Microsoft Gets Security Message

Beta shows Exchange Server 2003 will be worthy upgrade, won't cause platform switches.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Beta 2, the first public beta release of Microsoft Corp.s enterprise messaging platform, shows incremental, but useful, improvements over its predecessor, Exchange 2000.

Exchange 2000 introduced AD (Active Directory), which requires customers upgrading from 5.5 to 2000 to change their entire messaging architecture. Exchange Server 2003 also uses AD, so a migration from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange Server 2003 would be just as challenging, but there are no drastic implementation changes for sites moving from Exchange 2000 to the next version.

Although this releases security and usability improvements will probably make it a welcome upgrade for Exchange shops, there are no earth-shattering changes to compel IT managers on other enterprise platforms, such as IBMs Lotus Software divisions Domino and Novell Inc.s GroupWise, to scrap their current infrastructures. Nevertheless, the relatively small changes should be a relief to most Microsoft sites, many of which are grappling with difficult migrations to Windows 2000, Active Directories and Exchange.

In eWeek Labs tests of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Beta 2, due for release by midyear, we saw basic improvements that indicate Microsoft is heeding customers demands to improve the security and scalability of Exchange.

A major (and welcome) omission in this version of Exchange is the somewhat arcane M: drive, which enabled users to get file system access to the Exchange Message store. Although the M: drive was useful for allowing IT managers to use Exchange servers as file repositories, it made Exchange 2000 vulnerable to mail store corruptions and could become much more trouble than it was worth.

Real-time collaboration features, which were available using Exchange Conferencing Server, also are not included in Exchange Server 2003. These capabilities will be included in Microsofts upcoming collaboration and real-time communications server, code-named Greenwich. The Greenwich server will likely be a better place for these capabilities because it will enable IT managers to provide an e-mail-only solution when necessary and then custom-build collaboration systems at a later date.