Microsoft Backpedals on W2K Upgrade Plan

After wrestling with the packaging of Windows 2000 for months, Microsoft Corp. has backed down on plans to reduce SMP support on server versions of Windows 2000 when compared to the Windows NT Server products it will replace.

Under the original upgrade program, which was introduced last October along with the name change to Windows 2000, new licenses of server versions of Windows 2000 would support half the number of processors than corresponding Windows NT 4.0 versions.

Licensing for Windows NT Server 4.0 includes standard support for a four-way SMP configuration, regardless of whether a given system has a uniprocessor, two-way or four-way SMP configuration. The Enterprise Edition offers support for up to eight CPUs, with higher processor counts supported in OEM versions. Use of Windows NT 4.0 in configurations above four-way, however, is rare due to limited scalability delivered by six- and eight-way systems that were offered by vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Data General Corp. and Unisys Corp.

Only upgrades of existing four-way or eight-way systems would be grandfathered to allow deployment of equivalent Windows 2000 versions without a cut in the processor licensing.

Windows 2000 Server, the upgrade for Windows NT Server 4.0, was originally slated to support only two processors, while Windows 2000 Advanced Server, the upgrade for Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition, would only support up to four-way SMP.

Some larger customers were not satisfied with this program and made that message clear to Microsoft. As early as May, during the company’s TechEd conference, Microsoft product managers were hinting that a revision of the Windows 2000 packaging was under consideration.

The licensing program changed this morning when Microsoft announced that Windows 2000 Server licensing is being adjusted to support up to four-way SMP, Advanced Server will support up to eight-way SMP, and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server will support up to 32-way SMP. With the announcement, Microsoft is backing down from encouraging customers to upgrade to a product that supports fewer processors to an upgrade that offers equivalent processor support.

Licensing has been a difficult issue for Microsoft, as it tries to balance revenue considerations with customer expectations. "Microsoft faces a challenge, and the challenge is coming up with an equitable pricing and licensing program," observes Dan Kusnetzky, program director for operating environments at IDC Corp. ( -- Al Gillen

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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