Microsoft has long talked about moving its Exchange messaging software to a new database technology, but it has now decided that the next major version of Exchange will not adopt a new data store.
Microsoft executives will publicly reveal a new roadmap for Exchange next week. In December, Microsoft said the technologies in Exchange Edge Services -- originally due out this year -- will now become part of the next version of Exchange. Microsoft has also said it now plans this year to release Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, which will include the spam-fighting Sender ID technology.
Sources familiar with the company's plans said the next version of Exchange, due out sometime in mid-2006 -- to coincide with the next version of Office -- will retain Microsoft's Jet database, which is optimized for messaging. Microsoft declined to comment for this article.
"Microsoft has said time and again that at sometime they will move to a unified store, but they still believe that an optimized e-mail store is better than a more generic database," one expert said.
Coding effort too demanding to make Office release
Another expert familiar with Microsoft's plans said Microsoft decided to retain the current data store because of the giant coding effort required to move to a new platform, and it wanted to meet the deadline of the next Office release.
The expert said the perceived advantages of a new data store are not necessarily valid. "A lot of customers think that if they move to a new SQL [Server] store, they will have more replication options, but the Exchange team says that's not the case," the source said. "Even if they do base this off of the new SQL [Server] store, it would be a tweaked and modified version SQL [Server]. The Exchange team said it wouldn't be as flexible as some people had thought."
The Jet database has also been prone to corruption, but the 2003 version has improved considerably, said Brien Posey, an author and member of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional program. "With Exchange 5.5, you could be backing up corrupt data for weeks and not know about it," he said.
Lee Benjamin, a principal with Exchange Guy Consulting Services, said the realistic size of an Exchange Server database is between 30 and 50 GB, but the number is not hard and fast and depends on how long an administrator wants to take to do a backup. Microsoft provides a range as unlimited or 16 TB, Benjamin said. Locally, the practical limitation for Exchange Server 2003 is roughly 20 GB, he said.
Incentive needed to get customers to upgrade
For some users, without a new data store or some other major feature upgrade, it might not be worth moving off Exchange Server 2003.
"Unless they can come up with some features that are way different and way better than [Exchange] 2003, it's not worth the investment to upgrade," said Jon Hurd, a network analyst for the city of Redmond, Wash.
Microsoft had been planning a version of Exchange to be built on SQL Server 2005, which goes by the code name Yukon. The company axed that version of Exchange, code-named Kodiak, last summer, not wanting to tie itself to the schedules of Yukon and Longhorn, the next Windows release. Instead, Microsoft promised a steady stream of releases to deliver messaging features in incremental waves; the first was to be the now defunct Exchange Edge Services. For the most part, the company has been mum on plans for the next version of Exchange Server.
"I think the reason that we haven't heard much about the future of Exchange until now is because the Exchange team is still struggling with how they will add value for their corporate customers," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm.