Sam Blunk is manager of information systems and services NT server engineering. Here's what he had to say about TI's NT deployment.

What did you like about the project's implementation?

Through a combination of several factors including hardware platform, setup, maintenance schedules, and monitoring, NT Server has gone far beyond our previous server platform in its reliability (99.5 percent 24 X 7 in North Texas, or 4.4 Sigma from Motorola's Six Sigma quality methodology), large-scale integration, and position as a foundation for future Microsoft product offerings.

What didn't you like about the project's implementation?

NT's domain model does not adequately support TI's distributed administration environment in which each major site has its own Help desk and IS administrative staff. Many of the difficulties we experienced with our NT deployment such as granting resource domain administrators adequate rights in the master domain to change their own users's passwords come from this one point.

What would you do differently on the project?

We would be better prepared for the increase in support costs. Unlike in the mainframe environment, with NT support personnel costs are much higher. Instead of three or four mainframe images, you have literally hundreds of miniature mainframes, each with hundreds of failure points. This increase affects all support areas, including

  • operations and problem management (hundreds of servers that can fail, and tape backups can't keep pace with explosive disk growth)
  • configuration management (hundreds of servers that need fixes and upgrades and must be tracked)
  • capacity planning (disk management and data moving tools are inadequate)

Automation is critical to keep support costs down, and administration tools such as Mission Critical Software's Enterprise Administrator, Executive Software's DisKeeper, and New Technology Partner's Quota Manager have only recently become available or usable in a large environment. Management tools for the whole environment are few or nonexistent.

What advice can you give your peers?

Don't rush through your planning phase, regardless of how impatient your customers are. Seemingly minor decisions can affect your NT network. For example, the percentage of domain controllers vs. domain servers in your design will greatly increase the number of trust sessions and amount of account database replication. You need to consider factors such as physical location and network subnetting (present or planned) in the site. Design with an eye toward NT 5.0.