Windows 2000 Server was released in February 2000 to replace Windows NT. Windows 2000 offers many system-wide improvements over its predecessor. It provides application development services as well as connectivity, file and storage management enhancements, in addition to reliability, scalability, security, systems management and Web integration improvements. The next Windows iteration, Windows Server 2003, is slated for April 2003. This version is expected to be a significant but incremental upgrade compared with the huge revamp that took place in the upgrade from Windows NT to Windows 2000.

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server is a multipurpose network operating system. It is available in three versions, each geared toward variously sized organizations and applications:

  • Windows 2000 Server—an entry-level server designed for use in small and midsize businesses as a file, print, intranet and infrastructure server.
  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server—designed for line-of-business applications and e-commerce, Advanced Server contains all the functionality and reliability of the entry-level version of Windows 2000 Server, plus additional features, such as clustering and network load balancing for applications that require higher levels of scalability and availability. It is suitable for departmental applications, such as networking, messaging, inventory and customer service systems, databases and e-commerce Web sites.
  • Windows 2000 Datacenter Server—designed to support more than 10,000 simultaneous users in a variety of technical and data-intensive environments, including data warehousing, econometric analysis, large-scale engineering and science simulations, online transaction processing (OLTP), server consolidation, and Internet service provider (ISP) and site hosting. This version is available through OEM channels only.

This report concentrates on Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced server. For more information on Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, see the Gartner report "Microsoft Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Operating System" by Mary Hubley.

Windows 2000 Server is used for workgroup file, print and communication servers. Among Windows 2000 Server's application services are Component Object Model+ (COM+), message and transaction queuing and support for Extensible Markup Language (XML). It incorporates Kerberos v.5, Internet Protocol security (IPSec) and public key infrastructure (PKI) security. With the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), administrators can manage operating system and Web components through a single consistent interface. Microsoft's directory service, Active Directory, which serves as a centralized repository for user log-in, group, network resource, security and user management information, can be made available to other applications, directories and devices through LDAP, ADSI and MAPI. The "Features and Functions" table lists the major features and functions of the Windows 2000 family of servers.

Users who find that their Windows NT applications and networks are stable and who have no need for AD's enterprise features may decide to postpone upgrading from Windows NT. But for larger accounts, migrations can not be completed quickly, so enterprises should not delay starting the process. With Microsoft Windows NT support quickly nearing an end, in January 2003, Microsoft gave its customers more time to migrate by extending its support for NT for another year. That means that until 1 January 2004, security hotfixes will still be available; and until 1 January 2005, Pay-per-incident and Premier Support will be available. Beyond support issues, however, many may be forced to upgrade their NT networks quickly because they need to upgrade their hardware. In these cases, a move to Windows Server 2003 is necessary, since NT doesn't support many of the latest hardware devices. Gartner recommends that enterprises should plan to complete migration of mission-critical servers from NT by year-end 2004.

Which Windows Server 2003?

Windows Server 2003 is the upgrade path from Windows 2000 Server. Like Windows 2000 Server, it comes in three versions. Which version upgrade is right for a particular organization will depend not only on the size of the organization, but also on the IT expertise on staff. All three versions of Windows Server 2003 are intended for managed IT environments; that is, they require dedicated IT and staff. In terms of company size, the three versions are:

  • Standard Edition—for organizations of up to 1,000 employees
  • Enterprise Edition—for organizations above 1,000 employees
  • Datacenter Edition—for Internet service providers and large enterprises with widely distributed networks (for example, Fortune 500 corporations)

Unlike Windows 2000 Server, the entry-level Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is not suited for organizations without a dedicated IT department. Microsoft suggests those businesses with 50 employees or less implement Microsoft Small Business Server instead. A new version of Microsoft Small Business Server based on Windows Server 2003 is expected to be released in 2003.

Migration Tools

While Windows 2000 Server comes with Windows NT 4.0 Domain Migration Tools, a move from NT to Windows Server 2003 requires a complete reinstall of the operating system.

Moving from Windows 2000 Server or Advanced Server to Windows Server 2003, however, can be an upgrade rather than a complete reinstall, as there are fewer differences between them and more of the Win2K registry and system configurations can be migrated. Microsoft provides command line tools (adprep, forestprep and domainprep) for upgrading the Active Directory to the extended AD schema of Windows Server 2003.

Gartner advises against mixing domain controllers between Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003. If Windows 2003 domain controllers are used along with Windows 2000 controllers in the same network, they emulate the Windows 2000 controllers and you lose the benefits of the Windows 2003 Active Directory implementation.

Pricing [return to Table of Contents]

[return to List of Tables]

Table 4
Price List
      US$ Windows 2000 Server 5 Clients 999
   10 Clients 1,199
   25 Clients 1,799
Windows 2000 Advanced Server 25 Clients 3,999
Additional Clients—Windows 2000 Server 5 Clients 199
   20 Clients 799
   25 Clients 1,799

GSA Pricing

Yes, through OEMs.

Competitors [return to Table of Contents]

Competition in the server market is increasingly coming from Linux, in addition to server operating systems, including NetWare and Solaris, in addition to other Unix systems.

Strengths [return to Table of Contents]

SMP and Advanced Memory Management

Windows 2000 Advanced Server supports up to eight-way SMP (32-way on Datacenter) and up to eight gigabytes of memory (up to 64GB on Datacenter) when used with processors supporting Intel's Physical Address Extensions (PAE). Windows 2000 is able to run memory- and processor-intensive applications on industry-standard hardware.

Cluster Service

The cluster service in Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Datacenter Server is included at no cost. In comparison, clustering and other features, such as Web server, COM+, development and interoperability software are usually expensive add-ons in Unix and other environments; however, by including so much, Windows has become large and complex.

The cluster service essentially removes the physical server from becoming a single point of failure. Distributing applications over more than one computer node can achieve a high degree of parallelism and failure recovery. Thus, in the event a hardware or software failure occurs in any node, the applications currently running on that node can be migrated by Cluster service to a surviving node and restarted. Because Cluster service uses a shared-disk configuration with common bus architectures, such as small computer system interface (SCSI) and Fibre Channel, no data is lost during a fail-over. Furthermore, because the cluster appears as a single-system image to end users, applications and the network, users work with the cluster as if they were working with a single server.

Network Load Balancing

In Advanced Server and Datacenter Server, Windows 2000 Network Load Balancing uses a statistical load-balancing model, rather than hardware, to distribute incoming IP requests across a cluster of up to 32 servers. Because it is integrated into the Windows 2000 networking infrastructure, NLB can be used to automatically add capacity to Windows 2000-based, Web-based applications, for better availability of e-commerce operations.

Limitations [return to Table of Contents]

Limitations of Win2K Active Directory

Before a user can log on to a Windows 2000 server, the Active Directory requires the Domain Controller (DC) to contact the Global Catalog (GC) Server and search the domain directory partition to validate the request. If the GC down is down, however, then the user's request will not be validated, thereby impacting server availability. This situation will be addressed in Windows Server 2003, which caches the user's complete group membership in the DC at first log-on. Thus, subsequent log-ons can be validated from the DC cache instead of the GC server.

Other availability enhancements to AD in Windows Server 2003 include the use of a backup file to provide the data for an initial replication request for a new DC. In addition, Windows Server 2003 will offer the ability to rename any domain in the forest or forest root without having to perform a complete reinstall of the DC. This was a big issue with Windows 2000, which often required users to have to rip and replace the directory after setting it up. Cross-forest trust relationships will also be supported.

Another limitation that will be addressed by Windows Server 2003 is Windows 2000's lack of a complete set of command line tools for managing AD.

Win2K Default Configuration

The current default configuration of Windows 2000 automatically enables IIS and more than 20 additional services after installation. If not needed, keeping these services active can unnecessarily expose a system to outside intruders. The default installation of Windows Server 2003 turns off most of these services by default, including IIS-related services, file and print sharing, DHCP, DNS, mail, remote access and domain controls services (including AD). After installation, Windows Server 2003's Configure Your Server Wizard can be used to activate each of these services as a role defined by the administrator.

Multipass Defragmentation

The Windows 2000 Server built-in defragmentation tool is a multipass defragmenter that must be run over and over to defragment the disk, especially when defragmenting very large disks with heavy fragmentation and limited free space. As such, multipass defragmenters characteristically fragment the remaining free space on the disk, which accelerates fragmentation later. It is recommended that a third-party single-pass server defragmentation tool be implemented instead.

Recommended Gartner Research [return to Table of Contents]

Latest Microsoft Server Name Change Clarifies the Product's Use, FT-19-1809

Microsoft Makes Migration to Windows Server 2003 Easier, FT-19-3169

Microsoft Offers More Flexible Licensing for Windows .NET Server, FT-18-8819

Microsoft Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Operating System, DPRO-93802


Both the imminent release of Windows Server 2003 in April 2003 and the projected product life cycles for Windows 2000 and NT must be taken into consideration in any Windows 2000 Server implementation plan. For those whose Active Directories are already in place, a move from Win2K to Windows Server 2003 should be little more than a routine incremental upgrade.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.