Exchange 12 To Ride a Faster JET

Microsoft's long silence on Exchange is over.

In January, Microsoft publicly laid out plans for the next release of Exchange. Microsoft is calling the next version "Exchange 12" or "E12." The code-names emphasize the close ties to the next version of Office, code-named "Office 12."

Usually Microsoft starts talking about the next version of a product as soon as, or even before, the latest version ships. But since Exchange Server 2003 went gold in June 2003, Microsoft hasn’t said much on the record about its successor.

The big problem is that Microsoft had to figure out what to do next with Exchange. Exchange 2003 was an incremental release, essentially upgrading Exchange 2000 Server to take advantage of some useful plumbing changes in Windows Server 2003. They included security improvements, eight-node failover clustering and Volume Shadow Copy services.

For years the company has been toying with the idea of taking the data store from SQL Server and porting it to Exchange, replacing the JET storage engine that the messaging server currently uses. The effort was code-named "Kodiak," a vaguely defined future version of Exchange that would use the new data store. The design goal reflected a wider, long-standing effort within Microsoft to standardize the data store across major products. Microsoft had ambitious plans to use the SQL Server storage engine in the next version of Windows, code-named “Longhorn,” and Exchange. Cracks in that plan emerged in June, when Microsoft said Kodiak was off the table. A few months later, unified storage, known as WinFS, was pulled from Longhorn, too.

The JET storage engine will power Exchange 12 just as it did Exchange 2000 and Exchange Server 2003. A Microsoft spokesperson downplayed the technological role in JET's survival. "The decision to ship the next version of Exchange with JET was based on many factors, but the primary reason was customers. Staying with JET will mean customers will not be faced with the migration work associated with moving to a new store."

Customers have been unhappy with JET in scalability, high availability and developer hooks. JET is also old: Related to the JET engine used in the Microsoft Access database, it's a generation behind the SQL Server engine. To address these issues, JET is getting a serious overhaul for Exchange 12.

First, JET is getting x64 support (AMD64 and Intel EM64T), to allow greater scalability. No word as yet on Itanium support, but unlike SQL Server, Exchange would probably get as much scalability benefit as it could use from the 64-bit extensions. Microsoft is leaning more and more heavily toward supporting x64 in many products, and company officials predict most new server chips will ship with 64-bit extensions within the next year.

Exchange Web Releases

Microsoft won't have a new version of Exhange this year, but the company plans to push out several new technologies in a service pack and in Web releases:

  • A storage sizing assistant
  • An SMTP configuration diagnosis tool
  • Public folder usage and analysis tools
  • Integration of the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer with MOM 2005
  • Integration of the Sender ID Framework with SP2

— Scott Bekker

To address high-availability requirements, JET will support log shipping, a feature Microsoft built into SQL Server 2000. The technology allows Exchange to send its log of changes to another server, off-site if necessary, at set intervals. The process is the poor man’s server’s clustering—more likely to miss the most recent transactions but less expensive. The nod to developers comes with adding Web services to reduce the complexity associated with writing to multiple application programming interfaces.

Above the data level, broad themes of the next release are improved end-user productivity, total cost of ownership, manageability and secure messaging. The planned end-user productivity boost comes in part from an investment in unified messaging. Exchange 12 is slated to have 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 (see December 2004’s Redmond Roadmap, “The Road to Istanbul”).

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 scripting, the Web services APIs and improved search functionality.

Exchange Joins Microsoft’s Billion-Dollar Club

While Microsoft has begun talking about new versions of Exchange, the company is raking in cash from the old versions.

Microsoft's Exchange Server business crossed the $1 billion revenue threshold in fiscal 2004 (July 1, 2003-June 30, 2004), the company disclosed recently. That fiscal year coincided almost perfectly with the launch and first 12 months of availability for Exchange Server 2003.

Other Microsoft products that are good for a billion dollars or more in revenues each year are the Windows client operating system, Microsoft Office, the Windows server operating system and SQL Server. Microsoft’s total revenues for fiscal 2004 reached $36.8 billion.

— Scott Bekker

Security is a huge messaging issue that Microsoft could address 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 message hygiene technology is a remnant of the Exchange Edge Services 2005 project, which was broken up into components that will ship with Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and Exchange 12.

Dave Thompson, corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft's Exchange Server Product Group, says the release of Exchange 12 will be loosely tied to Office 12, but won't ship at the same time. Office 12 is unofficially scheduled for 2006. Exchange 12 may come in 2006 or 2007.

For now, the Exchange team is faced with a situation similar to the SQL Server team—a long time between releases. While the Exchange team may not be borrowing the SQL Server engine, it is borrowing a page from the SQL team's playbook in dribbling out new features and tools in service packs and Web releases (see "Exchange Web Releases," above ).

About the Author

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


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe on YouTube