Security a priority in first Exchange 2000 service pack

An upcoming service pack for Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange Server 2000 will offer corporate IT managers new scalability and security features.

The upcoming service pack for Microsoft's Exchange Server 2000 will offer new scalability and security features, and has already gone through some testing at Oregan State University.

New functionality in Exchange 2000 Service Pack 1, due by mid-year, will give IT managers the opportunity to consolidate the messaging and groupware software onto fewer servers and give anti-virus software writers deeper access into Exchange's inner workings.

Specifically, the service pack will add support for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, said an official at Microsoft's headquarters here this week. That will aid large enterprise customers by enabling Exchange 2000 to run on larger, 32-processor servers, thus alleviating some of the management headaches and scalability limitations of running the software on many smaller servers.

It's expected that computer hardware vendors Compaq Computer Corp. and Unisys Corp. will bundle Exchange 2000 on their respective 32-processor servers and sell it as a hardware/software/professional services package to large enterprises. Such bundles will be easier to install and guarantee a higher level of uptime or availability, the Microsoft official said.

In light of a string of high-profile e-mail virus attacks on Outlook, the Exchange messaging client, Microsoft will add new security features to Service Pack 1. Specifically, it will include an update to an anti-virus API, which will enable anti-virus software developers to access calls and check all incoming e-mail to make sure it is not interfering with the normal operation of the Exchange data store.

In the field
The updated anti-virus API was especially useful to the 5,500 users of Oregon State University's College of Business, which deployed an early version of Service Pack 1 last month. Previously, Exchange 2000 didn't scan streaming media files, so viruses could sit in public folders of the Web store, said Greg Scott, IS manager for the College, in Corvallis.

"We were catching bugs on the way out but not on the way in," causing a barrage of e-mails because the bug reads a user's address book and sends copies to everyone in the address book, Scott explained.

In addition, the service pack will offer tweaks to improve overall performance of Exchange 2000, the Microsoft official said.

Microsoft will also release in a couple of weeks a QFE (Quick Fix Engineering) package of bug fixes that bundles together all of the bug fixes for Exchange 2000 that the company has released since October.

In the second half, Microsoft will roll out its Mobile Information Server, which will provide wireless access to Exchange 2000 as well as to other Microsoft Back Office servers. The Mobile Information Server, along with the Outlook Mobile Access client, will be delivered as an Enterprise edition for corporations and as a Carrier edition for telecommunications service providers.

Mobile users will be able to access Exchange through the Microsoft Outlook Mobile Manager.

Chris Baker, an Exchange 2000 product manager at Microsoft, said that sales of the messaging server have been encouraging but acknowledged that it may take a while for Exchange 2000 to catch on because it requires an IT organization to first buy and install Windows 2000 then deploy Microsoft's Active Directory technology.

Besides targeting its installed base of Exchange users, Microsoft is hoping to sell Exchange 2000 to current users of Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes and Domino messaging and groupware platform who are unhappy with Lotus' decision to end support of Version 4.6 and earlier of Notes and Domino.

That support will cease at the end of the year, according to Lotus officials in Cambridge, Mass.