Microsoft Launches Mobile Information Server 2001

ATLANTA -- Microsoft Corp. used its annual TechEd developer show to launch its latest .NET Enterprise Server, Mobile Information Server 2001, and try to kick start a third-party environment around the product.

"Mobility is absolutely core to what Microsoft is doing. It's also absolutely core that we have that connectivity into the .NET Enterprise Servers," Paul Flessner, senior vice president for .NET Enterprise Servers, said Monday as he announced the general availability of Mobile Information Server.

Mobile Information Server is Microsoft's server software for pushing back-end enterprise data out to mobile devices. It comes in enterprise and carrier versions. About 40 customers have participated in a beta program that began when Microsoft first unveiled the product last September.

Pricing on the enterprise version is $15 per seat. It costs $75 per seat when used with Microsoft's Outlook Mobile Manager, a software package for making Outlook data available on mobile devices and for prioritizing messages that are forwarded to a mobile device.

Microsoft expects most of its customers will use Mobile Information Server with Exchange Server, says Edward Wu, Microsoft's technical product manager for U.S.-mobility marketing.

Mobile Information Server 2001 is designed to run on Windows 2000 servers. It can be run on Windows NT, but because the Mobile Information Server stores some information in the Active Directory, an enterprise would have to set up a Windows 2000 Server machine that the server could access.

The software also runs on a separate server from Exchange when the products are used together. That's necessary because Mobile Information Server exists in the DMZ outside the firewall and provides firewall capabilities for mobile users.

In addition to Exchange, Wu says there are a number of possibilities for the product beyond Exchange. On Tuesday, Microsoft was announcing toolkits for software developers to create their own ways to give mobile users access to back-end data. Obvious Microsoft-environment candidates for developers to target are BizTalk Server and SQL Server, Wu said. Microsoft was also launching a developer site and a Microsoft Mobile Solutions Partner Program.

In version 1.0, Microsoft will leave it to system integrators to build the connectors to other key enterprise applications such as Lotus Domino/Notes, SAP, J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft, Wu said.

A few partners launched Mobile Information Server-related services on Monday.

Vodafone UK announced the commercial availability of corporate wireless services built on Mobile Information Server. Vodafone calls the service "Vodafone Office Live delivering Outlook services powered by Microsoft Mobile Software." In the United States, AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless plan to pilot MIS-based services with enterprise customers in the second half of this year.

Several system integrators are public with plans to help enterprises build Mobile Information Server-based solutions. They include Compuware Corp., Accenture/Avanade Inc., Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, EDS, Extreme Logic Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Global Services and KPMG International.

The general availability of Mobile Information Server brings the number of available .NET Enterprise Servers, many of which are former members of the BackOffice Suite, to nine. They are SQL Server, Exchange Server, Host Integration Server, Commerce Server, BizTalk Server, Internet Security & Acceleration Server, Application Center and SharePoint Portal Server.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.