Microsoft Reveals More NT 4.0 Service Packs

Microsoft Corp. is planning to release a fifth service pack (SP5) for Windows NT 4.0, and may throw in a sixth service pack if needed.

Microsoft Corp. is planning to release a fifth service pack (SP5) for Windows NT 4.0, and may throw in a sixth service pack if needed.

"Our plan is to have an SP5 sometime within this calendar year," says Don Jones, Year 2000 product manager at Microsoft. "We will support SP4, SP5 and SP6 -- if we need an SP6 -- for Y2K-compatability through January 1, 2001."

Despite the planned introduction, Jones says Microsoft will stick to its commitment of supporting SP4 for Year 2000 compliance. "We won’t force customers to go to SP5 when it becomes available," he explains. Jones declined to comment on the specific features or fixes in SP5, as did product managers closely involved with Service Pack development.

When SP4 emerged last November, the widespread industry expectation was that it was probably the final service pack for Windows NT 4.0. But extended delays with the Windows 2000 release have opened the door for more service pack releases.

Laura DiDio, senior analyst with Giga Information Group (www.gigaweb.com), says, "There are still a number of bugs that SP4 didn’t correct."

Analysts say that Windows NT 4.0, in some configurations, still has problems with WINS, DHCP server, SQL Server, Proxy Server, DNS, hardware and Unix interoperability. SP4 has a few shortcomings of its own, including lack of support for Windows NT 4.0, Terminal Server Edition. SP4 support for Terminal Server is expected to become available in April.

Although Microsoft has not identified core problems to be addressed, DiDio says likely candidates for SP5 fixes will include the aforementioned problems, as well as compatibility issues between Windows NT and other BackOffice components.

"I imagine SP5 will go a long way toward the compatibility issues Windows NT has with Exchange 5.5, Internet Explorer 4.0 and SQL Server," she says.

Already, SP5 may have one hurdle to clear. If the Service Pack isn’t released until late 1999, will anyone install it? "One could wonder, at this late date, who’s going to install a Service Pack when they just got their systems ready for the Year 2000," observes Dan Kusnetzky, director of operating systems research at International Data Corp. (www.idc.com).