Strategize Your Win 2k Migration

When Microsoft Corp. introduced Windows 2000 last February, you may have been among the many IT managers who were wary of moving forward too quickly. But now that Service Pack 1 has shipped and early adopters have come forth with several months' worth of war stories, you're probably not pondering whether to pull the Windows 2000 migration lever, but when and how.

Well, your first instinct was right - don't move too quickly. The key to success, say IT managers who have started down that road, lies in copious planning.

"It's fundamental to configure the client and do it right the first time," says Campbell Soup CIO Mike Crowley, pictured here with Mike Giresi, director of telecommunications and desktop services.

"It's a much bigger undertaking" than you might think, says Mike Giresi, director of telecommunications and desktop services at Campbell Soup Co. in Camden, N.J. Campbell is in the early stages of its move to Windows 2000 from 6,500 NT Workstation desktops and 150 NetWare 5.1 file-and-print servers and Windows NT 4.0 application servers. "For everything from the network on through, you need to include all those cost factors or you will underfund the project and it will not be completed properly," Giresi says.

Campbell Vice President and CIO Mike Crowley also advocates the go-slow approach. "We have been planning and doing research and participating in work sessions with our peers, with other vendors, with other major software providers, which is why we haven't moved more aggressively," he says. "We want to make sure we do it as efficiently as possible."

Articulate the Benefits

The key to migration is making sure you not only understand the benefits of migrating to Windows 2000, but are also able to convey those to your audience, whether it be end users or departmental IT peers, says Jerry Higgins, a senior manager at Allstate Insurance Co. in Northbrook, Ill. Allstate plans to begin migrating more than 60,000 NT workstations in March, with 2,500 servers to follow by fall.

But since Allstate has a decentralized IT infrastructure, Higgins relies on individual business units to deploy the server and workstation disk images he issues, so it's important that everyone understand the benefits and the goal.

It's also important to decide which servers should be upgraded and in what order. Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, says managers are upgrading "largely file-and-print services to begin with, with increasing use [of Windows 2000] as an application platform."

New applications that require Active Directory, such as Exchange Server 2000, may put application servers at the top of the list - and offer the ammunition you need to justify a general migration to Windows 2000.

Migrate Selectively

Migrate no application before its time, warns Giresi. "We have close to 100 [applications], many of which are not compatible with Windows 2000 yet," he says.

"We've tested these, and they all seem to work. [But] if something does fail, we can't go back to the vendor and troubleshoot it," adds Crowley.

Even if you have some noncompliant applications, you can still move forward with a mixed Windows NT/2000 environment, says Tony Bernard, director of technical architecture at business-to-business exchange service vendor Freemarkets Inc. in Pittsburgh. Bernard, who has approximately 10% to 15% of his 600 users and 120 servers worldwide running Windows 2000, says he can't wait for the Windows 2000-compliant version of his new software from Siebel Systems Inc. in San Mateo, Calif. "We will deploy Siebel on NT 4 and upgrade when we can," he says.

But even Windows 2000-certified applications won't run well without the right hardware, so make sure your hardware will support Windows 2000. "If you go out thinking that 3- or 4-year-old hardware will support Windows 2000, you are sadly mistaken," says Giresi.

And on the desktop side, "it's fundamental to configure the client and do it right the first time," Crowley says.

Look Hard at Active Directory

Perhaps the most critical planning component is Active Directory, Microsoft's integrated enterprise directory system for Windows 2000. "Companies should be very careful here because . . . it can be extremely costly to go back and do it again," says Giresi.

Unlike pure Windows shops, Campbell Soup uses Novell Inc.'s Novell Directory Services (NDS), which means Crowley has higher expectations of Microsoft's directory service. But forget about making a migration decision based on the technical merits of Active Directory vs. NDS, he says.

"I think that Microsoft has yet to prove that they have the same functionality [as NDS]," Crowley says. Despite these concerns, however, he says he's leaning toward a full implementation of Active Directory. "It's the right business decision" to consolidate on one directory and one network operating system, he says. "The fewer technologies you have, the cheaper it should be to run your operations."

Allstate's Higgins says you should be aware that planning the Active Directory structure involves more than technical issues, particularly when IT management is distributed.

"Political conversations occur when one [IT department's NT administrative] domain gets collapsed into another" in the new Active Directory structure, he says.

In short, IT managers need to create the structure right the first time, which requires a good technical design. But that can't happen unless all parties agree to the new structure and its management implications up front.

Block Out Ample Time

Give yourself plenty of time to plan and execute if your company is large. How much time? "If you're a large organization with 2,000 or 3,000 servers, that might be a three-year process," says Kuznetsky.

At San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co., enterprise engineering manager Scott Hall spent 18 months planning a single, monolithic 120,000-user Active Directory structure. Of those, "40,000 users are now ready to use Active Directory for authentication," he says. Hall says he hopes to complete his migration by the end of 2001.

Bernard's advice: "If you've got a complex domain structure or a lot of servers, a more gradual migration approach is better on multiple fronts. You can spread your investments, and the planning is critical."

And don't be afraid to limit the scope of the project, Bernard cautions. "We're picking our opportunities where reliability is critical. But we're not upgrading everything just to upgrade everything. If there's business value there, we're going to go after it," he says.

Once you have your plan in place, carefully design your pilot installation. "Pick something that's representative enough that you will be able to test the features that are important to your organization but discrete enough that if the technology doesn't work out, you don't disrupt your core business," says Bernard.

Decide Whether to Outsource

Bernard recommends training staffers rather than bringing in consultants when preparing for a Windows 2000 migration.

"Our people put in a lot of time to come up that curve," he says. "[But] it wasn't that disruptive, and [the staffers] were energized to be involved in something new." Bring in extra help for the mundane work, he advises.

Higgins says he agrees in principle but when you're planning a major migration, there's no substitute for experience. "Allowing [staffers] to work on the newest technologies is one method of enriching their work experience, [but] we have had to leverage external consulting personnel who have been through migrations at other corporations," he says.

Prepare Top Brass for Cost

Finally, while return on investment is important, don't expect to base a migration decision exclusively on ROI, users say. Higgins acknowledges the costs but says his organization accepts that a migration is a must. "We look at it, to a large extent, as an extension of the technology we already have," he says.

That's not to say that IT managers should ignore price. Hall advises getting a tight handle on migration budgets and preparing top management for the bill. "When we did the cost justification, our executives fell over," he says. "We have 1,700 domain controllers. Think of the support costs and licensing costs."




Make absolutely sure your hardware will support Windows 2000.


Allow ample time to plan and execute. A company with 2,000 or 3,000 servers might need three years.


Choose your pilot installation carefully — one that's representative of the whole yet won't disrupt the core business.

Train existing staff whenever possible, but leverage consultants to add breadth of experience.standards.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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