Exchange upgrade adds polish, not universal data store

Microsoft Corp. said Monday that the next release of its Exchange server will ship in the middle of next year and will be a fit-and-finish upgrade of Exchange 2000 that will not incorporate the company’s emerging next-generation universal data store.

The announcement, made by CEO Steve Ballmer at the company’s annual Fusion conference for business partners, is a hint that Microsoft is not as far along as it had hoped in creating a universal data store code-named “Yukon” and expected to ship in SQL Server 2003. Eventually, Yukon will become the foundation of a universal data store for the Windows platform of backend servers.

The news may come as a welcome yet temporary reprieve for network executives who were faced with the task of rewriting Exchange applications to work against Yukon, which will eventually replace Exchange 2000’s Web Store. That work will be pushed out a few years, but questions remain about developing applications on Exchange now and how difficult they will be to migrate to Yukon.

“We need more time to re-architect the product,” says Chris Baker, the lead product manager for Exchange. “For now, instead of adding features and functionality in a service pack, we are providing more periodic updates.”

With a code name of “Titanium,” the next edition of Exchange will focus on polishing the user interface, integrating mobile support, aligning with real-time collaboration features being added to the Windows operating system and refining administrative controls.

Many network executives and experts alike believed that a version of Exchange currently under development code-named “Kodiak,” which incorporates Yukon, would be the next release of Exchange. The Yukon technology is key to Microsoft’s Web services strategy, and having Exchange in the fold is important for making available the collaboration data that the server holds.

Microsoft’s Baker says Titanium will begin to support corporate Web services development through the use of Collaborative Data Objects (CDO) and Active Data Objects (ADO) interfaces, but says the full Web services version of Exchange will be Kodiak with its Yukon data store.

Yukon allows for the storage of structured and unstructured data that can be accessed through a variety of devices and protocols.

Experts say it opens up all sorts of possibilities for network executives to create data-driven applications and get control of exploding repositories of information.

But it appears Kodiak will not ship until sometime in 2005 at the earliest, according to observers.

In the interim, Titanium will provide a new vertical three-pane user interface that cuts the screen into three columns, which Microsoft claims will make it easier to manage e-mail. Titanium also will include the former Mobile Information Server 2002, which supports mobile clients. The technology will automatically update the schema in Active Directory to support mobile access to Exchange.

Microsoft also plans to continue its push to make its Outlook Web Access client more like the desktop version of Outlook.

Exchange’s collaboration services also will be aligned with Share Point Team Services and support for the Session Initiation Protocol that will be baked into Windows.Net Server, expected to finally ship by year-end after two conspicuous delays.

On the administrative side, Microsoft is adding a backup feature called Volume Shadow Copy, which creates a backup on disk. Exchange Server also will benefit from the eight-node clustering supported in Windows.Net Server.

On the security side, Microsoft is enhancing its content-blocking and virus-scanning application programming interface.