By now you have probably heard reports that Windows Vista may slow down Internet traffic (Will Vista stall Net traffic?). Microsoft doomsayers (of which I'll admit, I used to be one) will tell you that the latest OS out of Redmond will doom the Internet to miserable congestion and send us back to the dark ages of dial-up-esque bandwidth. Even Microsoft concedes that Vista will require some extra bandwidth, although they maintain that real-world performance will be a non-issue.
The controversy comes from Vista's new support for IP Version 6. While support for this new technology (providing a vastly increased IP pool across the Net) is a good thing, the lack of widespread support for IPV6 means that Vista must also support the legacy IP Version 4. As a result, Vista will basically double the number of DNS (Domain Name System) queries on the Internet (and/or your network) as it attempts to determine which addressing scheme to use.
While most experts expect some moderate transitional issues, most have come out on Microsoft's side. As the article referenced above notes, however, Paul Mockapetris (who created DNS in the first place and is probably in a position to speak intelligently on the subject), expects Vista to cause Internet brownouts due to the increased DNS traffic.
Whatever the actual outcome, we can all agree that there will be some impact. Business and ISPs with considerable resources, redundancy, and DNS processing power should come out relatively unscathed. But what about Ed Tech systems, especially in K-12? Quite frankly, my servers that currently handle DNS are sweating as more and more clients and nodes come online. Even some colleges and universities, where record numbers of students expect to be connected to the campus network are feeling the strain.
Which brings us to the whole point of this blog (took me long enough, didn't it?). Should schools with already overtaxed IP infrastructures be early adopters of Vista? Marc Wagner and I have maintained for some time that none of us should be early adopters anyway, opting instead to stick with XP for the foreseeable future, even during routine tech refreshes. However, if we needed another reason to hold off, here it is.
As always, the DNS-related problems that Vista may cause can certainly be solved (or at least mitigated) by throwing more money at infrastructure. However, for systems struggling to just meet maintenance needs, let alone lifecycle funding needs, these extra dollars probably aren't available. While early looks at Vista sure are pretty (if your computer can handle the graphics processing), I have yet to see any compelling reason to switch soon. In fact, I see yet another reason to hold off for a good long while, rolling out a few champion users along the way to assess the real-world impact of Vista on your systems.