Exchange SP 1: More Secure, Scalable

An upcoming service pack for Microsoft Corp.s Exchange Server 2000 will offer corporate IT managers new scalability and security features.

The added functionality in Exchange 2000 Service Pack 1, due by midyear, will enable IT managers to consolidate the messaging and groupware software onto fewer servers and give anti-virus software writers deeper access to Exchanges inner workings.

The service pack will add support for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, Microsoft officials said. This will aid large-enterprise customers by enabling Exchange 2000 to run on bigger, 32-processor servers, thus alleviating some of the management and scalability headaches of running the software on many smaller servers.

Computer hardware vendors Compaq Computer Corp. and Unisys Corp. are expected to bundle Exchange 2000 on their respective 32-processor servers and sell it as a hardware/software/professional services package to large enterprises.

Such bundles will be easier to install and promise a higher level of availability, officials said.

In light of a string of high-profile e-mail virus attacks on Exchanges messaging client, Outlook, Microsoft will add new security features to SP 1. Among the new features will be an update to an anti-virus API that will enable anti-virus software developers to access calls and check all incoming e-mail to make sure it is not interfering with the normal operation of the Exchange data store.

The updated anti-virus API was especially useful to 5,500 users at Oregon State Universitys College of Business, which deployed an early version of SP 1 last month. Previously, Exchange 2000 didnt scan streaming-media files, so viruses could sit in public folders of the Web store, said Greg Scott, IS manager for the college, in Corvallis.

"We were catching bugs on the way out but not on the way in," causing a barrage of e-mail messages with infections because the bug reads a users address book and sends copies to everyone in the address book, Scott said.

In addition, the service pack will offer tweaks to improve overall performance of Exchange 2000, according to officials.

Microsoft will release in a couple of weeks a Quick Fix Engineering package of bug fixes that bundles together all the bug fixes for Exchange 2000 that the company has released since October.

Chris Baker, an Exchange 2000 product manager at Microsoft, said sales of the messaging server have been encouraging but acknowledged it may take a while for Exchange 2000 to catch on because it requires an IT organization to first buy and install Windows 2000, then deploy Microsofts Active Directory technology.