Perhaps your organization has decided to migrate to Windows 2000 (Win2K), or you're contemplating the idea and you want to know what you're getting in to. Conceivably, you're simply curious as to what migrating entails. Whatever the case may be, I hope to provide you with some answers in this weekly column to help you get ready for Win2K.
Migrating to Win2K is relatively simple for small businesses with one domain, a few servers, and a handful of employees. Generally, small organizations don't face the same problems of network bandwidth, name resolution, replication, and software deployment that large corporations encounter. However, if you're responsible for planning and implementing a large-scale migration to Win2K within your organization, you probably get a headache just thinking about it. To ease your pain, I'll give you some tips that can smooth the migration, making it less painful. Notice I didn’t say painless; I said less painful. Frankly, no matter how you look at it, the process of migrating to a new OS is a challenge. Large enterprises can make the daunting task of migration far easier by evaluating the current situation, positioning their network for an upgrade, and then migrating to the new Win2K environment. Needless to say, large-scale migrations require some serious planning. Because the planning phase is so crucial to migration, I'll use this column to focus on various aspects of planning in the coming weeks.
The Three-Phase Approach
I recommend using a three-phase approach to migration. The three phases are preplanning, planning, and implementation. You might argue that the preplanning phase is really a preparation phase and that the planning phase is really the design phase. Regardless of what you call these phases, you need to follow a systematic approach to migration. Let’s take a closer look at each phase.
Phase 1. Phase 1 involves preparing your current network for migration. In this pre-planning phase, you need to perform a detailed evaluation and analyses of your current network, so you know what to expect. Phase 1 will ensure that your network is ready for an efficient upgrade. At this stage, you need to train those individuals responsible for the migration to ensure they understand Active Directory (AD), Domain Name System (DNS), TCP/IP, and the like. Proper training is extremely crucial for network architects and other support staff. However, training alone, is not enough. You must provide practical hands-on experience to go along with the training. I suggest you set up a lab environment and simulate a Win2K-based network to get familiar with the ins and outs. The training and hands-on experience will continue well into phase 2. However, if you don’t understand AD and other Win2K concepts at this stage, you won’t be able to properly position your network for migration.
Phase 2. Phase 2 involves designing your new Win2K infrastructure based on the information you gathered in phase 1. During this phase, you will plan for your AD domain structure, sites, trees, forests, schema, organizational units (OUs), replication, group policies, etc. Besides AD, you'll be planning for several other parameters, including security, network services, software deployment, and DNS. I'll cover these and other topics in future columns.
Designing an infrastructure for a large corporation typically involves a team of experts. Each group of experts can work on their area of expertise, but someone has to be responsible for the big picture. This someone can be an individual, or most likely another group. Among other things, during phase 2 you'll need to look at the hardware requirements for your Win2K servers. This is one area that might surprise a lot of people. Most people look at Microsoft’s minimum requirements for Win2K and think that they're not too bad. Although many will say, "We can handle that," they're really just scratching the surface. I'll have a lot to say about Win2K hardware requirements in coming weeks.
Phase 3. Phase 3 is the implementation phase. This is where you'll perform the actual migration. During this final phase, you'll be upgrading your existing servers to Win2K and AD, based on your design in phase 2. You will create domains, trees, and forests; upgrade your clients; and install and configure network services. Orchestrating the implementation phase has to be a real team effort.
Most organizations that I've spoken to don't plan to migrate right after Microsoft releases Win2K, and who can blame them. Several large corporations that have decided to migrate to Win2K plan to do so in coming years. To get ready, these organizations have already been testing Win2K and sending their employees to training during the past year. This early preparation gives them a head start. They also feel that it gives them a bit of breathing room while they tackle the Year 2000 (Y2K) issues. If you are contemplating migration down the road, it is imperative that you start planning now.
Although I can’t specify all the possible migration areas that you need to consider during each of these various phases, I hope to give you a glimpse of the task that lies ahead. Please join me in coming weeks as we take a closer look at the challenging task of migrating to Win2K.