Microsoft maps Exchange’s future

The next version of Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange server software, code-named “Titanium,” is scheduled for availability in mid-2003 and will be released to hold customers over before shipping a future version of the software based on its .Net code, according to company executives.

Titanium will be based on the same code used for its predecessor, Exchange 2000, Microsoft’s messaging and collaboration server software. Titanium will not be part of Microsoft’s .Net portfolio, though it will support the technology Microsoft has developed for delivering applications and services over the Internet. A future release of Exchange, code-named “Kodiak” is the one that will be built on the .Net code base, according to Microsoft.

Kodiak is also expected to be the release that make use of unified data storage technology being developed for the next version of SQL Server, code-named “Yukon,” said Microsoft’s Jim Bernardo, a project manager with the .Net Enterprise Server team.

“Kodiak and Yukon really represent the next generation of what we’re doing,” Bernardo said. “The idea with Titanium is to address the issues our customers have with the current code base.”

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, will detail the software Monday at the company’s Fusion partner conference in Los Angeles.

New features in Titanium include better antivirus and junk mail protections; improved integration with Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail software; built-in support for third-party mobile devices, such as Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, and bolstered unified messaging features allowing users to work with voice mail, e-mail and faxes in one window, Bernardo said.

With Titanium’s release, Microsoft plans to discontinue development of its Mobile Information Server (MIS) software, Bernardo said. MIS is intended to securely link mobile devices such as cell phones and handhelds with corporate data and applications.

MIS’ functionality will be divided in three and “baked into” other Microsoft products, Bernardo said. Titanium will handle core mobile-device access functions, while MIS’ mobile applications development tools will be incorporated into the next version of Microsoft’s Visual Studio .Net. MIS’ security features will be transferred to Microsoft’s Security and Acceleration Server firewall software, he said.

“We won’t pull MIS off the market until we have our bases covered,” Bernardo said.

Titanium is scheduled to enter beta testing in the fourth quarter of this year. It’s final release is expected to ship around the time that Microsoft ships the next version of its Office software.

Microsoft’s time frame for delivering a .Net version of Exchange appears to be slipping. At the company’s MCE 2001 show in October, officials said a Yukon-linked .Net Exchange update would arrive in 2003. Now, Titanium is the Exchange update scheduled for a 2003 release, and Bernardo said Microsoft has no hard release dates yet for Kodiak and Yukon.

Meanwhile, IBM Corp. is promising a September release for new versions of its competing Lotus Notes and Domino software, and Oracle Corp. is readying its own collaboration software targeted directly at taking market share away from Microsoft’s Exchange. Now in beta testing, the Oracle Collaboration Suite will integrate with Microsoft’s Outlook, include standard messaging and collaboration tools such as calendar, e-mail, voice mail and workflow management features, and cost less than Exchange, according to Oracle.

“If Oracle is really serious about this offering, it could become a credible alternative to Lotus/Microsoft,” analyst David Ferris, of Ferris Research Inc., wrote in a research note. “If Oracle can deliver much better reliability and lower TCO (total cost of ownership), along with high Outlook fidelity and voice innovation, many businesses might be distracted from their current Exchange/Notes orientation.”