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"Exchange 12" Directions Revealed

For the next version of Exchange Server, code-named "Exchange 12," Microsoft is investing in unified messaging, improved search and 64-bit support among other things, company officials said during a press tour on Wednesday.

Microsoft officials suggest Exchange 12 will be a 2006 or 2007 release that is loosely synchronized with "Office 12," the code-name for the next version of Office. "While it's too early in the development cycle to comment on timing, Exchange Server is on an approximate three to four year release cycle. Exchange and Office are synchronized on similar schedules, but likely won’t ship together at exactly the same time," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Microsoft officials declined to discuss whether a public beta was planned for this year or whether the next generation of the messaging server would support Windows 2000.

Broad themes of the next release are improved end-user productivity; total cost of ownership and manageability; and secure messaging and message "hygiene."

The planned end-user productivity boost comes in part from an investment in unified messaging. A Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on Exchange 12 describes an architecture within Exchange for e-mail, voice mail and fax. Any new version of Exchange would come after Microsoft ships the "Istanbul" client for Live Communications Server 2005. That client integrates telephone with a Windows Messenger interface and the technology could provide a bridge to unified messaging in Exchange.

Other ways Microsoft plans to improve user productivity for Exchange 12 include investments in the mobile device experience, Outlook Web Access and efficient and reliable meeting scheduling.

Microsoft is working to reduce total cost of ownership and manageability for Exchange Server with continuous backup, scripting, Web services APIs and improved search functionality. Exchange will enter the world of 64-bit computing via the x64 route in Exchange 12, bringing potential scalability benefits that could also reduce TCO.

Security is a huge messaging issue that Microsoft could pursue in a number of ways. For now, Microsoft officials say they are channeling resources into message hygiene at the perimeter and creating a privacy compliance infrastructure. The company also is leaving its options open with a vague "secure messaging" theme.

The message hygiene at the perimeter theme stems from the former Exchange Edge Services 2005 project. Microsoft disclosed late last year it was canceling edge services as a standalone project. Instead some technologies would go into Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 with most going in the next version of Exchange.

About the Author

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

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