Users should be careful when listening to the hype surrounding Microsoft?s Windows NT because while the operating system is slowly becoming more scaleable, it is certainly not there yet. This was one of the key messages to come out of the Gartner Group?s fifth annual Enterprise Systems conference in Chicago this week, when analysts also warned that the current solution of throwing more NT boxes at the problem simply ended up as a management nightmare. Erik Keller, Gartner?s research director, explained: ?There?s a fad at the moment about how NT is going to solve everyone?s problems and while NT can handle most jobs, it?s at the expense of complexity. The hundred or so application servers necessary to scale are difficult to manage and to make a scaleable server, users need to start playing about with source code, which brings its own problems.? Paul McGuckin, also a Gartner research director, said that one of the reasons behind the NT push was the unprecedented level of ISV enthusiasm for the platform - a fact that was important when making a system choice, but one that also needed to be considered in the light of other, maybe overriding criteria. ?One of my concerns for the long-term is that I see NT first and foremost. SAP, for example, is pushing users to go for NT implementations, but if customers are looking at an installation with 1,500 users then they?re definately going to head for trouble. Long-term, it worries me about SAP?s support for other platforms. SAP is pushing away from other environments and in future, you?ll only find support for the top tier and the rest won?t belong on the shortlist,? he said. But, he added, there was no conspiracy between the two vendors. ?Software vendors are sick of porting to different flavours of Unix and SAP sees NT?s potential. It?s European base also includes a lot more smaller companies than in the US,? he said. However, he warned that NT?s scaleability was well behind other operating systems and would continue to be so over the next five years. At the moment, he said, NT supports about concurrent 600 users, compared to Unix?s 3,000 and S/390?s 4,500. By 2000, this will increase to 1,000 for NT, 4,500 for Unix and 7,500 for S/390, rising to 3,000 for NT, 9,000 for Unix and 11,500 for the S/390 by 2003. But, he advised: ?I would consider the ?comfort zone? to be about three quarters of the number of users given here, and if users go more than 10 per cent above that mark, then they?re moving into dangerous and unchartered waters and will need to address the unknowns in scaleability and high availability.? As a result, he said, NT was still used mainly in smaller shops and by those who resisted moving to Unix for their core mission-critical applications. Into the future, it would become the path of least resistance for AS/400 users as the platform dwindled, but by 2000, some 50 per cent of users would use it as an alternative to other platforms for back office applications. On a slightly different, but related tack, John Radcliffe, Gartner?s vice president, said that while NT had so far been used mostly in the data mart rather than enterprise-wide data warehouse space, Microsoft had done a lot of work on version 7 to try and push it into the higher end data mart and lower end data warehousing market by adding technology such as indexing and hash joins. But, he added: ?SQL Server is way behind the other relational databases. It?s still years behind and it will take several years to catch up, particularly in harnessing NT clusters.? Betsy Burton, another Gartner vice preident, concluded by saying that Microsoft was heading in the direction of making NT enterprise worthy, but it would take some time. ?Microsoft?s working towards it now and it?s getting there, but at the moment, the stars have to be aligned to make NT scaleable. It?s not just an issue of the database though, it?s also hardware and software and the problem is that every time you look at the scalability chart, it keeps moving away,? she said.
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