Microsoft this week will finally ship Exchange Server 2000 and its companion Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server as it attempts to make collaboration technologies a core feature of its messaging platform.
To highlight the point, this year's annual conference has been renamed Microsoft Exchange and Collaboration Solutions 2000. It will take place this week in Dallas.
At the event, Microsoft will announce the general availability of Exchange 2000. The server, which requires Windows 2000 and Active Directory, was released to manufacturing almost a month ago. The centerpiece is the Web Storage System, a distributed repository for unstructured data that can be accessed through a variety of interfaces and protocols. Observers say it finally makes Exchange a platform for building collaborative applications much like Lotus Domino.
The other major announcement will be the release of Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server. The server provides data, audio and videoconferencing, and is a platform for application development. It was scheduled to ship midyear.
"We are using Conferencing Server for student help sessions," says Greg Scott, IS manager for Oregon State University College of Business. "It makes those sessions a lot more dynamic and a lot less place-based."
At the show, Microsoft also plans to announce its Local Web Storage System, a client-side file store that runs with the upcoming Office 10. The local storage will allow for replication and offline access to applications. Microsoft plans to ship it in the first half of next year, according to sources.
In addition, Microsoft will announce a midyear 2001 shipping date for its Office Designer Tool, a client-based application design environment that is much like Lotus' Notes Designer. The company also will announce Beta 2 of its Tahoe Server, a basic document management system, and its shipping date of midyear 2001.
All the pieces revolve around Exchange 2000 and add to the platform's maturity as a collaboration environment. Also swirling around the platform will be plenty of third-party applications.
To underscore Exchange's emergence as a development environment, one of the leading Lotus Business Partners plans to make its development tools available for Exchange.
IT Factory will announce ITF for Exchange, a set of reusable "objects" that provide core hooks to Exchange, such as access to Active Directory, for collaborative application developers. The product will ship in the first half of next year.
"Exchange used to be just a messaging platform, but with the Web Storage System it is clearly a development environment," says Lars Johansen, CEO of IT Factory.
Several vendors will announce applications that enhance Conferencing Server.
Ezenia will announce that its Encounter 3000 Conferencing Server supports Exchange 2000. The hardware-based server is for large companies and can support up to 64 users simultaneously. Also NetIQ will announce AppManager for Exchange Conferencing Server, which ships in November, and AppManager for Exchange 2000, which ships this month. Both are monitoring tools.
Wireless access to Exchange also will be a hot topic. Ultiverse will launch FreeVerse for Microsoft Exchange 2000, which provides Wireless Application Protocol-based wireless access to e-mail, voice mail, fax, and calendar and contact entries. The server supports a voice interface so users can verbally respond to e-mail.
In addition, Content Technologies will unveil MailPreserver, an archiving system for Exchange. The server lets users set policies on what messages to archive and unloads them onto a separate server that is searchable from Outlook or a Web browser.
MailPreserver will ship by year-end.
BindView will announce bv-Control for Exchange 1.5, which adds support for Exchange 2000. The configuration, security and administrative management tool adds on-demand reporting and built-in real-time monitoring. It is expected to ship by year-end.