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Microsoft shuffles deck on Exchange

By , Network World
October 14, 2002 12:02 AM ET

Network World - ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Two years ago, Microsoft stuffed a number of collaboration features in Exchange Server with great fanfare. Last week, the company started to tell network executives why it now plans to pluck them out.

At its annual Microsoft Exchange Conference, company executives delivered a clear message that real-time collaboration, most notably instant messaging and conferencing, belongs in the base operating system and not Exchange.

While network executives say they understand Microsoft's strategy, they aren't happy about the hoops they'll have to jump through to make the switch.

In the operating system, real-time collaboration features can be tightly integrated with the security and management infrastructure of the operating system, and made available to a broader range of end users and applications, such as line-of-business and productivity applications, Microsoft says. Also, developers can craft those applications without having to worry about the Exchange platform.

In addition, Microsoft unveiled a project code-named Jupiter - which combines BizTalk 2002, Commerce Server 2002 and Content Management Server 2002 - and is the company's first attempt to trim the bloat from its line of 13 .Net enterprise servers. It was Microsoft's first public nod that its .Net server line has become too complex of an integration story and needs to be downsized.

Taken together, the two developments highlight the company's ongoing attempt to define its convoluted .Net infrastructure, which will be its foundation for the next generation of distributed applications based on Web services technology.

Perhaps the biggest development at the conference was the first real details of a project code-named Greenwich, which will bring instant messaging, presence and conferencing to Windows .Net Server 2003, which is expected to ship early next year. Greenwich is slated to ship sometime before October 2003.

Greenwich is inheriting services that have been cut from the next version of Exchange, code-named Titanium, confirming that Exchange Server is on an evolutionary path away from providing a foundation for real-time collaboration and application development.

"Clearly what Microsoft is focused on is that Exchange is a scalable and secure e-mail platform," says Matt Cain, an analyst with Meta Group. "The notion that this is a collaboration and groupware platform has gone by the wayside."

That's much different than two years ago. Instant messaging and conferencing features, along with the Web Storage System data store and Local Web Storage System to support offline use of applications, were the highlights of the Exchange 2000 platform Microsoft touted for its maturity as a collaboration and application development platform.

Today, all that technology is being moved out of Exchange or killed and replaced with other technology, and Microsoft now is touting administration features, user interface improvements and mobility features for Titanium. Microsoft also is introducing an API called Exchange Server Objects that lets developers use Exchange's messaging transport, calendaring, tasks and contact lists in applications that don't have to run on Exchange. The API is a precursor to the type of programmatic access to Exchange that Microsoft ultimately hopes to deliver with Simple Object Access Protocol-based interfaces.

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