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Microsoft Extends Custom Support For NT Server Through 2006

With Windows NT 4.0 Server support due to end on December 31, Microsoft is prodding customers to migrate, but also extending its custom support plan for another year.

With Windows NT 4.0 Server support due to end on December 31, Microsoft is prodding customers to migrate as soon as possible, but also extending its custom support plan for another year to get them through the move.

Although the lifecycle of public (and free) support for Windows NT Server wraps at the close of 2004, a Microsoft executive said Friday that the Redmond, Wash.-based developer has made changes to its custom-support program to accommodate enterprises not yet ready to shift to a new operating system.

"We had planned to run the custom-support offering for the server migration through 2005," said Peter Houston, a senior director with Microsoft, in an online Q&A. "But some of our large enterprise and public-sector customers have told us they need until 2006 to complete the upgrade. To ease their migration, we've decided to run the custom-support program through 2006."

For a flat fee, Microsoft will make available security fixes to NT Server it deems are "critical" and "important," the two direst warnings it affixes to vulnerabilities. Earlier, Microsoft had said it would only produce critical updates to its custom-support customers.

"After hearing from customers that they want updates for vulnerabilities we've designated as 'Important,' we've found a way to deliver this," said Houston.

Another change to custom support for NT Server, said Houston, was a shortening of the minimum period that customers can subscribe. Now, companies can sign up for three-month stints, as well as the earlier six-month periods, a boon to companies that wrap up migration plans sooner than expected.

Even though Windows NT 4.0 Server support has already been extended past earlier deadlines, Houston was careful to point out that this wasn't an extension of NT's support lifecycle.

"The lifecycle for Windows NT Server will end in December, just as we originally told customers," he said. "The program we are offering is designed to help ensure the IT security of customers who need more time to migrate."

In case users haven't been listening, Houston repeated the Microsoft mantra regarding NT 4.0. "Every customer who is still running Windows NT 4.0 needs to begin their migrations as soon as possible," he said. Microsoft has been advising NT 4.0 Server customers to migrate to Windows Server 2003, its newest server OS.

"Windows NT Server 4.0 was developed before the era of sophisticated Internet based attacks," he said. "It's reached the point of architectural obsolescence [and] it would be irresponsible to convey a false sense of security by extending public support for this server product."

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