W2K Deployment: Bottom Up or Top Down?

SANFRANCISCO -- More than six months into the lifecycle of Windows 2000,significant disagreement remains over the rollout question. Which comes first,the top down Windows 2000 Server/Active Directory deployment, or the bottom upWindows 2000 Professional desktop rollout?

IT administratorsseem to be picking the second approach, according to the conventional wisdombased on current Windows 2000 sales. While Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) isn’t saying, analystsbelieve the ratio of desktop to server license sales is higher with Windows2000 than with Windows NT, indicating that desktop-first rollouts areprevailing .

Microsoftand others continue to dispute the technical merits of each approach to therollout question.

The debateflared again this month at the MCP TechMentor Conference here.

In hisconference-opening keynote, Ty Carlson, lead program manager for the RapidDeployment Program at Microsoft, argued for designing the Active Directoryfirst and rolling out the entire Windows 2000 infrastructure, Server, andProfessional, in one coordinated effort. Windows NT author and speaker MarkMinasi made the counterpoint in a speech at the end of the day, urging the 900conference attendees to start with a Windows 2000 Professional-only rollout.

JeremyMoskowitz with consulting firm Info Systems Inc. (www.infosysinc.com) agrees with Carlson, but for a reason thatisn’t technical. Moskowitz argues that it’s better for users if all the changescome at once. Rolling out Windows 2000 Professional at the desktop levelpresents users with one change. Pointing to Windows 2000 servers and turning onActive Directory at a later date will completely change the working environmenta second time, Moskowitz argues.

An ITdirector at a 300-seat company, on the other hand, was swayed by Minasi’sarguments for the desktop rollout. That kind of a rollout would bring thestability enhancements of Windows 2000 without the up-front planning headachesof an Active Directory environment, especially when few applications exist thatmake the Active Directory worth having.

BrianKomar, a contract program manager for Microsoft training and certification,says all the arguments pro and con break down in the face of real environments.As an example, a company that might want to do a top-down Active Directorydeployment still may find that if it has to replace 50 outdated computers at abranch office right away, it might be worthwhile to deploy those in a Windows2000 desktop-only rollout.

The debateis a repeat of the last MCP TechMentor conference earlier this year in Chicago,where both Carlson and Minasi laid out the same arguments. The continuingdiscussion shows that Windows 2000 deployment remains in the preliminarystages, even among the community of trained Windows NT professionals -- theMicrosoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) and Microsoft CertifiedProfessionals (MCPs) -- who attend the conference.

For manyattendees, the conference sessions introducing Active Directory design wereintroductions to Windows 2000 technology. A show of hands during one keynotesession revealed that few of the MCPs and MCSEs in attendance had taken any ofthe Windows 2000 beta exams.

One ITadministrator at a major telecommunications company said he and his colleaguesat the show were familiar with Windows 2000 because they are on the deploymentplanning team. However, he said most other administrators at his company knewlittle about the new features of the operating system.