REDMOND, Wash., May 10, 2004 — It didn’t take long for businesses to embrace Microsoft Windows Server 2003. Within 90 days of its April 2003 release, sales of the new operating system soared to a level three times that of Microsoft Windows 2000 at the same date milestone. Today, more than a year later, Microsoft industry partners report that the pace of deployments continues to increase, with platform upgrades from Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 to Windows Server 2003 sharply accelerating in recent months.
According to recent interviews with Microsoft partners, positive word of mouth from other IT professionals is frequently cited as motivation for customers to make the move to Windows Server 2003. Peer-to-peer testimonials from customers and partners confirm that the upgrade from Windows NT Server 4.0 to Windows Server 2003 is an investment that is often quickly repaid.
“It used to be that customers didn’t want to be among the first to install new software,”
says Kevin Bento, president and founder of Netstream, a consulting and solutions provider based in New York City.
“Their attitude was, ‘Let someone else be the beta tester.’ But with Windows Server 2003, the word on the street about the power of the platform has been very positive. Because of all the built-in features, Windows Server 2003 can deliver customers a return on investment right out of the box.”
Partners report that the benefits of the new platform — cost savings, improved security and enhanced performance — as well as the coming phase-out of technical support for Windows NT Server 4.0, provide strong incentive for customers to make the move to Windows Server 2003, and to make it now.
Moving to a New Windows Server Delivers New Advantages
Windows NT Server 4.0 was released in 1996; the platform was new when the movie “Bridges of Madison County” heated up the silver screen, and modems blazed at baud rates of 28.8 kilobytes. With eight years of technological advances reflected in Windows Server 2003, former Windows NT Server 4.0 customers are finding that upgrading to Windows Server 2003 provides dramatic improvements in performance, security and efficiency.
“As part of our commitment to supply partners with the resources and opportunities to help them succeed, Microsoft is providing the tools and support to help make the migration from Windows NT Server to Windows Server 2003 as smooth as possible for our customers,”
says Allison Watson, vice president of the Worldwide Partner Sales and Marketing Group at Microsoft.
“Our goal is to continue to help partners educate their customers about the benefits of having Windows Server 2003 and ensure they have the resources available to meet this growing customer opportunity.”
The upcoming retirement of support for Windows NT Server 4.0 on Dec. 31, 2004 also provides incentive for customers to upgrade. To ease the move to the new operating system, Microsoft has provided a complete online Upgrade Assistance Center to help customers discover the benefits of migration to Windows Server 2003. The assistance center includes free tools, training and support as well as links to partners who offer migration services.
Kevin Bento of New York City-based Netstream says that many upgrades performed by his company involve customers who currently run on Windows NT Server 4.0. While support considerations often trigger the request to upgrade from the older platform, Bento says that customers are also eager to utilize Windows Server 2003’s advanced features and are excited to put the new platform to work.
“Customers are highly motivated to move onto Windows Server 2003 to get longer support lifecycles and to get the all the new functionality everyone wants the latest and greatest.”
A painless upgrade experience is another benefit of Windows Server 2003.
“Ease of migration is an important factor for our customers,”
says Bento. After completing our first customer upgrade to Windows Server 2003, we were surprised to find the upgrade came in under bid and took less time to complete than previous upgrades. We did the entire migration in just two days. That’s good news for customers and IT departments undergoing a budget squeeze, because with Windows Server 2003 they get a lot of return on investment right out of the box, without having to spend a lot of money on consultants.
Resources, Partner Readiness Pave the Way for an Easy Upgrade
Microsoft has provided extensive resources to ready integration and consulting partners as they help customers with smooth and successful deployments of Windows Server 2003. The Microsoft Partner Training and Readiness program ensures that all partners — from independent software vendors (ISVs) to system builders and resellers of all sizes — stay ahead of the next wave of innovation by getting the best deployment and sales training available — before their customers call and before they call on customers. Worldwide, Microsoft has approximately 37,000 deployment partners that are certified to perform network installations and upgrades.
One of these deployment partners is Northwest Computer Supplies (NSC), a Microsoft-certified OEM System Builder partner and Microsoft-authorized Academic Reseller based in Bellingham, Washington. NSC’s technical consultants, sales and marketing staff trained intensively on Windows Server 2003 through the Microsoft Partner Training and Readiness programs. They concluded that small and midmarket companies alike can benefit from Windows Server 2003 because so many of them, for so long, have put off updating their systems.
“At many educational facilities, computers and server platforms that were purchased in 1999 and are not capable of the challenges presented by new applications and network demands,” says David June, development manager at NSC. “System stability and reliability, Internet and inter-office security, and mobile computing and connectivity — all these issues are top of mind for our clients right now as they evaluate their upgrade options.”
The technical staff at NCS participated in Microsoft’s early training programs for Windows Server 2003 on several fronts: the Windows Server 2003 boot camp, hands-on labs, and Web-based seminars. After the advanced technical training, NCS’s consultants were able to reduce by 30 or 40 percent the amount of time it takes to install and configure Windows Server 2003. The training also has an impact on financial well-being: Despite the economic downturn, Northwest Computer Supplies managed to expand its business by 19 percent in 2002 and 21 percent in 2001, making it one the fastest growing IT system builders in the state of Washington.
“No other vendor has provided us the breadth and depth in training that Microsoft has,” says June. “The Microsoft Partner Readiness programs for Windows Server 2003 and Office System are a great example of some of the work Microsoft has done to ensure partners are ready before their customers are,”
Windows Server 2003 Upgrade Delivers Ease of Mind and Network-wide Benefits
Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, a consulting, technical services and IT staffing organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area, admits that when Windows Server 2003 was first launched, he had concerns whether his customers were ready make the move to the new operating system. Morimoto cites not only tight IT budgets, but also the fact that many customers just don’t want to face the organizational challenge of an upgrade.
“Even though Windows Server 2003 offered many advantages over previous operating systems, I was concerned that customers would postpone adopting the new system and continue to operate on Windows NT Server 4.0. I knew that we would have to convince them that it was cheaper and easier to move to Windows Server 2003 than continue to patch and work with an older operating system.”
However, Morimoto says that the tides have shifted.
“I gave a seminar recently with about 150 people attending. Of the organizations represented, 80 percent had migrated away from Windows NT Server 4.0 toward Windows Server 2003. Just six months ago, the percentages would have been the other way around — only 20 percent of the group could make that claim. People are definitely getting the message that there’s a lot of value in upgrading to Windows Server 2003. The word is out.”
According to Morimoto, security and reliability were key considerations for Convergent Computing’s customers as they make decisions to upgrade operating systems. He says that system security is one concern customers talk about all the time, but few organizations actually implement.
“Traditionally, security requires a company to go buy something extra to add to their network. Security solutions are also usually very complex to implement. So security becomes the first thing that customers want to talk about, but the last thing they put in place because it requires further IT purchases and difficult deployments.”
For instance, says Morimoto, to enable an older system to encrypt communications within a virtual private network (VPN), an organization would need to spend about $80 per employee to buy remote VPN client software. But with Windows Server 2003, encryption is built into the operating system itself.
“It’s all built in with Windows Server 2003,”
Convergent Computing also found that customers were able to consolidate servers, cut administrative costs and improve systems management with Windows Server 2003. Morimoto cites one customer who had a distributed technology environment in which older servers running Windows NT Server 4.0 were spread across the country in over 200 locations. Because of the reliability and capacity of Windows Serve 2003, the customer was able to move to a regionalized server environment that was far easier to manage.
“Our customer went from having 625 servers to just 88. So instead of having servers and domain controllers scattered across the country, they were able to centralize these operations without cutting services. Upgrading to Windows Server 2003 from Windows NT 4.0 allowed the customer to lower administrative expense and create huge savings in terms of hardware and software.”
Morimoto says that his customers are definitely getting the message that Windows Server 2003 is a great investment.
“One client said specifically, ‘I can spend my budget on a patch management tool for my old NT 4 systems, or I can make the upgrade and get the benefits of Windows Server 2003. It’s actually a no-brainer.’ And that reaction is typical of our customers. Organizations are realizing that it’s cheaper and easier to migrate to Windows Server 2003 than to continue to patch and manage NT 4.”
The momentum toward Windows Server 2003 has been good for business at Convergent Computing. The company’s staff is totally booked up several months in advance, largely with upgrades to Windows Server 2003.
“Organizations know they have to do it sooner than later, and it’s clear that the sooner they upgrade, the sooner they begin to receive the benefits,”