The beta version of Exchange 5.5 is in customers' hands for a 120-day tryout period, with a general release expected the end of the year, said Dave Malcolm, product manager.
Code-named Osmium, Exchange 5.5 will support Internet standards such as IMAP4, and LDAP3, and has enhanced interoperability technologies that were expected after the company acquired e-mail software maker LinkAge Software in July.
With Exchange 5.5, Microsoft hopes to build a scalable, reliable, and secure package that will also make it easier to integrate legacy systems and directories with the addition of LinkAge's technologies.
LinkAge Software builds tools that connect divergent email packages and synchronize the directories found in most groupware software systems. The Toronto firm's products include a Notes Connector from Lotus Development, as well as tools for connecting legacy IBM email systems to current products.
Users of current Exchange-based systems can swap email with other SMTP-compliant server systems. Under the SMTP standard, however, file attachments and directory views that let users locate one another on a network are not guaranteed, said Malcolm. The LinkAge software will let Exchange clients share attachments and directories with packages such as Novell GroupWise, Microsoft Mail, Lotus cc:Mail, and X.400-based groupware.
"The connector allows users to migrate off of their legacy system but coexist while they migrate over to Exchange 5.5," Malcolm said.
Microsoft announced two versions of Exchange 5.5, a standard release and an Enterprise Edition that includes support for increased storage capacity. Size limits on the information store have been increased such that storage is limited only by the hardware Microsoft Exchange is hosted on, according to Malcolm.
Microsoft Exchange 5.5 also includes a number of enhancements for managing email security, including Key Management Server (KMS) setup integrated with Microsoft Exchange server setup; bulk enrollment of users and distribution of certificates; and multiple password validation for administrators.
The new package also supports a number of enhanced Internet security features including SSL encryption of SMTP connections between hosts, and SASL for authenticating SMTP login. It also prevents spoofing by using authenticated login, and allows an administrator to accept or reject inbound SMTP connections based upon the type of security being used.
Microsoft Exchange includes versions of Outlook for Windows 3.x and Macintosh operating systems. These versions of Outlook include the Outlook user interface, and interoperability with the 32-bit Outlook calendaring, task, and contact environments.
Along with its many collaboration tools, Exchange 5.5 also features the Microsoft Exchange Chat Service, which allows real-time collaboration using any standard IRC or IRCX client, and Microsoft Net Meeting which provides real-time audio and video conferencing capabilities.
Pricing will be announced at the time of shipment, according to Microsoft.