With Microsoft's Service Pack 3 for Exchange Server 2000 finally shipped out last week, attention and criticism is mounting for its next scheduled Exchange release, code-named Titanium.
The Redmond, Wash., behemoth has recently begun disclosing the migration roadmap to get users of its messaging and collaboration software from Windows 2000 to .Net. But the message includes the stark revelation that Microsoft won't support Exchange 2000 SP3 or earlier versions on the .NET platform.
Instead, Titanium will be the official Exchange Server product for Windows .NET Server. The product, which will be backwards compatible on Windows 2000, will soon begin beta-testing but isn't expected to be released until mid-year 2003.
A representative of Microsoft told internetnews.com, that when Titanium ships in the middle of next year, the company will no longer ship Exchange 2000 as Titanium is an upgrade to the product. The representative further noted that there will be only a few months in which Exchange 2000 will be on the market at the same time with Windows .NET.
The move comes after Microsoft modified its software licensing arrangements to try to lock customers into a recurring revenue stream. By ending support of Exchange 2000, Microsoft is essentially pushing the newer version of the software onto its customer base.
In the interim, many are searching for any reasons to upgrade to Titanium prior to a full system switch to .NET. With Microsoft's push toward "trustworthy" computing, customers are certainly hoping that the next-generation product will be more secure than Exchange 2000, which has been plagued with one vulnerability after another.
But, according to an insight report from Ferris Research, there don't seem to be any features in Titanium that make a compelling argument to upgrade from 2000.
Microsoft claims the mobile computing capabilities are a solid reason for enticing upgrades. The company recently said Titanium will make mobility pervasive with seamless integration of wireless functionality.
"'Titanium' will be able to provide a seamless mobile experience with an enhanced Outlook client and wireless access through Outlook Mobile Access and Pocket Outlook to support the broad range of devices that information workers use today," said Paul Flessner, senior vice president of .NET Enterprise Servers.
The Ferris report acknowledges that the two most compelling features are better integration with third party anti-virus and anti-spam products, and built-in mobility features. But, that isn't a strong enough argument.
"Neither of these features represents a compelling argument to upgrade to Titanium from Exchange 2000. Mobile Information Server is available today and offers the bulk of the functionality that will be built into Titanium, specifically Outlook Mobile Access. And external content blocking, filtering and anti-spam are available from a wide range of third-party vendors," the report states.
"Other features and enhancements that have been released do not directly relate to Exchange, but rather to Outlook and .NET server. And even those features are minor, incremental improvements such as Outlook being able to better handle online/offline status, improved message flags and additional backup features," it said.
Microsoft's representative, however, feels that Titanium will be a compelling update to Exchange that eases deployment and lowers total cost of ownership (TCO) for the IT administrator.
The release of Titanium is considered merely an upgrade, emerging in anticipation of the far-off vision of "Kodiak" a future release of Exchange that will be built on the next Microsoft SQL Server release, code-named Yukon. No hard date for release has been set yet, though officials guess it is still several years off.
In a position shift for integrated collaborative environments (ICEs) industry, Microsoft Exchange Server surpassed IBM, maker of Lotus Notes and Domino, to become number one on a recently released IDC forecast.
As Microsoft's top competitor, IBM is promising a September release for new versions of both Lotus Notes 6.0 and Domino 6.0, while both Oracle and Samsung claim to be able to provide e-mail server systems of very high reliability at a much lower cost point than Exchange.