Introduced in 1996, Windows NT 4.0 still runs on millions of PCs and servers. The installed base is so large that market research firm IDC estimates that 17% of all Windows servers in use at the end of this year will still be powered by Windows NT 4.0. "These systems are hanging around longer than we expected," says Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC.
Microsoft is offering custom contracts that, for a flat fee, will keep the phone lines open between Windows NT 4.0 systems administrators and Microsoft support personnel. But the vendor isn't saying how much those contracts cost, and, to qualify, businesses must submit Windows NT 4.0 migration plans to Microsoft. The contracts are aimed primarily at companies with many Windows NT 4.0 systems, company officials say.
FMC is working to upgrade 250 Windows NT computers, says Powers, director of advanced technology and architecture.
Under a life-cycle-support policy introduced in May, Microsoft provides software troubleshooting and repairs for five years on all its business and developer products, followed by five years of more-limited support. But company officials decided against including Windows NT 4.0 in the 10-year policy. "Windows NT 4.0 has reached its point of architectural obsolescence," says Peter Houston, Microsoft's senior director of servicing strategy. "We needed to be realistic about the need to migrate off NT 4." After the support deadlines pass, Microsoft will assess and fix Windows NT 4.0 problems only on a case-by-case basis.