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So long then, Windows 2000

Dead man walking in Memphis

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Windows NT 4.0 made Microsoft an operating system player for file servers and crushed NetWare, but it was Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server that stormed the walls of the glasshouse and smashed enough windows to actually get inside and start taking over the joint. And now, it is dead.

At least as far as Microsoft is concerned. The date on the death certificate for Windows 2000 was July 13, as you can see from this announcement, which explains that upgrades from Windows 2000's server editions - that's Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server – directly to Windows Server 2008 R2, the current Microsoft server OS, are not supported. Ditto for the desktop variant, Windows 2000 Professional, and a jump directly to Windows 7.

You are going to have to do an Aztec three-step to get up to date, which is strongly advised by the company because after July 13, there are no more security updates or hotfixes for the operating system.

This is no surprise to Windows shops, who have know that Windows 2000 has been on extended support since June 2005. A decade is a long time to support any operating system, and this one had four Service Packs and an updated security patch on SP4, plus five years of extended support.

Windows 2000, developed under the code-name "Memphis," debuted in February 2000, many months later than expected and causing more than a few server makers heartburn. Particularly those, such as Unisys and NEC, that wanted to peddle big iron running Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, which scaled to 32 sockets and 64 GB of memory. After six years of improving Windows NT, with Windows 2000 the Windows server platform could credibly be positioned against mainframes, midrange gear, and Unix boxes in roughly the same performance class.

Windows 2000 Server was aimed at two-socket and four-socket x86 servers and infrastructure workloads, and was helped considerably by the advent of Microsoft's Active Directory directory services middleware for authenticating users based on the LDAP protocol, but with the usual Redmond twists.

Windows 2000 Advanced Server could scale up to eight processor sockets in a single image, and exploited a feature called physical address extension (PAE) to support 8 GB of memory on 32-bit machines. Advanced Server also included an improved "Wolfpack" Cluster Services, which had debuted in the prior Windows NT 4.0 Server release and which provided high availability failover and load balancing across multiple Windows Servers. Both Advanced Server and Datacenter Server were eventually tweaked to support 64-bit on Intel's beleaguered and late "Merced" Itanium processors.

It was the tag team of Windows plus Itanium that was supposed to take the data center by storm. The Windows mob certainly did get into the data center, and another smaller Linux mob did an assault as well, but Itanium came in through the loading docks mostly supporting HP-UX on Hewlett-Packard iron with a smattering of OpenVMS and some proprietary operating systems.

It is hard to say how many Windows 2000 server licenses were sold over the years, but it had to be tens of millions. Microsoft's PartnerNetwork, which tries to get the company's staggering 640,000 partners fired up to sell its products, estimates that there are still somewhere between 2.1 and 3 million machines running Windows 2000 server out there in the world.

As you might expect, Microsoft is encouraging each and every one of those shops to move to Windows Server 2008 R2. Microsoft is, of course, willing to do a custom support agreement for you if you can't upgrade now. Steve Ballmer needs a new car, and you can help buy it. ®

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