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RealTime IT News

Hotmail Migrating to Win2K

Plagued by outages and security problems, Microsoft's Hotmail service is making what some are calling a "bet the company" move.

The free, Web-based email service is in the process of migrating its over 3,000 Web and mail servers from the FreeBSD operating system, to Microsoft's recently released Windows 2000, the successor to Windows NT.

Although the move has great PR potential if it works, Microsoft is not yet making a big deal about its decision to eat its own dogfood. The migration was first noted in a recent survey of Web servers by Netcraft, an Internet consulting firm based in England.

In its July 2000 survey, Netcraft observed that about 5 to 10 percent of Hotmail's server farm appears to be composed of Windows 2000 systems running Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS), with the rest being machines running the FreeBSD operating system with the Apache Web server.

Hotmail officials were not available by newstime to confirm the status of the migration. Kevin Rose, director of corporate marketing for Berkeley Software Design, a Colorado firm which distributes and supports FreeBSD, said Hotmail's migration to Windows 2000 is largely a public-relations move.

"It's probably been an embarassment for them to have to use a competitor's product, but they appear to be going on to IIS because it's their own product. We'd like them to stay a customer of ours because we think we've got the goods, and hundreds of national service providers seem to think so too," said Rose. Besides Hotmail, BSDi counts About.com and Yahoo among its big FreeBSD customers.

This is not the first time Microsoft has tried to wean Hotmail from UNIX-based operating systems. In 1997, Microsoft attempted a switch to Windows NT, but sources said it scrapped the plan after encountering stability and other problems.

The Internet's first Web-based email service, Hotmail has been the victim of several outages and security problems in recent years. Only time will tell whether putting Hotmail on Windows 2000 will help correct or exacerbate those problems. But if the migration comes off smoothly, look for Microsoft to play it up big in its marketing to Web hosting companies, which so far have been cautious about the new OS from Microsoft.

Netcraft's July web server stats show that Apache still has over 62 percent of the market, while Microsoft IIS server checks in with 19 percent.