Exchange Service Pack Full of Features

The first service pack for Exchange 2000 bucks Microsoft Corp.'s recent trend of reserving the packs for bug fixes.

Exchange 2000 SP1, released on Monday about nine months after the product's introduction, comes with a migration wizard, Outlook 2002 and an upgraded anti-virus API. SP1 also brings support for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server and Microsoft's new Mobile Information Server 2001.

With most of its products, Microsoft is moving away from adding new features in service packs. On the Windows operating system, Microsoft started limiting service packs to bug fixes only with Windows NT 4 Service Pack 5. Recent service packs for SQL Server, including SQL Server 2000 SP1 released two weeks ago, have followed that practice.

"I think each group tends to be different," says Chris Baker, lead product manager for Exchange. "Exchange has more of a history of putting some functionality into the service packs."

A case in point is the Virus Scanning API, which is released as version 2.0 in SP1. The first version was introduced in Exchange 5.5 SP3 (September 1999), Baker notes.

Baker says updates to the API provide: "Better support for Internet content. Full scanning of the text as well as attachments. Complete scans before the mail is committed to the store."

Anti-virus vendors announcing immediate support in their scanning engines for the improved API were Symantec, Trend Micro, McAfee and Panda.

The service pack does address the usual plethora of bugs, from memory leaks to the recent serious problem with Outlook Web Access (OWA) that embarrassed Microsoft badly.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft tried to patch a vulnerability in OWA, which lets users access their Exchange mailboxes through a Web browser. An unscrupulous attacker could exploit a known vulnerability in the way that OWA and Internet Explorer 5.x interact to take complete control of a user's mailbox - possibly even manipulating messages and folders.

The software giant issued two flawed patches to correct the vulnerability before finally fixing it with a third patch. The patch is included in Exchange 2000 SP1.

One major feature of Exchange 2000 SP1 is clearly intended to help users migrate to Exchange 2000.

A new migration wizard helps organizations consolidate multiple Exchange 5.5 organizations into a single Exchange 2000 organization. The company also restored the calendar connector for viewing Free/Busy calendar data from users in Lotus Domino/Notes and Novell GroupWise. The functionality originated with Exchange 5.5 SP3, but was not included in Exchange 2000.

Customers interested in deploying Exchange on Microsoft's hardened Windows 2000 Datacenter Server operating system can do so with SP1. The product was not supported on Datacenter prior to the service pack.

Baker says Datacenter-based Exchange deployments will probably be motivated by stability concerns rather than scalability, and Microsoft worked with Exchange to make it run properly in the four-node failover cluster environments made possible with Datacenter.

With SP1 and Datacenter, Exchange can be configured in an Active/Active/Active/Passive configuration.

Microsoft is not currently using Exchange in a four-node cluster internally. "They're going to start looking into that now that it's been certified," Baker says.

The support for Mobile Information Server in Exchange 2000 SP1 comes at several levels. Mobile Information Server, released last week at Microsoft's TechEd 2001 developer show, is designed to convert back-end data for consumption by wireless devices. Microsoft expects the majority of its initial Mobile Information Server customers to deploy the product with Exchange to give mobile users e-mail access.

"At the nuts and bolts level to run MIS with Exchange, you need to have Exchange 2000 SP1. That's the one that MIS has been tested for," Baker says. The service pack also includes some tools for users to set mailbox rules for when to forward messages to wireless devices. -- and Stephen Swoyer

The service pack can be found here.

Related Articles:
Microsoft Patches Exchange Vulnerability Again
Mobile Information Server Launches
Outlook 2002 to Ship with Exchange 2000 SP1
Office XP Launch
Microsoft Posts SQL Server 2000 SP1
SP2 Ships for Windows 2000

About the Author

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


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