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Microsoft clarifies Exchange route

Contrary to some reports, the software heavyweight says the next version of Exchange, code-named Titanium, will run on Windows 2000. There is a "but," though.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark--Contrary to some reports, Microsoft says the next version of Exchange, code-named Titanium, will run on Windows 2000.

However, the company does say that some features will need .Net Server.

Microsoft's next version of Exchange has been criticized for tying customers to .Net Server. This has created the idea that the software will not run on Windows 2000. That's not exactly true, said Microsoft, at its IT Forum here Tuesday. The forum, which is running at the same time as Comdex Fall 2002, has attracted European techies who could not afford to travel to Las Vegas.

"Do you think Microsoft would launch a product you could not upgrade to?" said a consultant at the conference.

Confusion has arisen because the current version of the e-mail server, Exchange 2000, will not run on the next operating system version, Windows.Net Server, suggesting that perhaps customers cannot upgrade to .Net Server until Titanium ships in the middle of 2003.

In fact, the first servers to be upgraded to .Net Server should be those acting as Active Directory domain controllers, which will give the improvements to other servers on the networks. Exchange servers should not also be domain controllers, so there would be no value in upgrading them to .Net Server.

A company representative said this would stop Exchange 2000 from working. "Titanium and .Net Server are totally separate upgrade issues," he said.

When Titanium is available, customers will be able to upgrade to it, with or without putting on , said Microsoft's Chris Baker, group product manager of the Exchange server business group. However, many of the new Titanium features will not work without .Net Server and Active Directory, he acknowledged.

"You must upgrade to Titanium first, then .Net Server on your Exchange servers," said Baker. Cutomers with Exchange 5.5 will be advised to upgrade using a "swing server," a .Net Server and Titanium machine that acts as a temporary host for all the mailboxes while the original server is reconfigured and upgraded.

Small businesses, the only ones currently running a domain controller and an Exchange server on the same machine, are advised to wait on .Net Server until Titanium is released and then upgrade both at once.

Microsoft is expected to produce a single product able to upgrade both at the same time in such cases.

The benefits of Titanium include faster synchronization. "We have compressed traffic by up to 70 percent and cut the bytes on the wire by 50 percent," said Baker. There is also a "cached mode," which smoothes out differences in bandwidth--so dial-up users can operate successfully. Other new features include anti-spam tools and better security.

If run on .Net Server, Titanium will support more customers on a given server--Baker said that Microsoft had reduced from 35 mail servers under Exchange 5.5, to 10 under Exchange 2000, with each server now supporting 3,500 mailboxes. Now with Titanium, that is being increased to 5,000, as multiple sites are supported by a single Exchange server. Microsoft now only has 19 Exchange servers internally, he said.

Although still about two months away from a public beta for Titanium, Microsoft is already talking about features beyond that. XSO will expose Exchange programming interfaces in the .Net namespace, as part of the .Net Studio environment on Exchange.

"They are not actually Web services, but they will be used to build Web services," said Baker. E-commerce sites will use them to send e-mail to customers and put events in their diaries. XSO should be in beta at about the same time that Titanium is a product, said Baker.

ZDNet UK's Peter Judge reported from Copenhagen.