Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server emerges

During the opening keynote of the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) ’99in early October, Microsoft Corp. revealed that the Exchange server formerly code-named Platinum is now called Exchange 2000 Server and the beta 3 version is now available.

Exchange 2000 Server features enhancements to messaging and collaboration platforms through integration with Active Directory and single-seat administration with the Microsoft Management Console, as well as an improved Outlook Web access client, a distributed architecture, and Web store collaboration, company officials said.

Expanding the idea of the server as a communications platform, Exchange 2000 Server will have built-in instant messaging and video, data, and audio conference capabilities. Exchange 2000 Server will also be “tightly coupled” with Windows 2000 and continue to take a seat at the forefront of Microsoft’s knowledge management strategy, which aims to provide information access and intelligent interfaces for users.

“We have designed the Exchange 2000 Server to scale to the tens of millions of users,” said Eric Lockard, general manager of the Exchange business unit. “This is essentially where we want to bring all the strengths [of Microsoft applications] and combine them with the strengths of the Web.”

According to Lockard, Active Directory replaces the Exchange directory and an Active Directory connect, or will allow administrators to populate Active Directory from Exchange 5.5, enabling a “jump-start” from existing Exchange technology. Active Directory will ship with Windows 2000 and Exchange 2000, Lockard said.

While Microsoft officials said Windows 2000 is still on track to ship before the end of 1999, Exchange 2000 is expected to be available in the first half of 2000.

Paul Gross, Microsoft’s vice-president of server applications explored several of Microsoft’s forays into the knowledge management aspects of Exchange at the keynote, including Web stores and mobility/wireless solutions.

Gross described Microsoft’s Web store as “deeply native Web and deeply Windows,” adding that the store will use XML to represent the objects.

“[The Web store] takes the messaging and collaboration engine of Exchange and combines it with file servers and Web servers,” Gross said. “The concept…is to combine all three of these technologies into one Web store.”

Another strong focus for Exchange’s future is mobile and wireless access, Gross said. He named e-mail as the “killer app” for wireless communication, especially as the number of digital handsets with wireless data and Internet access capabilities explodes.

Citing Microsoft’s acquisition of Sendit and a joint venture with Qualcomm, Gross demonstrated how a cell phone with a small browser can connect through a carrier to an Exchange server, allowing access to all Exchange contacts via the phone.

Gross also alluded to possible future applications, such as instant messaging and global positioning system (GPS) access over cell phones.

During the keynote, Lockard spoke briefly about Exchange 5.5 Service Pack 3, which includes updates to Exchange 5.5’s mailbox management and virus-checking interface and adds a GroupWise connector.

“This is the server pack we’ll be telling people to use to run with Windows 2000,” Lockard said.

The beta 3 version of Exchange 2000 was passed out to MEC attendants here and will be distributed at other MECs around the world to guarantee a wide range of beta users; the beta version can also be downloaded from Microsoft’s Web site.