The next major upgrade of Microsoft Corp.s Exchange messaging server will feature integrated mobile support and an improved Outlook client, officials announced last week.
Code-named Titanium, the server upgrade is due in the middle of next year and will include Microsofts Mobile Information Server, or MIS, integrated at the server level to provide mobile messaging capabilities. Exchange and MIS will share the server and the same set of schema updates, said officials in Redmond, Wash. MIS is now a separate product that requires integration.
On the client side, Titanium will be rolled out with Outlook 11, which will feature an updated user interface that can be divided into three vertical columns, similar to a newspaper layout, officials said. Those columns will display, left to right, the list of folders, the in-box and the preview pane.
Despite the improvements, some Exchange administrators dont expect the upgrade to be much of a leap over the Exchange 2000 server.
Keith Glass, an IT consultant in Manassas, Va., who is running Version 5.5 of Exchange at a client site, said Titanium could be a good upgrade from 5.5, as long as the migration tools are there, but said a migration from Exchange 2000 would give "less value."
"The incremental costs for microincrements of improved performance get to be irritating. This is especially irritating with Microsoft," said Glass. "Id really love to see software companies slow the market cycle down a bit and deliver good, solid software and incremental upgrades."
Titanium will also include features to ease the merging of Active Directories from separate Exchange servers, which would be particularly useful for companies in post-merger system integrations; support for faster backup of mailboxes to disk; and capabilities to hold more mailboxes per server.
"The ability to back up a database in seconds, compared to the hour or more for our current backup solution, will have two immediate advantages," said Exchange user J.J. Seely, systems engineer at the Oregon State University College of Business, in Corvallis. "One: There will be virtually no downtime for the Exchange database and no impact on the end user. Two: We will be able to do multiple backups per day, which will greatly help with data recovery."
One feature that Titanium will not include is Exchange IM, the instant messaging service now available in Exchange. A separate Microsoft product group is developing a new IM application that will replace Exchange IM, said Exchange group officials. The new application will be based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), the same technology used in Microsofts Windows Messenger service.
The branding and packaging for the new IM service has not yet been disclosed, although Microsoft officials said it will not be bundled with Titanium.
The state of Oregons Department of Environmental Quality uses the IM client in Exchange 2000 within its IT support staff now, according to Patrick Irvine, e-mail systems administrator at the department. Irvine said Exchange IMs features are too limited now for a broader rollout, although he conceded IM is a "very low priority at this point" for his department.
"So far, IM seems to be a great tool," said Irvine, in Portland. "But I am very curious about what a SIP solution has to offer."