Microsoft clarifies Exchange migration path

IT Forum: Contrary to some reports, the next version of Exchange, code-named Titanium, will run on Windows 2000 - but some features do need .Net Server

Microsoft's next version of Exchange has been criticised in some quarters for tying users to .Net Server. In some cases, this has created the idea that it will not run at all on Windows 2000, but this is not true, said Microsoft at its IT Forum enterprise event in Copenhagen on Tuesday.

"Do you think Microsoft would launch a product you could not upgrade to?" said a consultant at the conference.

Confusion has arisen because the current version of the email server, Exchange 2000, will not run on the next operating system version, Windows .Net Server, suggesting that perhaps users cannot upgrade to .Net Server until Titanium ships in the middle of 2003.

In fact, the first servers to be upgraded to .Net Server should be those acting as Active Directory domain controllers, which will give the improvements to other servers on the networks. Exchange servers should not also be domain controllers, so there would be no value in upgrading them to .Net Server -- and in any case it would stop Exchange 2000 from working, said the consultant: "Titanium and .Net Server are totally separate upgrade issues," he said.

When Titanium is available, users will be able to upgrade to it, with or without putting .Net Server on, said Chris Baker, group product manager of the Exchange server business group at Microsoft. However, many of the new Titanium features will not work without .Net Server and Active Directory, he admitted.

"You must upgrade to Titanium first, then .Net Server on your Exchange servers," said Baker. Users with Exchange 5.5 will be advised to upgrade using a "swing server", a .Net Server and Titanium machine that acts as a temporary host for all the mailboxes, while the original server is reconfigured and upgraded.

Small businesses are the only ones currently running a domain controller and an Exchange server on the same machine -- they should wait on .Net Server until Titanium is released, and then upgrade both at once. Microsoft is expected to produce a single product which carries out both upgrades at once for this case.

The benefits of Titanium include faster synchronisation. "We have compressed traffic by up to 70 percent, and cut the bytes on the wire by 50 percent," said Baker. There is also a "cached mode", which smoothes out differences in bandwidth -- so dial-up users can operate successfully. Other new features include anti-spam tools and better security.

If run on .Net Server, Titanium will support more users on a given server -- Baker said that Microsoft had reduced from 35 mail servers under Exchange 5.5, to 10 under Exchange 2000, with each server now supporting 3500 mailboxes. Now with Titanium, that is being increased to 5000, as multiple sites are supported by a single Exchange server. Microsoft now only has 19 Exchange servers internally, he said.

Although still about two months away from a public beta for Titanium (Baker said to expect it in 60 days), Microsoft is already talking about features beyond that. XSO will expose Exchange programming interfaces in the .Net namespace, as part of the .Net Studio environment on Exchange.

"They are not actually Web services, but they will be used to build Web services," said Baker. E-commerce sites will use them to send emails to users and put events in their diaries. XSO should be a beta round about when Titanium is a product, said Baker.

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