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Exchange 'Titanium' Unveiled

Microsoft on Monday for the first time publicly discussed details of the next version of its Exchange messaging and groupware platform, code-named Titanium. Although Titanium will incorporate a number of new features and other enhancements, the software giant says that when it ships sometime in 2003 it will constitute an “evolutionary” upgrade from Exchange 2000, which was released in late 2000.

As a result, says Chris Baker, lead product manager for Microsoft Exchange, Titanium will not leverage the so-called “unified storage” technologies that Microsoft is expected to build into a future version of its Windows operating system. Unified storage – which exploits SQL Server as its repository – will replace the standard Exchange repository, and will also supplant the “Web Store” repository that debuted with Exchange 2000. Unified storage had been rumored to be coming in the 2003 version of Exchange.

On the other hand, says Microsoft’s Baker, unified storage technologies will be supported in “Kodiak,” a version of Exchange that’s slated for release “several years” down the road.

“[Kodiak is] one of several Microsoft products that will take advantage of advancements in Microsoft storage technologies based on Yukon [the code-name for a forthcoming version of SQL Server],” Baker says. “We have a database today in Exchange, it’s a relational database. That will stay in Titanium. Kodiak is still several years out.”

New in Titanium will be additional enhancements for mobile workers. For starters, says Baker, Microsoft will incorporate the Outlook Mobile Access component of its Mobile Information Server wireless communications platform into Titanium. This has the effect of creating a “combined schema” that, Baker asserts, facilitates the management and provisioning of Exchange services to wireless clients in the context of Active Directory.

“Wireless access is built right into the product. For an administrator, this means that they’ve got one topology, it’s in Exchange,” Baker says. “When they go to update schema in Active Directory, they’ve got a combined schema. So it’s a much more manageable process, because it’s easier to provision mobility and wireless access through [Active Directory].”

Elsewhere in the area of Active Directory enhancements, Baker says that Exchange Titanium will offer new migration tools that help to facilitate interoperability between Active Directory forests in common mergers-and-acquisitions scenarios.

Titanium will also boast a new “shadow copying” feature that allows an administrator to effectively capture a volume snapshot of an Exchange database and save it to disk.

“This is kind of a complement to the traditional backup to tape that a messaging task group does on a nightly basis,” Baker explains. “You can take these snapshots with minimal impact to your users, so if anything happens throughout the day, you’ve got this snapshot that you can just back-up.”

According to Baker, shadow copying could help to enhance, of all things, Exchange Titanium’s server consolidation story. “We’ve found that often a main consideration of how many mailboxes you can get on a [server] is how fast you can restore it,” he says.

Exchange Titanium will exploit Windows .NET Server’s support for eight-node failover clustering, based on Microsoft’s still maturing Microsoft Cluster Services (MSCS) technology. As in previous versions of MSCS, however, Baker cautions that administrators should only cluster their Exchange servers as a means to augment availability and not scalability levels.

Finally, says Baker, Titanium will ship with a revamped Outlook client, which is slated to debut with the next version of Office sometime next year. New in the forthcoming version of Outlook will be a redesigned interface, improved handling and tracking of flagged messages and better organization of mail folders.

"Titanium" Highlights

· Evolution of Exchange 2000

· Release set for 2003

· Won't include "unified storage"

· Assumes some functions of MIS

· Snapshot capability

· Supports 8-node failover

About the Author

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

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