Beta tester: Win2000 better than NT

Where most companies are being cautious and taking a we’ll-wait-and-see approach, Mississauga, Ont.-based Cara Operations Ltd. is forging ahead in a play designed to give the company a more stable system.

Cara, a food services company who’s holdings include Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill, is already testing Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000 operating system as part of IBM’s Enterprise Development Partnership Program. Unlike most companies which are biding their time to see how well the OS fairs in the real world, Cara decided to get an early start on Windows 2000 because of the instability problems it experienced with Microsoft’s Window’s NT 4.0.

And so far, Cara has found Windows 2000 Release Candidate 3 to be a much less bug-ridden system than its predecessor.

“The only problem that we’ve had, and it’s been very minor, is in the application that we installed one of the DLLs was versioned incorrectly. Just one DLL – other than that, we have not had a single implementation issue with Windows 2000 at this point. It really has been a pleasant surprise based on our experiences with NT in the past,” said Dave Goodridge, infrastructure services manager at Cara Operations Ltd.

With NT, it was just one problem followed by another.

“NT 4 has some real challenges with how it handles memory, and therefore, how it handles scaleability. So we’ve run into numerous memory leakage issues. Generally, what has happened is, if we run into one memory leak, their suggested fix has been to apply the next service pack. And, generally, the next service pack has also had a different memory leak issue,” Goodridge said.

As a result, every three to five months, one of their servers would run into an issue, and Goodridge found this an unacceptable performance standard.

But their J.D. Edward’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial system required NT for the front end, which ruled out Unix as an alternative.

“As opposed to starting with the technology side of the equation, you always have to start with the business side of the equation. So once the decision was made that J.D. Edwards was going to be our choice, NT was already a decision. So from that point, you have to make sure you have the most reliable, scaleable and stable version of NT,” Goodridge said.

After deciding on Windows 2000, he spoke with Microsoft to make sure the OS would be developed in time to coincide with their planned ERP implementation. And in order to ensure that the product would be scaleable enough to meet their needs, Cara Operations made a trip down to the IBM Center for Microsoft Technologies in Kirkland, Wash.

The next step was to make sure the J.D. Edwards and SynQuest Inc. applications that they were going to implement would install on Windows 2000 the same way it did on NT 4.

But the big test – scaling up the number of users to see how well the OS will hold up under real conditions – was put on hold. Because of an application program interface problem between the J.D. Edwards and SynQuest software that Cara will be running on Windows 2000, Cara has delayed a stress test that was scheduled for mid-January.

But if all goes well with the stress test, Cara hopes to implement the new operating system by September.

The company will also have to do some work with the Active Directory, functionality Goodridge said is now more logical than before.

“We’re looking forward to being able to consolidate the many domains we’ve had to use under NT 4 into one consolidated larger picture for the company. And that should ease, quite substantially, the amount of administration required and our ability to track licences,” Goodridge said.

He advises anyone thinking of deploying Windows 2000 to take a course because NT and 2000 are substantially different.

“Things aren’t where you would expect them to be as far as utilities and tools. And the tools themselves have actually changed,” he said.

He also advises companies considering Windows 2000 not to wait. “I would suggest that people move sooner than later because it’s a better product than NT 4.”