NT 5.0 Gotchas!

Do you think Windows NT 5.0 will solve all your hardware troubles? Think again. I've identified some potentially nasty potholes in the road to NT 5.0.

Advanced Configuration and Power Interface
ACPI will be a prerequisite for fully functional power management under NT 5.0. However, managing PC power consumption is just one area in which ACPI will affect the new operating system (OS). ACPI also affects Plug and Play (PnP), and will be a requirement for advanced notebook PC functions.

Server administrators might need to gain detailed knowledge of ACPI. Microsoft has said that support for hot-pluggable PCI, which Intel has included in its forthcoming Xeon-based 4-way symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) platform, will hinge on ACPI. Now, server customers might need power management code just to leverage that new Xeon-based gigabox.

Win32 Driver Model or Bust
Microsoft is pushing hard for developers to support the Win32 Driver Model because NT 5.0's PnP support won't work without it. NT 5.0 will require new Win32 Driver Model-based device drivers to support legacy PnP devices and make PnP sing. Worse yet, non-PnP drivers (NT 5.0 will still work with legacy NT 3.x and NT 4.0 drivers) can cause problems. Try and hot dock a new ACPI-based notebook with a legacy SCSI driver and you'll see my point.

Just Deschutes Me
If you want to get the most from NT 5.0's more robust I/O support, you'll want one of the new Deschutes-based Pentium II boxes with the 100MHz system bus. Simply put, the current 66MHz system bus barely keeps up with the demands of today's high-performance multimedia applications. The new high-end Deschutes Pentium II processor won't speed up the current PCI peripheral bus (a task Intel has deferred for now), but the improved performance between CPU and system RAM will let your PC process data from advanced I/O devices (i.e., IEEE-1394 devices) more quickly. Anything less, and you might find that your applications have become CPU bound.

You can run NT 5.0 without ACPI, Win32 Driver Model-supported devices, and a current Pentium II box, but the less money you put into hardware, the less benefit you'll reap from NT. And that's the biggest gotcha of all.

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