Microsoft Corp. will debut Release Candidate 1 of its long-awaited Exchange 2003 messaging server software this week, with a renewed emphasis on migrating enterprises that remain entrenched in the 5.5 version of Exchange.
The new version, which will be launched at Microsofts Tech Ed conference in Dallas, will include new tools to ease migrations from Version 5.5, which was released in November 1997 and which more than 40 percent of Exchange shops still run.
Microsoft officials acknowledge that the required migration of Exchange directory services to the Windows Active Directory service has been a major factor in holding back upgrades to the current Exchange 2000 version. As such, many of the tools in Exchange 2003 focus on just that.
Active Directory Migration Tool 2.0 will help move users, computers and groups to Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Service. Another tool, Exchange Active Directory Connector, enables coexistence and replication between the Exchange 5.5 directory and Active Directory.
In addition to these, Exchange 2003 will include a set of analysis and reporting tools that give customers a picture of their 5.5 environment before they start their Exchange 2003 rollout.
For customers still on the fence about migrating, Microsoft is making available an ROI (return-on-investment) calculator developed by Nucleus Research Inc. that customers can use to figure the ROI, total cost of ownership, payback period and net present value of migrating to Exchange 2003.
But all these enticements may still not be enough.
Alan Koop, IS manager at Crofutt & Smith Moving and Storage Inc., said Active Directory migration was one of the main reasons his company isnt looking to move off Exchange 5.5.
Koop said hed like to upgrade to Exchange 2003 at some point but will watch how the migration process goes for other companies before he makes his decision. Meanwhile, he has other, more pressing IT needs to meet first, such as finding a third-party anti-spam and content filtering application and upgrading hardware.
"Being a smaller company with about 100 users spread over three locations, we really do not see the need for the [Exchange 2003] upgrade," said Koop, in Landing, N.J. "At this point in time, with money as tight as it is, I would rather spend my budget on upgrading or replacing hardware. I can get much more performance for the buck than I can get from a software upgrade."