Microsoft Exchange 2000 takes groupware to the next level

Microsoft Exchange 2000 takes groupware to the next level

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

Microsoft Corp.'s upgrade of Microsoft Exchange Server from Version 5.5 to 2000 is much more than a name change. The new features the company has added represent powerful improvements in the groupware.

None of the Big 3's integrated messaging and collaboration suites'the others are Lotus Domino and Notes R5, and Novell GroupWise 5.5'are slouches. Each performs well, with a wide range of customizable feature sets, excellent Web-based client support and good levels of synchronization between their messaging, workflow, document management and knowledge management platforms.

In fact, they're all so good that at first glance it seems unlikely that a federal shop wired to one of the Big 3 suites would retool its information services department just to accommodate one of the others. But read on.

The buzz about Exchange Server 5.5 was that, although it was an excellent messaging system, it couldn't compete with the collaboration infrastructures of GroupWise 5.5, Domino or Notes R5. Exchange Server 2000 changes that.

Microsoft Exchange 2000 represents a major improvement over 5.5. A point-by-point comparison with GroupWise, Domino or Notes is beyond the scope of this article, but check them for yourself at the vendors' respective Web sites.

The bottom line is that Exchange 2000 has built on the strengths of Exchange 5.5 while eliminating most of its weaknesses. New features include:

Active Directory. This enterprise-class directory service is built around Internet standards that allow a single point of entry for all users, messaging and network resources.

Active Directory Connector. This allows an administrator to replicate a hierarchy of directory objects between a Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 directory and Windows 2000 Server Active directory. This is good for organizations wanting to migrate from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000.

Storage groups. With this, groups of databases share a single transaction log set and therefore a single point of administration, backup and restore. The storage groups can failover to a different server in a cluster in case the original server stops responding.

Multiple message databases. These enable the message store to be partitioned into separate, manageable databases of unlimited size.

Clustering. Exchange 2000 features active clustering, which is based on the Microsoft Clustering Services of Windows 2000 Advanced Server and allows all of the servers used in a cluster to actively process message requests until a failure triggers rollover recovery.

Distributed services. Exchange 2000 subsystems can be hosted on different servers for scalability into the tens of millions of users.

Native Internet mail content. E-mail clients can store and retrieve Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions content directly from Exchange 2000's database without the need for content conversion.

Exchange 2000's management features include single-seat administration through integration with the Microsoft Management Console, a programming interface called Collaboration Data Objects for customized management applications, and system monitoring using Microsoft's dashboard instrumentation.

The new version also fully incorporates the security features of Windows 2000 and provides for item-level security by allowing administrators to set permissions at the item, or document, level. The optional Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server adds data, voice and videoconferencing features to the mix.

But Lotus and Novell aren't sitting on their hands. Lotus is planning a series of products, code-named Blue Jay, that promises better integration between its own Domino Server and most Microsoft products. Novell is planning its own GroupWise 2000 series that will be a modularized upgrade of 5.5 designed for users wanting to customize their own groupware.

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