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Microsoft shows off next Exchange release

The software giant is building so-called knowledge management features into the next version of its Exchange groupware server, a Microsoft executive says.

DALLAS--Corporate data never dies--it just grows and gets more complicated.

To combat that growing paperless blob, which can make the right piece of information difficult to find, Microsoft is building so-called knowledge management features into the next version of its Exchange groupware server, a Microsoft executive announced here today.

At its Tech Ed conference this morning, Microsoft senior vice president Bob Muglia showed off new technology to be included in the next release of Exchange, code-named Platinum, intended to let users store a wider array of information within Exchange, and access it from a variety of devices.

The technology, called Web Store, culls semistructured data, such as Web pages, Word document files, voice, and plain old email data in a new file system tuned for easy searching. Web Store is essentially a new file system, called EXIFS, which runs on Windows NT and augments NT's own NTFS, said Muglia. Like Office 2000 and other next-generation Microsoft products, Web Store makes extensive use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) for sharing and categorizing data.

Muglia also said a beta test version of Platinum will land on customers' doorsteps in the next few days. The software is expected to ship next year.

Knowledge management software is used to provide a system for companies to easily view information from various sources--the Web, back-office applications, databases--for making business decisions. Microsoft's nemesis in the groupware market, IBM subsidiary Lotus Development, has already established a presence in the knowledge management software market.

Web Store also gives developers--in both corporations and within independent software vendors--a more attractive platform that blurs the lines between data type for building knowledge management systems, said Muglia.

Muglia said Web Store gives Microsoft a technological edge on Lotus, which recently released Notes and Domino R5. Web Store also allows the company to better wed Exchange and its SQL Server database software into a single knowledge management offering. Platinum and SQL Server 7.0 allow users to query either structured SQL data or unstructured groupware information simultaneously. Data can also be replicated between Platinum and SQL Server, said Muglia.

Another Microsoft competitor, Oracle, recently began shipping Oracle 8i, an updated version of its flagship database software, which includes knowledge management features, such as a specialized file system for storing and indexing multiple data types.

Muglia also previewed: a new set of document library and search services based on Platinum code-named Tahoe, which uses XML to span multiple servers; and Grizzly, the code name for planned Office 2000 development tools for building workflow applications based on Web and SQL Server data.