SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft has decided to eliminate its next major release of Exchange and will opt for a stream of incremental releases of its messaging product for the foreseeable future, a Microsoft executive said at the TechEd conference this week.
The company this week also released its Exchange Server Service Pack 1, which includes a cross-site migration tool, enhancements to virus scanning, some manageability enhancements regarding the deployment of RPC over HTTP, as well as some additional language support for Outlook Web Access.
One IT manager who tested SP1 said the effort was worth it because the cross-site migration tool helped drive his migration time down by 80% and reduced a 14-step migration process to three
Microsoft had previously planned on a "Kodiak" release of Exchange that would use the message store of SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon. Microsoft has now scrapped the release of Kodiak, though the company will still have a unified message store, said Kim Akers, Microsoft's senior director of Exchange Server. There is, however, no time frame for that release, she said.
Akers said the decision came after considering some big changes that have occurred in the past two years. The increase of remote users, remote devices and the proliferation of spam contributed to Microsoft's reassessing of its messaging vision, she said.
A focus on incremental improvements
For the next year, Microsoft will instead offer some smaller releases. Sometime in 2005, the company will ship Exchange Edge Services with Caller ID, a technology that is a current draft specification designed to help fight spam. At TechEd, Microsoft said that it had reached an agreement with the co-author of the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) to merge that e-mail authentication proposal with its own.
The Edge Services technology will be free to all Software Assurance customers and available for purchase for everyone else.
Microsoft will also release a best practices analysis tool for Exchange that will assist IT administrators who are preparing to build an Exchange environment, she said.
In the future -- and Microsoft is not committing to any time frame -- the software maker will offer some improvements to various messaging technologies, including calendaring, e-mail life-cycle management, mobility, 64-bit computing, support for Longhorn and the SQL Server data store.
Mixed reviews from users
Customers were mixed on the plans. One messaging manager for a large New York-based financial company, said he had been looking forward to using the same SQL Server toolset for Exchange, and was disappointed that that option would be pushed off further into the future.
"The Exchange database has passed its time," said the IT manager, who declined to be identified.
Other customers were not as concerned, since their Exchange 2003 servers were still relatively new to the enterprise. "For us, Exchange 2003 is enough for us for the next three to five years, said Pella's Bergen.
"We may consider the Edge Services as a level of protection, but considering our users' requirements, we are in good shape for a while," he said.