Microsoft, Partners Unveil Exchange 2000 Plans

At the Microsoft Exchange Conference in Atlanta this month, Microsoft Corp. announced that the next generation of Exchange, code-named Platinum, is now in the third phase of beta testing. The company also revealed that the product has been officially named Exchange Server 2000. At the same time, industry partners announced management tools to help migration to the messaging platform.

As the first product to include Microsoft's Web Store technology, Exchange 2000 will provide a single point of management and collaboration for the knowledge stored in company e-mail, documents, Web pages and business applications.

The third beta establishes a foundation for new forms of collaboration, such as real-time data conferencing and instant messaging, giving employees the ability to access and share information.

Exchange 2000 is integrated with Active Directory, Microsoft Management Console and Windows 2000 security, all of which enable secure, single-seat management of network and messaging resources.

In addition to new server-side features, Exchange 2000 is more tightly intertwined with Office 2000, specifically the Outlook 2000 e-mail client. The integration with Office 2000 was achieved primarily through saving with Save/Read capability using native dialog boxes for a centralized work environment.

Exchange 2000 also supports Outlook 2000’s Team Folder wizard and provides access to shared information -- such as Outlook 2000 contact lists or calendars -- published in public folders. Conference Management Services provide administration services for conferencing software, including third-party vendor software.

Exchange 2000 Beta 3 is a free download that is available via the Microsoft Web site. Exchange 2000 Beta 3 also will be available through TechNet and the Microsoft Technical Beta program.

According to official statements, Microsoft is positioning the new Exchange within the context of the company’s broader knowledge management strategy. "Exchange 2000 is a cornerstone in Microsoft's knowledge management platform, providing messaging and collaboration services for accessing and sharing information across an enterprise and its key constituencies," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the business productivity group at Microsoft.

Also at the Atlanta conference were third-party vendors who released management products for Microsoft Exchange. MessageWise Inc. (www.messagewise.com) announced an Exchange 2000 and Windows 2000 readiness program. The program helps administrators gather a complete inventory of an organization's internal Windows NT and Exchange network infrastructure. Detailed reports are created describing enterprise readiness for upgrade to Exchange 2000 and Windows 2000 including Active Directory.

"Today, the only way to do this is to do it manually, which takes a lot of resources and time, and the report is out of date as soon as it's created," says Steve Dennison, co-founder and vice president of business development at MessageWise. "The program will provide the admin group with an accurate, continuously updated snapshot of how every server is configured and what needs to be done to bring every server up to Windows 2000 and Exchange 2000 readiness in terms of hot fixes and release levels."

MessageWise makes use of its InLook "touchless" configuration management tool, which is now in version 2.0. Unlike management consoles from Tivoli, Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard and NetIQ, InLook requires no software to be placed on the distributed servers. Dennison concedes that there is a definite trade-off, but likens InLook as the suspenders of the network where traditional consoles are the belts.

Another Exchange management tool announced at the conference was the OnePoint Exchange ActiveKnowledge Module from Mission Critical Software Inc. (MCS, www.missioncritical.com). The new module provides real-time problem detection, automated problem resolution and a knowledge base for operations management. Combined with the OnePoint suite, the ActiveKnowledge module helps with the migration from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000 Server by unifying the administration of the Exchange directory with the Windows NT 4.0 security account manager (SAM).

The OnePoint suite will also help Exchange customers audit current usage, clean and align distribution lists with the SAM, model and merge organizational unit structures and migrate data and domains to Active Directory and Exchange 2000 Server.

Microsoft also announced at the conference that a new study conducted by the Radicati Group Inc. (www.radicati.com) reveals Exchange Server 5.5 has the largest installed base of corporate e-mail systems among U.S. Fortune 1,000 companies. According to the survey, 44 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies that responded indicated that they had standardized on Exchange. Lotus Notes/Domino accounted for 29 percent of standardized shops, with Novell GroupWise listed as the primary messaging system of 6 percent. Microsoft was a partial sponsor of the survey.