As expected, messaging administrators who use Exchange Server got a pre-holiday surprise, as Microsoft quietly tweaked its messaging roadmap.
Microsoft confirmed this week that its only major product release expected to come from the Exchange Server
team in 2005, Exchange Edge Services, was pushed out beyond 2005, and its role expanded to include more message policy features. There will be no standalone version of Exchange Edge Services, Microsoft said.
Some Edge Services features, such as the Sender ID framework, will be released with Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, which is due in late 2005. There will also be a new version of the Intelligent Message Filter next year.
Dana Gardner, a senior analyst at Boston-based Yankee Group, said Exchange Edge Services appears to be taking on many of the tasks that are handled by today's third-party e-mail gateway products, such as those from Sendmail Inc., Emeryville, Calif., and Tumbleweed Communications Corp., Redwood City, Calif.
Edge Services was originally intended to tackle functions relating to security and e-mail hygiene by providing SMTP relay functions, Sender ID, routing features and the ability to block junk e-mail and run antivirus software.
At least one gateway vendor is betting that a messaging gateway made by Microsoft may not be on
top of all IT administrators' wish lists.
"We are not silly enough to dismiss any move that Microsoft makes, but I don't see them being a significant threat in large environments," said John Stormer, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Sendmail. "I can't think of any of our large enterprises that would be open to putting Windows on the edge of the Internet. The direction is the opposite. They are looking for appliances with a hardened OS."
Stormer said Microsoft may have more success in the small business market. He also said he believed that customers will look to add diversity and depth and will resist giving "everything" in terms of messaging, antispam and antivirus functionality, over to Microsoft.