be described as agile, efficient even nimble. Their customers are happy. Their internal staff are happy. But head officers are not happy with either Microsoft or IBM for their apparent “planned obsolesence” of the very valued operational systems.

This is a persistent problem with technology today. Just a few years ago, rip and replace could be justified because the new systems offered 2-3 times the speed and capacity plus a whole new range of functionality. Those days of quantum leaps in IT functionality and ROI are becoming more difficult to deliver. Partially that is because computing speed and functionality have gone well past the needs of word processing, email, spreadsheets, and the bulk of desktop operations. Second, the gains in IT now are really covering ground and problems that were bypassed in the rush to Babylon and Baghdad. Only within the past 5-7 years has Microsoft started to take security, reliability and scalability seriously as it moves it revenue growth away from the desktop (where just good enough sufficed) and towards the enterprise and server. Likewise IBM over the past 10-12 years has become much more platform agnostic and customer centric. But in the meantime thats an awful lot of NT4 (and even AS400 shops) that might be open to some compelling Linux and Open Source messages. I wonder if Novell, RedHat, even IBM have the wherewithal to serve these “agile and nimble” shops – or are the NT shops regarded just too much tightwads and penny pinchers … ohh and too effective to risk trying to take the business?