Windows 2000 Server: Microsoft's best NOS ever?

Windows 2000 Professional may have been Microsoft's best desktop OS, but what about Windows 2000 Server? Was Win2K Pro's big brother best of breed as well? John Sheesley says No and points out why these may be the good old days.

When I asked if Windows 2000 Professional was Microsoft's best desktop OS ever, I went with the premise that, in fact, Windows 2000 Pro probably represented the high-water mark as far as Microsoft-created desktop OSes go. A lot of TechRepublic members seemed to agree. Almost all of the 60 comments on the blog entry echoed my sentiments.

But, that naturally raises the question - What about Windows 2000 Server? Was Windows 2000 Server the best network operating system Microsoft ever created the same way Windows 2000 Professional was the best of its breed?

In this case, I'd have to say No.

While Windows 2000 Server represented an incremental improvement over Windows NT Server, I wouldn't make the blanket statement that it was the best Microsoft NOS ever. As a matter of fact, the original post that lead to the discussion about Windows 2000 Professional was whether or not Windows 98 was a good option for older machines. I'm not even sure that Windows 2000 Server is a good option there either. Windows NT Server still might be a decent enough option on old equipment.

Why isn't Windows 2000 Server the best NOS Microsoft ever made?

First of all, Windows Server 2003, especially R2, is actually a pretty decent network OS. Microsoft has gone a long way to improving the speed, security, reliability, and ease of use of the OS. It ironed out a lot of the problems with Windows 2000 Server and added much needed features.

Secondly, I don't think Windows 2000 Server merits a "Best Of" category because maybe Microsoft rushed it to market. It was stable enough, but I think some of the 'new' features it offered were only half-baked. By 1998, Microsoft was under a huge amount of pressure to ship "Windows NT 5.0" and in the process tossed a lot of features overboard and didn't complete many of the ones it did include.

Take Active Directory for example. By the end of the 20th Century, about the major technical advantage (from a marketing perspective) that Novell could use against Windows NT was the fact that NetWare had a directory, and NT didn't. Novell was even making quite a bit of money by selling software that would integrate an NT domain into an NDS directory tree. Microsoft took the Exhange database engine, tweaked it some, and created Active Directory. The only problem was AD for Windows 2000 left a lot to be desired. The replication inefficient. The Global Catalog as designed in Windows 2000 created a single point of failure. You couldn't federate AD forests and trees. On and on.

Beyond AD, there were other half-baked issues in Windows 2000 Servers such as Group Policy management. IIS 5.0 also left a lot to be desired. Windows Server 2003 cleared up quite a bit of these.

It took Microsoft 20 years to create a 'good' NOS in Windows Server 2003. This is one of those cases where the "Good Old Days" might be today.