The economy is coming back. No, really. President Bush and The Wall Street Journal agree, so it’s got to be true. Those indicators notwithstanding, there does seem to be an actual pulse to the tech industry of late, and much of it comes in the form of business expansion. Whether your company just purchased another enterprise or simply expanded its operations to include more locations, I’m here to tell you that Windows 2003 Server can make your life a whole lot simpler.
For those annexing new network territory using a Windows 2000-based server infrastructure, life isn’t terrible. But with new tools in Windows 2003, any network expansion that jumps the boundaries of your present building becomes a whole lot simpler. If you haven’t found a good justification to move to 2003, this just might be it.
For enterprises with an increasing number of branch offices or other remote locations, check out 2003’s KCC (Knowledge Consistency Checker). Under Windows 2000, you were asking for trouble by attempting to connect more than 100 sites to a central server farm. KCC, however, has been reworked to handle well above 200 sites with no complaints whatsoever. You also get the ability to tell your bridgehead servers not to compress data over WAN links — great for close MAN (metropolitan area network) implementations. And for those with storage constraints, 2003’s Install from Media now allows administrators to configure domain controllers from almost any media, not just disk. This gets real useful in large WAN settings where data needs to be replicated across multiple forms of media to get close to its target destinations.
All this sounds great, but in typical Redmond tradition, you don’t get any of these benefits unless all your domain controllers are running Windows 2003 Server. Coexistence with other Windows platforms is tricky, and seems relegated entirely to those machines used as application-specific service platforms.
Although that may make you cranky, Microsoft dangles one more carrot. Distributed networking with AD (Active Directory) over Windows 2000 has been acceptable, but try modifying an AD architecture once it’s been set. The definition of nightmare. Not so in Windows 2003. For those tasked with annexing another Active Directory structure onto their own, Windows 2003 now includes the very slick feature of cross-forest trusts.
True integration this isn’t, but it’s the next best thing. Using cross-forest trusts, two Windows 2003 forests can effectively communicate and share resources. Yes, everything needs to be running Windows 2003, but it’s still a heck of a lot easier and faster to do an orderly upgrade from 2000 to 2003 and then implement a cross-forest trust than it is to integrate one domain into another. 2003 also makes it much easier to rename existing domain controllers than under 2000. And where you couldn’t rename domains in Windows 2000 without the assistance of a voodoo practitioner, 2003 actually makes it possible, though it’s still a lengthy and ugly process that’s best attempted after the senior suits have been mollified with a cross-forest trust.
I harp on this because I encounter a number of administrators in the field who simply don’t even want to consider a server OS upgrade. Windows 2000 is here, support will last for ages, so Windows 2003 can go jump in the lake. If your network is static, be that way. But if you’re tasked with managing an IT department that’s appropriately reactive to changing business needs, Windows 2003 Server offers very real improvement over 2000. Bite the OS upgrade bullet now and you’ll be able to reap those benefits when you need them.