Features of Microsoft Exchange
Chances are, you’re probably using your network for more than just file and print services. Almost all organizations use some form of e-mail or workgroup collaboration software. In Windows server environments, one of the most popular e-mail packages is Microsoft Exchange.
As you probably know, Microsoft recently released the newest version of Exchange—Exchange 2000. If you’re currently running Exchange 5.5 or another e-mail system on your Windows network, you may be wondering what Exchange 2000 can do for you. In this Daily Drill Down, we’ll take a look at the advantages of using Exchange 2000.
A brief history of Exchange
As Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 once said, “If you want to know who you are, it's important to know who you've been.” The same is true of software. Sometimes in evaluating a new version of software, you’ll find it helpful to know how the product has changed over time.
Exchange 2000 has its roots in Exchange 4.0. In Microsoft’s bizarre number scheme of the mid-1990s, Exchange 4.0 was the first release of Microsoft Exchange, replacing Microsoft Mail in 1996. Exchange 4.0 ran on Windows NT 3.51.
Exchange 4.0 introduced many of the basic concepts that still are featured in Exchange 2000’s architecture, including an information store, a message router, a system attendant, and the directory. It also introduced the fundamentals of Exchange topology, including the concepts of organizations, sites, and servers. Exchange 4.0 also introduced one of Exchange’s biggest limitations—the 16-GB size limit on its information store.
Microsoft introduced Exchange 5.0 in 1997. Exchange 5.0 added support for many Internet protocols, including POP3, NNTP, HTTP, SSL, and LDAP. Exchange 5.0 also added support for Active Server Pages and Active Messaging, both of which laid the foundation for Exchange 2000’s Web Store. Microsoft added the first connector to Exchange 5.0 to allow it to transfer messages from the then-dominant Lotus cc:Mail. Finally, as its main client software, Exchange 5.0 introduced Outlook (as Outlook 97).
The most recent and heretofore most popular version of Exchange, Exchange 5.5, debuted in late 1997. In this release, Microsoft continued to extend Exchange’s enterprise capabilities. It did so first by removing the 16-GB information store limitation, allowing the information store to grow as large as the server could support. Microsoft also added support for Windows NT 4.0’s then-new clustering services to increase fault tolerance. To allow Exchange 5.0 to talk to more enterprise-level messaging systems, Microsoft added connectors for programs such as Lotus Notes, IBM Profs, and IBM OfficeVision. Microsoft extended support for Internet standards by adding support for Internet protocols, such as Mime HTML and SASL (Simple Authentication and Security Layer). Finally, Microsoft began to add support for group collaboration by adding such features as the Exchange Chat Service and Internet Locator Service.
And now for something (somewhat) completely different
Microsoft built on and extended all of these concepts with the introduction of Exchange 2000. Some things have changed slightly because of Windows 2000 and Active Directory, but the fundamentals remain.
Microsoft ships two versions of Exchange 2000: Exchange 2000 Server and Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server. Both versions of Exchange 2000 do essentially the same things, but as you can probably guess, Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server does a lot more. Some of the things Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server can do that Exchange 2000 Server can’t include:
- No storage limit—Exchange 2000 Server includes Exchange 5.0’s old 16-GB storage limit.
- Supports for multiple databases.
- An X.400 connector.
- Support for clustering.
- Chat services.
Additionally, Microsoft ships Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server. It can work with either Exchange 2000 Server or Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server. Conferencing Server allows you to integrate data, voice, and videoconferencing into your network along with traditional e-mail and groupware functions.
Let’s take a look at some of the new and enhanced features of Exchange 2000.
Enhanced functions in Exchange 2000
Exchange 5.5 does a lot of nice things, but it’s far from perfect. When Microsoft shipped Exchange 2000, it looked at the feature set of Exchange 5.5 and tweaked some of the things that 5.5 did. Some of the areas that Microsoft enhanced include:
- Chat service—Exchange 2000’s chat service is based on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) protocol. Exchange 2000 scales to 20,000 users on a single server. It also includes an Auditorium mode, which allows you to create special event chats that permit only moderators and speakers to send messages to all the chat participants. Exchange 2000’s chat service integrates with Windows 2000’s Active Directory, allowing you to control channels, bans, classes, and network configuration from the comfort of your administrative workstation.
- Clustering—Exchange 2000 supports Active/Active clustering as opposed to Exchange 5.5’s Active/Passive model. Exchange 2000 uses the Microsoft Clustering Services of Windows 2000 Advanced Server to allow all of the servers used in a cluster to actively process messaging requests until a failure occurs that triggers rollover recovery.
- Collaboration Data Objects (CDOs) for rapid application development—Exchange 2000 includes CDO version 3.0, a set of Component Object Model (COM) objects for specifying business logic for workflow and other collaborative applications, developing Web-based applications, and accessing Active Directory. CDO can be used to create applications that take advantage of Exchange 2000 features, such as messaging, calendaring, contact management, and system management. Using CDO 3.0, administrators and developers can add capabilities to both the server and the Outlook client to suit their business needs.
- Document properties—The Microsoft Web Storage System included in Exchange 2000 can store properties, such as author, title, reviewer, and workflow state, with each item in the database. This can allow you to create indexes and search information. Any number of properties can be stored with each item, and the set of properties can be different for each item.
- Enhanced Outlook Web Access—Outlook Web Access (OWA) allows a Web browser to access e-mail, scheduling, contacts, and collaborative information stored in Microsoft Web Storage System folders. OWA can be used with any browser that supports frames and scripting, but because of DHTML extensions, it works best with Internet Explorer. OWA in Exchange 2000 adds a look and feel that is very similar to the Outlook client. It can support drag and drop, pop-up menus, toolbars, and rich-text editing.
- Fault-tolerant SMTP message routing—In Exchange 2000, Microsoft has implemented SMTP as the default transport protocol for routing all message traffic between servers, whether they are within the same or different sites. Microsoft changed the messaging routing algorithms in Exchange 2000 to provide fault-tolerant message delivery and eliminate message bounce-back when servers or network links are down.
- Internet Information Services (IIS) integration—With the increased capabilities of OWA and the addition of the Web Store, Microsoft tightened Exchange's integration with IIS.
- Multiple public folder trees—Exchange 2000 supports multiple public folder trees, which allow you to separate collaboration databases in a manner more consistent with your needs. You can create public folders based on functional, business, geographic, or any other requirements you may have.
- Unified messaging platform—Exchange 2000 adds support for the VPIM (Voice Profile for Internet Mail) standard, enabling interoperability between separate voice mail systems. You can access built-in fields in Windows 2000 Active Directory for voice mail-related information about users.
- Web forms—Microsoft Web Storage System forms are browser-based forms that are stored in the Microsoft Web Storage System and transmitted directly to the browser, via HTTP, by Exchange 2000. You can use them to create or modify items in the Web Store using any browser that supports HTML 3.2. You can create Web forms using FrontPage 2000.
New features in Exchange 2000
With all of the enhancements to Exchange 2000, it might be easy to assume that Exchange 2000 is just more of the same old thing. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Microsoft worked hard to add features to Exchange with the release of Exchange 2000. Some of the new features included in Exchange 2000 include:
- Access to Microsoft Web Storage System—The Microsoft Web Storage System provides a single database for messaging, collaboration, rich document storage, and Web-enabled applications. The Web Storage System can be accessed as a local drive on the server or through Microsoft IIS, which provides native Web access.
- Active Directory Connector—As much as Microsoft might like you to upgrade immediately, it understands that you might stick with Exchange 5.5 for a while. To help smooth integration issues, Exchange 2000 includes the Active Directory Connector (ADC), which lets you replicate directory objects between your Exchange Server 5.5 directory and Active Directory. ADC will also allow you to do a bulk import and export from Active Directory using a text file format.
- Active Directory integration—Exchange 5.5 had its own dedicated directory services. Exchange 2000 uses Windows 2000’s Active Directory, which allows you to create an enterprise directory with a single point of management for all users, groups, permissions, configuration data, network login, file, and Web shares.
- Built-in content indexing and search—The Microsoft Web Storage System component of Exchange 2000 includes built-in indexing for high-speed, accurate, full-text searches, enabling users to find content quickly and easily. All content in the Microsoft Web Storage System is indexed, including messages, stand-alone documents, contacts, tasks, calendar items, and collaboration data.
- Distributed services—Exchange 2000 allows you to create front-end and back-end servers that give you the power to host Exchange subsystems, such as protocols, storage, and directories on different servers.
- Installable file system—The Microsoft Web Storage System component of Exchange 2000 includes an installable file system, which allows users to transfer data between Exchange-based data and the Windows file system. Exchange 2000 configures the Exchange server’s M: drive for a direct Win32 application programming interface. The M: drive can be mapped for remote file system access, as well, and can be shared just like standard file system folders.
- Instant messaging—Exchange 2000 includes an instant messaging service built around MSN Messenger.
- Integration with Microsoft FrontPage 2000—You can use FrontPage 2000 to edit and manage Web applications hosted on the Microsoft Web Storage System.
- Item-level security—You can now set permissions at the item level using access control lists set for individual messages and properties of messages.
- Multiple-message databases—Exchange 2000 partitions its message store into separately manageable databases, each of which can be of unlimited size (in Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server). Multiple-message databases increase system reliability because, should one database stop responding, it won’t affect users in another database. This feature also enables more flexibility in strategies for backing up Exchange data, allowing shorter backup times because you can back up multiple databases simultaneously or individually as you desire.
- Native Internet mail content—Exchange 2000 can now allow clients to store and retrieve MIME content directly from the Exchange 2000 message store without having to convert the content.
- Policy-based administration—Exchange 2000 gives you the power to create policy models for administration for the purpose of making it easier to change administrative options across a set of objects with a single operation. Policies are nothing more than a collection of configuration settings that apply to Exchange objects.
- Presence information—Exchange 2000 allows a user to see if another user is logged on to the network using presence information, which is similar to instant messaging.
- Storage groups—One of the new concepts in Exchange 2000 is the storage group. Storage groups represent groups of databases that share a single transaction log set and therefore a single point of administration, backup, and restore. Storage groups also act as units of backup, meaning you can back up an entire storage group so only one copy of the system transaction log set must be written to tape. This allows for very fast restoration from backup that affects a minimal number of users.
- Support for HTTP and XML—Exchange 2000 uses HTTP to allow Web-based access to all data within the Microsoft Web Storage System, and it uses XML for the native representation of data.
- Support for Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV)—Exchange 2000 supports WebDAV, which allows Office 2000 documents to be stored directly into Exchange.
- System monitoring using Windows Management Instrumentation—Exchange 2000 uses new monitoring infrastructure based on the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) architecture to access event logs, Performance Monitor data, disk data, and service status.
- Windows 2000 security—Because Exchange 2000 relies on Windows 2000 for directory services and security, it has the full protection of the Windows 2000 security model. Windows 2000 security groups act as Exchange 2000 distribution lists, simplifying workgroup administration.
- Workflow Designer for Exchange 2000—Exchange 2000 includes Workflow Designer for Exchange, which allows developers to visually define the flow of information and business rules.
Features included in Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server
As I mentioned above, you can use Exchange 2000 to stream video and other information using Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server. Features in Conferencing Server include:
- Data conferencing—Exchange 2000 data conferencing allows dynamic, on-demand sharing of data and information using any T.120-compliant client, such as Microsoft NetMeeting. Users can see, chat, and share multimedia information with one another. Exchange 2000’s data-conferencing capability will allow users to share programs running their workstations, interact with one another, or send files in the background.
- Audio and video teleconferencing—Exchange 2000 uses Telephony API (TAPI) 3.0 to access the unique collaboration features of Windows 2000, such as Quality of Service and IP-based multicast technology, to provide audio and video teleconferencing services.
- Integration with Outlook 2000—Exchange 2000 Conferencing Server can use Outlook 2000 to schedule online meetings. Using the standard meeting request form in Outlook, users can set up a video conference and invite participants from the Exchange 2000 directory. Meetings can be either public or private, letting the meeting organizer decide whether the meeting is restricted to the invitees or publicly accessible.
Exchange 2000 represents a huge change for Exchange administrators. Microsoft has made many enhancements and added new features to Exchange in this version that you should be aware of if you’re thinking about deploying it in your organization. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ve given you a brief overview of what’s new in Exchange 2000.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.