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Windows Server 2000 Put Out to Pasture

A little over two years ago, Microsoft told customers, "After five years of service, the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 operating system is being retired. The decision to discontinue Windows NT Server 4.0 reflects the growing demand for the Windows 2000 Server Family of operating systems, which offer greater reliability, manageability, and scalability."

As of this week, Windows 2000 Server is legacy software.

On Thursday, Microsoft posted notice of changes in availability for the product: Starting April 1, 2004, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server will no longer be sold by dealers or through the Microsoft Volume Licensing programs.

The direct OEM channel will close on November 1, 2004, with the System Builder channel drying up on November 1, 2005. The axe falls on April 1, 2006, when disk kits go away.

That means hard knocks for IT folk in the midst of upgrading from Windows NT Server 4.0, said Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox, but it's not an unexpected move. "The company has to retire the product at some point," he said.

Neither does Wilcox think the move is a ploy to push users to upgrade. While it probably could and should have given customers more notice, Wilcox said the real problem for Microsoft was missing its ship dates -- Windows Server 2003 was originally called Windows 2002 Server, and it was due at the end of 2001.

"Microsoft delayed the release of Server 2003 three times. A lot of companies that had been waiting for the product couldn't wait any more," he said. Many of those customers may have decided to move forward by upgrading to Windows Server 2000 instead of holding on until 2003 finally made the scene. "Those are the ones who may get caught flat-footed. If it had shipped on time, this wouldn't have been a big deal," said Wilcox, who tracks the software giant on Jupiter's Microsoft Monitor Weblog. (Jupiter Research and this publication are owned by the same parent company.)

At least Windows 2000 Server users will be able to call for help. Regular support will be available through March 31, 2005, with extended support running through March 31, 2007. The schedule follows the company's Product Support Lifecycle policy announced in October 2002.