Product review: Beta 3 of Win2000 server makes upgrade case

For many Windows NT users, upgrading to Windows 2000 Server is not a question of "if", it's a question of "when". Even if you don't currently employ Windows NT, the odds are good that Windows 2000 Server will sneak its way into your network to support an application or service.

I tested Win2000 Server, Beta 3 and found several unresolved issues that Microsoft must still fix before final product shipment -- including improving stability, clarifying administration and cleaning up some feature implementation processes. But Beta 3's features show that if this happens, Win2000 Server will provide a better, more scaleable NOS platform with a much richer set of distributed application services than its predecessor.

This release indicates that Win2000 Server will be a strong upgrade candidate for large Windows NT sites. Many problems in previous beta editions have been corrected, but the platform administration must be improved to make specific features easier to implement.

Among the latest highlights are the full implementation of the Component Object Model+ (COM+) architecture, Remote Installation Services (RIS), improved administration tools and a command-line recovery console.

The COM+ implementation includes support for load-balancing Distributed COM components over multiple servers and RIS provides a strong infrastructure for implementing image-based OS deployment for Win2000 Professional.

The battery of administration tools from Windows NT 4.0 grows significantly in Win2000 Server. Although many tools show great improvement, becoming familiar with the sheer number of tools and re-learning which ones to use for common Windows NT 4.0 tasks will require effort. Microsoft expects to clean up this administration issue before releasing the final product.

The command-line recovery console in Beta 3 allows administrators to boot to a command line to perform troubleshooting and maintenance. While testing this, I was unable to log in to my Windows 2000 domain controllers. Because the Active Directory services do not get loaded when booting to the command line, authentication did not work.

For most companies looking to deploy Win2000, migration will be the core stumbling block. Microsoft has implemented migration tools for upgrading customers from Novell Directory Services-based NetWare environments. But the process of planning and migrating current Windows NT environments will require a lot of work, particularly when performing domain consolidation and migration from current domain architectures.

Beta 3 of Win2000 Server shows continual improvements over prior beta editions, and many of its features promise great improvement over NT 4.0. But Microsoft still has a lot of finishing touches to apply to Win2000 Server. And whether its directory services will prove adequate for large corporate deployments could remain unproven until long after it ships.

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Jeff Symoens

PC World
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