MS unveils .Net strategy

Microsoft's latest version of Exchange, the launch of its .Net strategy and the release of its new Data Center program has kept Microsoft officials busy over the past few weeks, and has left the channel to ponder where the opportunities lie.

Microsoft last week launched a slew of new enterprise software under its .Net strategy designed to provide the "building blocks" for companies to e-enable their businesses. The company has also heralded its Data Center platform, targeting Unix domination at the high-end of the enterprise market.

To peg back market share of Unix-based servers, Microsoft has sidled up to a number of the big hardware vendors including Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM and Unisys in order to bundle its Data Center platform with their big server boxes such as Unisys' ES7000 server, which incidentally is being OEM'ed by Compaq and HP.

Tony Wilkinson, Windows Server product manager for Microsoft Australia, claims the strategy behind its .Net and Data Center initiative is to provide enterprises with "high availability", based largely on extensible markup language (XML).

The opportunity for resellers then, according to Wilkinson, is more Microsoft products to take to their customers. There is also the additional potential benefit that Exchange 2000 is built on top of Microsoft's Active Directory, so companies without Active Directory will need to upgrade to that first.

Microsoft is trying to rally its Exchange installed base, which it claims now stands at 58 million worldwide, to its vision of an Internet-based infrastructure that provides software services and data access to users, regardless of how they connect to the network. And after years of trying, it seems Microsoft has finally delivered a platform that IT shops can use to support and build collaborative applications.

At the Exchange Collaboration and Solutions Conference in the US recently, end users, analysts and independent software vendors said Exchange 2000 is ready to move beyond its e-mail roots.e-mail is the heart of Exchange, but the server's new Web Storage System (WSS), along with workflow, document management, conferencing, instant messaging, offline support and other features, have users mulling the possibilities.

To drive home the potential, a handful of Lotus business partners who had previously ignored Exchange are now reportedly developing applications for the platform.

Users attending the conference said they were excited about the possibilities Exchange 2000 promises, but said they were wary of the complex task of implementation.

According to Microsoft, some of Exchange's new features include: instant messaging that allows employees to see if their colleagues are online, conferencing features for multi-party voice, video and data conferences and Web access to Outlook e-mail accounts from any Internet-enabled PC.

Brekout Box

Microsoft's .Net servers

SQL Server 2000: Database and analysis offeringExchange 2000 Server: Messaging and collaboration application platformBizTalk Server 2000: Business process and Web services toolCommerce Server 2000: e-commerce building blockApplication Center 2000: Deployment and management tool for Web applicationsMobile Integration Server 2000: Integration platform for wireless devicesHost Integration Server 2000: Integration components for host systemsInternet Security and Acceleration Server 2000: Firewall and Web cache server.

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