by April 14, 2006 0 comments



Exchange Server has been one of the most powerful and
popular corporate messaging platforms around the world. Each recent version of
Exchange has brought in at least one killer feature that made using it almost
essential for organizations serious about their messaging needs. Exchange 2000
brought in Active Directory integration and Exchange 2003 introduced RPC over
HTTP.

Exchange ’12’ is the next version of this product and
Microsoft is introducing tons of new features in it. We got our hands on the first beta as
soon as it was released. What follows in this article is hands-on experience as
well as tidbits of news surrounding the product.

Price:
NA, pre release beta

Ment
for:
Enterprises 
Key
Specs:
Runs on 64-bit h/w only, choice of server roles, command line
based mgmt built in, call your mailbox feature 
Pros:
A cleaned up management interface, better Outlook web access
Cons:
Being a beta, many features don’t work
Contact:
Microsoft, Gurgaon.Tel: 5158000.E-mail: support@microsoft.com

Requirements
Exchange 12 will run on ADS — Windows 2003 or LongHorn Server, that is.
Windows 2000 may not be supported. Although the current beta is available for
32-bit platforms, the final version is expected to run only on 64-bit machines.
This means that you will need to purchase 64-bit hardware to run Exchange. But
since at the time of its release, most server level (and much of the desktop
level) machines would be 64-bit, this is a welcome step.

Installation
The Exchange installation requires a Windows 2003 or Longhorn Server with Active
Directory installed and configured. It also requires the .NET Framework 2.0 and
the MMC 3.0 upgrade to be installed. Once these are done, you are taken into a
completely revamped installation experience. Here, instead of selecting the
components that you want to install, as done earlier, you are asked to select
the role that this particular Exchange Server is going to perform in your
messaging infrastructure. Currently, you are allowed to choose among Bridghead,
Mailbox, Gateway, Client Access and Unified Messaging servers. Once the roles
required are selected, the appropriate components and configurations for the
server in terms of setting, performance and security are automatically done. The
installation also checks each role for any prerequisites and informs you if it
doesn’t find it giving you a chance to back out, correct the problem and try
again.

Management
Once the installation is complete, you can start up the main management
interface called Exchange Management Console. This is the replacement for the
erstwhile System Manager. In fact, in this beta there are many places where the
name System Manager still shows up.

The management console is a cleaned up interface where you
don’t really need to search within a complex tree as in the earlier versions.
The console is more task oriented than hierarchy oriented. This means that for
any item that you select in the console a new task pane on the side shows you
exactly what you can do with it. There are 4 levels in the new structure.
‘Recipient Configuration’ lets you manage recipients on the server-either
globally or individually.

Server Configuration lets you configure the parameters for
different roles assigned to the server. In this beta, the console does not
automatically pick up which roles were assigned. Instead it shows all the
possible roles and it’s only on selecting a particular one can you find out
whether it is assigned and do something with it. An example of managing server
configuration would be to manage  Outlook Web Access settings in the Client
Access role.

You can define a role for your Exchange Server as per your enterprise needs
A new improved Outlook web access with additional options like new themes, more configurable vacation messages, etc
The ‘Call your Mailbox’ feature of Unified Messaging that allows you to dial into your mail server and read your new mails

The Organization Configuration lets you setup organization
level features like Unified Messaging. This is a killer new feature that lets
Exchange handle even voice and fax traffic. For instance, if you are a user on
Exchange and are traveling but do not have access to the Internet, you can still
check your mail by calling up the phone number handled by Exchange and after a
set of authentication, Exchange can actually manage your email using an IVR and
even read them out to you!

 And finally the Toolbox lets you perform test and
analysis of your server from one central location.

Command Line Shell
Exchange ’12’ is also the first MS application server to come with the
new object oriented command line interface codenamed ‘Monad’ or Microsoft
Shell.  However, this version is meant for Exchange 12 and has a number of
cmdlets and functions that are pertinent to this server. You can do all the
Exchange management tasks from within this shell with   features like
command completion, object oriented programming and abstracted piping.

Outlook Web Access
The web mail front end for Exchange has also been significantly revamped.
The interface resembles the current beta look of Outlook 12, the recommended
desktop client for Exchange. Of course, a lot of features are not yet fully
implemented and even the look would probably change by the final version. New 
themes are also being introduced giving it a much more streamlined look.

OWA has also redesigned the options page with a set of
pages offering much more functionality. A case in point is the vacation message
page.  You can create different sets of vacation messages for senders
within or outside your organization. You can also specify the dates and times
that you want the message to be for.

So, if you are going to be out for Christmas and New Year
set the date for the vacation message from Dec 24th to Jan 2nd and when you
return you won’t need to remember to turn it off. Of course you will be
reminded about an active vacation message everytime you check your email.Overall,
Exchange 12 is a fairly comprehensive messaging platform. From what can be seen
of this beta, it looks to be the enterprise application for  next year.
 

Vinod Unny

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