In October 1999,
Microsoft hosted its Exchange Conference 99 (MEC 99) in Atlanta. Here, it introduced
Exchange 2000 Server Beta 3 to over 5,000. The European community was catered for one week
later at EuroMEC (European Microsoft Exchange Conference) in Hamburg. This most recent
edition of Exchange was designed to enhance the products scalability and messaging
capability. Once Windows 2000 is released, Microsoft will offer an Active Directory
Connector, which provides bi-directional replication of directory data between Exchange
5.X and the Active Directory for those migrating from 5.X to Exchange 2000.
Exchange Server is the fastest growing server application in Microsofts history,
having sold 34 million seats in the three years it has been on the market. Its latest
incarnation (formerly code-named Platinum), Exchange 2000, however, is not expected to
bolster this trend in the first instance. The main reason for this is that it is not
expected to ship until 90 to 120 days after Windows 2000, which currently makes it May or
June 2000. Another reason for hesitancy in uptake could be unfamiliarity with the Active
Directory, which is the user management and security engine for Exchange 2000. The
companies which cannot afford to wait until everyone else has taken new technology on
board are the systems integrators and consultancies installing and advising on the first
implementations. One such company is Technosys, a subsidiary of ITNET plc and a computer
services and systems integrator which focuses on leading edge and emerging technologies.
Technosys has implemented the first live Exchange 2000 Server installation in Europe.
Technosys is part of the US lead Joint Development Program (also known as the Early
Adopters program) and set up the project in order to test it on its own systems before
implementing it for one of its largest clients as Paul Turner, a technical consultant at
Technosys, explains: "We have set ourselves up as guinea pigs. We implemented
Platinum Beta 2 and now we have implemented Exchange 2000 Beta 3. We intend to use
Exchange 2000s enhanced features to improve functionality, first for us, then for
our clients." The company is also working on a joint project with a multinational
company that will eventually involve ten thousand users.
Technosys is now trying to encourage other companies to do the same and persuade those who
are reluctant to implement before the first service pack otherwise. "We are actively
marketing Exchange 2000 to companies via various mechanisms," says Turner, referring
to Microsoft TechNet briefings and other standard sales routes. He is confident of its
success: "It will make companies more competitive by giving the relevant information
to users more quickly so they can act on that information."
Turner sees the implementation as fairly straight forward and does not subscribe to the
idea that the company took a risk, as some of the more cautious might suggest. "The
actual implementation of an upgraded mail system is not that big a risk," he says.
"I suppose that it might be a risk for some, but our processes, and the planning that
weve done for Windows 2000 in particular, enabled us to reduce that risk to an
acceptable level." The implementation took place in two phases. For the first phase
Technosys was running a single NT 4.0 domain. For the Beta 2 implementation it put in a
separate Active Directory domain and then an Exchange 2000 server (see fig 1).
Two servers were required, one to run the Active Directory and the other for Exchange
2000. Phase two (see fig 2) is typical of what can be expected to
take place in most companies migrating from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000.
The delays to the release of Windows 2000 have had a knock on effect to the project as
Exchange 2000 is so dependent on the new operating system; some of Technosys
customers have had to implement Exchange 5.5 as a stepping stone. At Technosys own
site, installing Windows 2000 was a smooth process but at some sites it can be complicated
as Turner explains: "In the large client that we have been working with, the Windows
2000 domain design has taken a couple of months it can be affected by the existence
of other naming systems like NDS or DNS." He feels that it is best to involve the
techies (Unix people for the DNS and Novell people for the NDS), as well as looking at the
business side, in order to move all the naming conventions forward into the Active
Directory. "I think its best to have the Active Directory as the master,
although you can live with DNS on Unix being the master domain. In this case you would
need to have certain levels of security."
One of the big changes in Exchange 2000 is the Web Store which is designed for Web-based
messaging, information management and creates a development platform for collaboration,
along the same lines as Lotus Domino. Turner expects this to be extremely useful; the
implementation that he has set up is running two databases on the server. This means that
he can apply different quotas and back-up regimes. He can have people with 300 MB of
mailbox on one store and only 50 MB of mailbox on the other. "Also, we dont
have to do so much administration on particular users," he adds. "At the moment,
if our technical director wants 500 MB of mailbox, we then have to do something to him
individually and then everyone else gets what they are given. Whereas with multiple
databases, its a bit like NT 4.0 groups we put people into a particular
database or group for them to inherit all the properties of that database or group."
Exchange 2000 will also be able to allow users at remote sites to create mailboxes,
although they will not have administrative rights to the whole of the server. They will
not be able to alter any of the infrastructure details, such as site connectors that keep
the mail system working, as they will only have access to the details that they need to do
their job. This simplifies administration and will mean that larger organisations will
need fewer servers.
Strength in numbers
Technosys involvement with the Microsoft Joint Developer program has meant that it
has received help and support from Redmond. There are 25 companies worldwide on the
program and they work as a team, sharing collateral and experience with everyone else. For
any company installing it in a live implementation, there is a Microsoft support group
trained up on the latest software. Technosys has round-the-clock access to this group.
Turner believes that some people view Exchange 2000 as a straight replacement for Exchange
5.5, which or course it is, but it is now a product that goes beyond messaging. He
believes that "the biggest competitive efficiency advantages will be gained by those
companies who have legacy mail systems such as cc:Mail and MS Mail." Most
importantly, Turner feels that future developments, building on features such as Web
Store, can build up Knowledge Management and intranet-type systems which are currently two
of the ways forward for business.
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