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No bling in store for Microsoft Exchange

E12. The working name for the next version of Exchange Server says it all. Microsoft this week described an update to its messaging server software that is functional, not flashy.

Customers will probably be relieved that Exchange's basic architecture will remain in place, including

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the Jet data store, because that means they won't face related IT projects like a database migration. In a briefing this week, Microsoft corporate vice president David Thompson said Jet gets refreshed every time Exchange is updated, and the same will be true for E12.

He also downplayed earlier discussions by Microsoft about a move to a SQL Server-based data store for Exchange, which went by the boards when Microsoft killed off Kodiak. "Honestly, [the data store] is not a big deal to end users of these systems."

Speaking of Kodiak, Thompson argued that the ill-fated next generation of Exchange was "a project, never actually a product release plan." That may come as a bit of a surprise to those who followed Microsoft's many public pronouncements on Kodiak. However, since the start of that effort predated Thompson's tenure as head of the Exchange product group, one could fairly assume that he wanted to put his imprimatur on Exchange, and Kodiak was not what he had in mind. Here's what the official line was when Thompson met with a group of editors this week: "As we listened to our customers, we adjusted our plans [for Exchange]."

So, now the Exchange road map looks like this:

  • In the first quarter of this year, Microsoft plans to release tools via the Web that will help companies analyze public folder usage and determine storage sizing requirements. The software company also plans to update its Best Practices Analyzer Tool and integrate it with Microsoft Operations Manager 2005.
  • In the second half of this year, Microsoft expects to release Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, with enhanced mobile device support, as well as antispam improvements through its Sender ID technology.
  • E12 -- presumably with a new name -- will likely make its debut sometime in the latter half of 2006. Kim Akers, senior director for the Exchange product group, said the platform generally gets refreshed every three to four years, "and we're right on track with that [time frame]." In addition to the update of the Jet database, Microsoft will provide database replication functionality, tools for regulatory compliance and for integrating e-mail and voice mail, and it will release new Web services APIs. E12 will also include support for 64-bit computing, because customers say they want it and simply because "the industry is going to 64 bits," Thompson said.

If you're left wondering if there will be any detours with this new Exchange road map, Thompson said the plans for this product are "mature," and that's why he and his team are now hitting the media/analyst circuit to talk about it. But, he cautioned, "Like anything else, it can change."

Elsewhere in the news …

Be on the lookout for a new security update from Microsoft to prevent attacks that involve the enumeration of e-mail addresses. The vulnerability affects Exchange Server 2003. … This week, Microsoft announced the 2005 class of Most Valuable Professionals. There are about 2,600 MVPs worldwide. An MVP summit is planned for late September in Redmond, as well as events in Prague and in Asia, although the tsunami tragedy has affected planning there. … If you hoped to become part of Microsoft's newly announced Security Update Validation Program to test its monthly patches, forget about it. Redmond says it has all the customer-volunteers it needs, thank you very much. … Linux boosters go wild when their FUD radar is set off, and no more so than last year when Linux was accused of violating several Microsoft patents. This week, it was reported that a consortium will be launched next week to rewrite the Linux kernel so that it sidesteps those intellectual property issues. But that also begs the question: If that was just fear, uncertainty and doubt being sown by Microsoft, why rewrite the code? … A little good news: International Data Corp. says corporate PC-replacement programs helped boost overall sales of PCs by nearly 15% last year, an indicator that better times are ahead for IT -- and everyone else. … Shameless plug: recently announced the winners of its annual Windows Products of the Year. More than 100 products were evaluated in five categories.

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