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11/96 Enterprise Windows: Windows NT

Let the Buyer Beware -- NT once stood for New Technology. With version 4.0, it means New Tariffs.

By John D. Ruley

Windows NT 4.0 was supposed to be a no-brainer upgrade-a must-have. At least that's what I thought before I read NT 4.0's software license agreement and price list. Frankly, you should think long and hard about how, when and even if upgrading to NT 4.0 is a wise move.

When Microsoft introduced NT 3.1 in 1993, the price and license agreements were extremely simple. There was the low-end Windows NT 3.1 that sold for about $350 and the high-end NT Advanced Server (NTAS) 3.1 that cost roughly $1,500. Neither had any arbitrary license limits-you could support as many users as you wanted with either product. Microsoft used this "unlimited client" pricing scheme to gain market share against the more costly Novell NetWare and UNIX.

With NT 3.5's release in September 1994, Microsoft changed the rules in several major ways. The low-end version was renamed Windows NT Workstation 3.5, and it came with a significant limitation: Peer networking (file and print sharing) was limited to 10 inbound connections. That is, an NT Workstation 3.5 user could share files or a printer with no more than 10 neighboring PCs.

The high-end version, renamed Windows NT Server 3.5, inherited all the functionality of NTAS, plus new TCP/IP and NetWare support. And at $700, it cost less than the antiquated NTAS 3.1. Or so it seemed. In addition to the server fee, Microsoft was now charging about $30 for each networked client that accessed NT.

NT 3.51, shipped in mid-1995, retained the NT 3.5 pricing with one new optional twist: concurrent connection licensing. It let an NT Server administrator apply client licenses to the Server directly. If you had 50 licenses, it would reject the fifty-first user who tried to log in. This was ideal for some administrators who didn't want the burden of tracking which PCs had an all-important client license. Why do I say all-important? Keep reading!

Microsoft's pricing for NT Server 4.0 ( is a bit complicated. Here are the main points:

You can no longer buy a "naked" NT Server without client licenses. It comes with either five licenses for about $850 or 10 licenses for roughly $1,000. That's a minor price increase-no big deal, so far.

Upgrades from NT Server 3.51 cost about half the above prices. Since this is a major upgrade, that's not surprising and is still not a big deal.

As with NT Server 3.5 and 3.51, one client license is required for each user who connects to your server, and here's the catch: NT 3.51 client licenses are not valid for use with NT Server 4.0. They must be upgraded, at about $15 each.

That can be very costly. Here at WinMag, we've been running an NT 3.51 server experimentally for some time. We recently bought 50 client licenses for about $1,500. Upgrading that server to NT 4.0 will cost us about $450 on the back end and an additional $750 to upgrade the client licenses. It's not such a big pinch on the corporate purse, but if our network were larger-say, 1,000 users-we'd have to pay about $15,000 to upgrade all the clients. Ouch.

Microsoft justifies the client-license upgrade fee by stating that "NT Server 4.0 is a major upgrade." Excuse me, but isn't next year's Cairo (NT 5.0) going to be a major upgrade, too?

NTW 4.0: The fine print

There's better news on the desktop for most-but not all-of us. Upgrading from NT Workstation 3.51 to 4.0 will cost $150, about half the suggested retail price. Better still, if you've bought NT Workstation 3.51 since July 1, the upgrade is free (for more details, check

Now, for some very disturbing news. To steer customers to its higher margin NT Server, Microsoft is artificially limiting NT Workstation 4.0's appeal as a Web server. To that end, NT Workstation 4.0's license agreement restricts the product's use to 10 simultaneous inbound IP connections. Microsoft had planned to enforce this limitation with specialized code in NTW, but backed down after Web software makers complained. Still, NTW's license includes the 10-user IP restriction, and Microsoft won't service or support customers who don't honor the license agreement

What's a Webmaster to do? Microsoft wants you to use NT Server instead-and will let you upgrade from NT Workstation for about $450. If you really want (and need) NT Server, that's a pretty good deal. Then again, if you're satisfied with NT Workstation as your Web server platform, you can't be too happy with Microsoft's questionable licensing tactics.

To upgrade or not

Armed with these facts, it's time to make a choice:

Declining to upgrade doesn't mean you have to sit still: Most of NT Server 4.0's best features are Internet-related, so there's nothing to stop corporate IS shops from buying one copy, setting it to concurrent connection mode for the five or 10 licenses it comes with, and putting it on their LAN. Microsoft keeps pushing the notion of corporate intranets, so try it out that way. Then think about upgrading your file-and-print servers when Microsoft sweetens the deal.

Diskeeper De-Lite

Longtime readers of this column know that I've been a booster for Executive Software's Diskeeper, the only tool currently available to defragment NTFS disk partitions. The problem with Diskeeper is its high cost ($125 per workstation and $399 per server), but that's about to change.

By the time you read this column, a new version called Diskeeper Lite will be available for free download from Executive Software's Web site ( Unlike the standard edition, Diskeeper Lite is a single-pass defragmenter that has to be run manually, but it still gets the job done. I highly recommend checking it out. If you like it, you may consider buying the full version, which continuously defragments in the background.

Editor-at-Large John D. Ruley is WINDOWS Magazine's resident NT evangelist, and author of Networking Windows NT 4.0, (John Wiley & Sons, 1996). Contact John in the "Enterprise View" topic of the WINDOWS Magazine areas on America Online and CompuServe, or via his Web page at John Ruley's e-mail ID is:

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