Windows NT Remains Top Dog in OS Turf Wars

A recent Netcraft survey found NT4 to be the operating system of choice for numerous "big brand Web sites." Such enterprises still running their public Web sites on Windows NT4 include eBay, Gateway, The Bank of New York, Heinz, Hershey Foods, Ikea, Kroger, and Diebold.

A recent Netcraft survey found Windows NT4 to be the operating system of choice for numerous 'big brand Web sites,' which leads to the question of where they'll go when NT4 support phases out at year end.

This loyalty (or, perhaps, inertia) is not limited to U.S.-based sites: 10 members of the U.K. FTSE 100 (i.e., the top 100 companies in the Financial Times Stock Exchange index) run on NT4/98, including retailer Next Group PLC, and LLoyds TSB.

Windows NT4 debuted more than seven years ago and was officially retired in July 2003. As of January 1, 2004, non-security hotfixes are no longer available, and on January 1, 2005 all support will be phased out. Microsoft's schedule for phasing out support is available on its Web site.

Currently, Microsoft is the only member of the Fortune 100 hosting its main public site on Windows 2003 Server; on the other side of the pond, Tesco Stores is the lone FTSE 100 company on Windows Server 2003.

Some enterprises are moving, albeit slowly, toward Windows 2003. eBay, for example, recently began shifting some of its Web infrastructure from NT4 to Windows Server 2003. It continues to use NT4 to power much of its main site, which handled 971 million auction listings in 2003. The bulk of machines serving pages.ebay.com continue to run on NT4, and a number of the auction company's specialty sites run on Windows 2000, while some regional eBay sites overseas (including Hong Kong and Singapore) are served on Linux.

Although Microsoft sees Windows 2003 as the next stop on the NT4 the migration path, and recent data from Netcraft's SSL Survey supports this, some enterprises may be choosing a slightly less traveled road: Linux.

Both Gartner and IDC reported Linux servers were the highest growth sector of the server market in 2003. IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker reported 63.1 percent year-over-year growth for Linux servers, which generated $960 million for the industry in the last three months of the year. To give a sense of perspective, however, Windows servers brought in $3.9 billion during that same period and accounted for 31.7 percent of quarterly server revenue.

With the major hardware vendors putting forth strong Linux initiatives, Linux adoption will likely grow as more IT managers ponder what might be involved in a Windows to Linux migration.

This article was originally published on Mar 26, 2004
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