Redmond rushing to finish Exchange 2003

Now that Windows Server 2003 has left the nest, Microsoft is rushing to get Exchange 2003 out the door. Users are hoping the release candidate will shed some much-needed light on the platform.

Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 is barely out of the chute, and already the company has turned its attention to its next major product release, which is set for fall.

Microsoft hosted up to 600 partners and analysts last week at Exchange 2003 Partner Airlift, which included three days of technical briefings and hands on labs with Exchange 2003, formerly known by the code-name Titanium.

Lee Benjamin, chairman of the Exchange User Group in Boston, said that the purpose of the Redmond event was to bring partners up to date in advance of the product's release.

Sources said that Microsoft is rushing to prepare the first release candidate for Exchange 2003 for TechEd in early June. Microsoft declined to confirm the tip. TechEd is now merged with MEC [Microsoft Exchange Conference], which was a separate event last year.

This next version of Microsoft's messaging platform features integrated mobility including support for a number of mobile devices. The Outlook Web Access client is also enhanced. There is also better integration with Windows Server 2003, and some new anti-spam capabilities.

Some customers who're awaiting the release candidate code for Exchange 2003 said that they are still in the dark as to how Microsoft will license the instant messaging services -- services that have been free but will not be part of the new server.

As part of an overall shift in how it arranges collaboration across its platforms, Microsoft has pulled the IM functions out of Exchange and created Real-Time Communication Server 2003, a collaborative server that is shipping separately later this year.

Customers are still fuzzy on how this split will play out in terms of licensing. Scott Hill, director of partner solutions at Delta Solutions, a Houston integrator, said that his customers are starting to ask about Exchange 2003 and how the migration would occur.

"Customers with IM who upgrade to Exchange 2003 want to know if they have to remove the messaging system to upgrade, and if they want to use IM, what will happen?" Hill said.

"Will they have to pay for something they used to get for free?"

Microsoft didn't discuss licensing specifically, but Bodgan Pintea, program manager for real-time messaging at Microsoft told the partners that the Real-Time Communication server requires a server license and a Client Access License (CAL). But if a customer already has Exchange 2000, and therefore IM or Exchange Conferencing Server, those licenses will roll forward.

Pintea said that factors like Software Assurance and other enterprise agreements naturally will impact what a user pays. "Most companies purchase Exchange and Office and Windows in one bundle, and if that's the case, we will honor that contract," he said.

"Even if a user buys Exchange 2000 now and has a three-year license, they can have an RTC CAL," he added.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Interview: Microsoft talks Exchange Server upgrade and deployment options

Planning your Exchange 2003 deployment -- LIVE with Microsoft's Steve Conn -- Thursday, May 22, 2003, 2:00 PM EDT. Join us!

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