Exchange Server is More Than Just E-mail

Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange Server is best known as an e-mail server, and a popular one at that. But it is more than e-mail that will drive the use of Exchange in the future.

The most recent version, Exchange Server 5.5, has been touted as one of the most enterprise-capable messaging, e-mail and calendar platforms available. Rich with Internet-standard services, Exchange Server supports MAPI as well as SMTP, POP3, IMAP4, LDAP and NNTP. It can connect with Lotus Notes, X.400, IBJ OfficeVision/VN and SNADS. It offers scalability, high-performance, reliability, security and it provides an extensible development platform.

The next version, Exchange 6.0, code-named Platinum, will focus on Internet protocols and standards to improve the messaging platform. It will also focus on improvements to reliability. "Our aim is to never lose a message and to never lose productivity due to downtime. Our goal is to provide a messaging system that is 99.99 percent reliable for every customer," says Stan Sorensen, product manager for Microsoft Exchange.

Platinum will improve full backup and recovery systems via some key architectural changes. To provide this level of functionality and reliability, Microsoft overcame one of Exchange Servers biggest, self-inflicted roadblocks: a 16 GB limitation on the size of the Exchange datastore.

Exchange Server 6.0 will support unlimited storage of data and messages, high availability and connection to legacy host-based solutions like IBM Corp.’s OfficeVision and SNADS. Customers can use the unlimited storage capacity to consolidate servers or to archive large amounts of data. Exchange Server Enterprise Edition also will support the clustering services supplied in Windows 2000 to reduce downtime and provide automatic failover support and high availability access to data.

With Platinum, servers and clients will use the Windows 2000 Active Directory for universal access to all user and configuration information. This directory integration will provide Exchange customers with greater scalability, enhanced security, and native LDAP 3.0 support, as well as single-point administration.

Microsoft’s fundamental design goal for Platinum is to provide seamless upgradability and interoperability with previous versions of Exchange server and Exchange clients. By unifying the underlying object classes and directory tree, Platinum will provide administrators of Exchange and Windows 2000 with a consistent administrative model. Additionally, with directory replication between the Active Directory and the Exchange Directory Service, recipient administrative functions for the entire Exchange organization can be performed through the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).

In addition to the e-mail capabilities associated with Exchange, the server provides a means for collaborative applications. A collaborative application runs across the network and makes it possible for individuals and teams to share information and work together on projects. Exchange and Outlook 2000 will make it easier for users to create collaborative applications that take advantage of Exchange’s existing messaging infrastructure with very low investments in programming. The most commonly deployed collaborative applications -- group scheduling, document routing, task management, electronic forms, real-time chat and simple workflow applications -- all require Exchange’s messaging infrastructure.

"Microsoft still has quite a bit of work to do in increasing the awareness of messaging and collaboration using Exchange Server," states Sorensen.

Exchange Server has grown to be a key building block in the Microsoft solutions toolkit and has become one of the dominant e-mail programs on the market.

According to Sorenson, Exchange Server will have another purpose as well. "Microsoft Exchange Server is the easiest path to upgrading an enterprise NT server network to Windows 2000 Active Directory."