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Exchange Titanium Gets a Preview at MEC

Microsoft Corp. used its MEC 2002 conference in Anaheim, Calif., to offer more details about the next version of its Exchange messaging and groupware platform, code-named Titanium.

Jim Bernardo, product manager in Microsoft’s .Net enterprise servers group, says Exchange Titanium will present an “evolutionary” upgrade from Exchange 2000. To that end, Bernardo remarks, Microsoft has concentrated on reducing Exchange’s total-cost-of-ownership by enhancing Titanium’s ability to support larger numbers of users, as well as reducing its bandwidth requirements.

“We enabled some fairly significant server consolidation between [Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000] on the order of two to three times the number of users on a server that customers are able to support, what we’re doing with Titanium is the next wave of server consolidation,” he says. “The goal with Titanium is to enable IT departments to take a lot of servers that they have positioned in remote offices and move those back to a data center.”

To help reduce Exchange’s client-to-server bandwidth across the network –- and across low-bandwidth connections, especially –- Bernardo says that the Exchange team is tweaking Microsoft’s Mail Application Programming Interface (MAPI) to ensure that “fewer bytes of data [are] being pushed across the wire.”

Much of the work in Titanium is simply supporting the changes that will be built into the underlying Windows .NET Server 2003 operating system. Windows .NET Server 2003 is supposed to be released to manufacturing late this year. Titanium will ship in mid-2003.

"Titanium will fully leverage Windows .NET Server 2003 work on Active Directory, clustering and storage," Paul Flessner, senior vice president of the .NET Enterprise Servers Group, said during the opening keynote at MEC 2002 on Tuesday.

On Active Directory, changes in Windows .NET Server 2003 to be leveraged by Titanium include caching, cross-forest global address lists and greatly improved synchronization.

In storage, Titanium will leverage Windows .NET Server 2003's Volume Shadow Copy facility, which allows an administrator to take a “snapshot” of her Exchange environment and save it to disk. In the event of a failure, he points out, an IT organization could “restore data for users on the order of minutes or even seconds.” This is a much faster alternative than restoring an Exchange backup from tape, which, he suggests, can take several hours in large environments. Microsoft provided a demo of Volume Shadow Copy at MEC 2002 on a server running the SQL Server database.

Volume Shadow Copy will be enabled at the operating system level in Windows .NET Server 2003. “Windows .NET [Server] is going to support this capability, and we are writing hooks in titanium to leverage that capability."

In failover clustering, Titanium will immediately bring support for the eight-node failover clusters that are enabled in Windows .NET Server 2003 Enterprise and Datacenter editions.

"We continue to encourage active-passive [cluster configurations] for Exchange at this time, but that becomes much less costly, down to 12 percent at the eight-node level," Flessner says. For customers who were running Exchange on clustered Windows 2000 Advanced Server, deploying an active-passive cluster involved one passive server for every active server -- meaning the passive portion of the cluster accounted for 50 percent of the overall system cost. A single passive node in an eight-node cluster with seven active nodes makes up just 12 percent of the overall system cost.

In addition to enhancements to MAPI, Exchange Titanium will support a new MAPI-over-HTTP implementation. In this regard, Microsoft’s forthcoming Outlook 11 client will be able to communicate with an Exchange Titanium server by means of MAPI over HTTP. Among other benefits, Bernardo explains, this has the effect of making it easier for roaming Outlook users to traverse firewalls. In order for Outlook clients to interface with Exchange server, a number of ports have to be configured on a firewall, which presents a security liability. MAPI-over-HTTP circumvents this problem.

As a result of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Initiative, Bernardo says, Exchange Titanium will be “secure by default.” In the past, he acknowledges, What this means, he continues, is that all Exchange components will be installed “secure by default.”

As part of its focus on security, Microsoft will also attack SPAM. Exchange Titanium will boast out-of-the-box support for SPAM black-listing, which allows an administrator to configure an Exchange server to obtain a blacklisting of known IP addresses, domains, or IP ranges from which SPAM has been sent. The idea, Bernardo points out, is that administrators can refuse SPAM even before it enters their corporate networks.

Exchange Titanium will also feature several unspecified enhancements to its Virus Scanning API, currently in its version 2.0 incarnation.

Finally, in the arena of manageability, Microsoft will ship a management patch for its Microsoft Operations Manager product with Exchange Titanium, Bernardo confirms. “There is additional instrumentation [enabled by means of this patch], it will enable IT administrators to more quickly spot trends around connectivity and performance in Exchange,” he says.

Scott Bekker contributed to this article.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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