Companies upgrading to Windows 2000 Server while retaining earlier versions of Windows on desktop PCs can expect some help from Microsoft via a set of client extensions due next year.
Microsoft said today it will ship extensions that let systems running Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0 Workstation take advantage of several features in Windows 2000 Server's directory service, the Active Directory. The Windows 95 and 98 code will ship on Windows 2000 CD-ROMs, due Feb. 17, and the extensions for NT Workstation will arrive in Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 7, due in the middle of next year. Features enabled by the extensions include the ability to search for user profiles, printers, and other objects via the Active Directory; reduced network traffic by the ability to log on to the nearest domain controller server; and access to fault-tolerant and load-balanced file shares in Windows 2000's distributed file system.
"Hopefully, this means customers will be able to incrementally deploy Windows 2000 on the server and upgrade the client when it makes sense to do so," says Mark Hassall, a Windows 2000 product manager. Companies have large investments in Windows 95, and to a lesser extent, 98 and NT 4.0 on the desktop; Microsoft says many will want to upgrade those to take advantage of manageability improvements in Windows 2000 Professional.
What the client extensions don't support is Windows 2000's group policy features and Intellimirror technology, which lets IT managers quickly set up machines according to predefined templates and allows users to access their desktop and applications from any machine on the network.