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Windows Decisions: The .NET Server decision

Does .NET make you fret? Wondering if you need to move to .NET Server or let it go? An expert as well as attendees at TechTarget's Windows Decisions conference say it all depends on where your enterprise stands and what it needs.

CHICAGO -- If you haven't yet made the move from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000, it might be worth skipping right on over to .NET.

But for enterprises with Windows 2000 already in place, there is no strong reason to rush to .NET, according to one expert who spoke at TechTarget's Windows Decisions conference Tuesday.

John Enck, a vice president and senior research director at Gartner, the Stamford, Conn.-based consulting and market research firm, said that while there are some good features for application developers in Microsoft's upcoming .NET release, for the most part "it's not a compelling release for the enterprise."

Many customers agreed. "Gartner considers .NET a service release and that has been our assessment," said Robert Muncy, a network engineer at Sherman Financial Group, a New York buyer of distressed debt. His company has already upgraded to Windows 2000.

"If you are already at Windows 2000, you have to think seriously whether .NET adds more to your environment," said Christopher Harmsen, manager of corporate systems administration at the Communications Security Establishment in Canada's capital city of Ottawa. "No point in upgrading twice in one or two years."

The issue is critical to many customers who find the quickening pace of software releases somewhat overwhelming (nearly half of the respondents to SearchWin2000's poll on .NET Server said the upgrade cycles are driving them nuts.) Microsoft has caused some alarm among customers who still have a lot of NT 4.0 installed deep in their enterprises. The company has recently told customers they should move applications off of NT 4.0 and onto Windows 2000 by late 2003, because that's when they will stop supporting the older operating system.

The .NET release could be close at hand, though its release date has slipped into 2003. Many corporations still running NT 4.0 are unsure whether they should move onto Windows 2000 or wait and simply move to .NET. "For many of these customers, .NET is the more reasonable target," Enck said.

Customers are likely to do just that. Mike Linkey, a systems engineer at the Illinois Commerce Commission in Springfield, Ill., said he will probably just wait for .NET and get the second version of Active Directory, which features, among other things, support for 64-bit computing.

Enck said that though there are many IT managers who contest whether Microsoft's Windows is suitable for enterprise applications, the reality is the operating system is mature and can seriously challenge Unix.

Enck said Windows had reached a point where it won't grow and change as fast as it had in previous years. "We are not going to see the rapid growth, rapid adoption and server application changes anymore. We are looking at slower leveling and a more conservative investment in the technology."

Customers don't have to worry, since they have made a mainstream choice. But Microsoft won't have the growth it is accustomed to, Enck said. He also thinks the notion of servers is evolving. Though application servers have held discrete functions, there is tremendous investment from Microsoft, Intel Corp. and OEMS today to make workload manageability more functional and valuable in the enterprise. Hardware is taking on a more sophisticated role as the market moves toward blade-based computing and self healing technologies, such as those offered in IBM's eLiza platform.

The role of Linux will also become more important as it challenges Microsoft for position among infrastructure applications. As new generations of computing majors leave college and enter the workforce, their enthusiasm for Linux will have an impact on Microsoft as these students bring their skills into the enterprise.

Though Windows may have matured, there are still strong reasons why Linux is preferred in some cases. "It's reliable and cheap," said Sherman Financial Group's Muncy, who runs one critical application on a Linux server. "To take that same box and make it a Windows box would cost $100,000."

In the enterprise, Enck said even though Windows is often blamed for downtime, usually it is individual corporate processes and procedures that are the real culprits. Better processes could reduce these problems, and that's where customers should focus to increase their availability, he said. "Invest in training and in monitoring software because it will have a dramatic result."

This story originally appeared on SearchWindowsManageability, a TechTarget Windows-specific portal for IT professionals focused on managing Windows in the enterprise.

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