What happens when an IT pro in southern California installs Exchange 2000 for the first time? Tag along and shoulder surf, as I recently did.

The machine
A beautifully and personally built P2-333 MHz box with 256 MB of RAM and a fairly meager 6-GB drive. Will it work?

The preparation
My first thought is what will I, as well as most of my colleagues, do when Exchange 2000 is shipped in its final form. Upgrade!

I install a fresh copy of Windows NT Server 4.0 with SP6a 128-bit and Exchange Server 5.5 with SP3 to get my machine resembling a configuration similar to what you’ll likely be using when Exchange 2000 is released.

Since Exchange 2000 relies on Active Directory, that comes next. The Exchange 2000 Beta 3 notes that this beta runs only on Windows 2000 RC2 (included with Exchange 2000 Beta 3). The Windows 2000 install goes smoothly, and Exchange 5.5 is still running well.

Next, it’s time to upgrade; or so I thought. As I begin the install of Exchange 2000, I’m presented with a dialog box stating that this version of Exchange doesn’t support upgrading from a previous version.

This message could be read in a couple of ways. I go with my preferred thought that it’s just this particular beta that doesn’t support upgrading. I really, really hope that Microsoft isn’t going to make this a “feature” of the final version of Exchange 2000.

The install
After reading the immense release notes for any more gotchas, grabbing a cup of coffee, and running the Win2K Server install, I have the machine ready for Exchange.

The set-up folders are pretty much the same as with Exchange Server 5.0/5.5. From there, the set-up is different. The install screen has a very snazzy look and resembles Office 2000, just a little less bulky. I choose all the options, except for Key Management Services.

The install proceeds seamlessly and asks some basic questions:

  • Do you want to create or join an Exchange 2000 organization or join an existing Exchange 5.5 organization?
  • What’s the organization’s name?
  • What’s the Admin group name? (default is First Administrative Group)
  • Which Routing Group? (default is First Admin/First Routing)
  • Which Service account? (choose the account that will have supreme reign in Exchange)

I’m then presented with an installation summary so I can make sure everything is going where it should. It looks much like the main install screen, but this is my last chance to review the changes that are about to be made and make corrections before the install begins. Once I hit Finish, Exchange does its thing without any interaction on my part.

The only other parts worth noting, in my opinion, are the following:

During the drive selection, Exchange kept going to the A: drive, looking to install there. Why would someone want to install Exchange Server to the A: drive? Did Microsoft do something so incredible that allows it to be run off a floppy? I guess that’s not the case and chalk it up to being a beta bug.

After selecting all of your options, you are greeted with a warning that Exchange runs only under Per Seat licensing as opposed to Per Server. The warning message asks you to agree or disagree that you are licensed to run in Per Seat mode.

Of course if you disagree, the game’s over and the install cancels. I’m trying to figure out why (besides the obvious financial reasons) Microsoft would force people to run in this mode. There’s nothing in the release notes to explain it. Maybe this is another beta thing. We won’t know until the next beta or, perhaps, the final release.

The good thing is that those running in Per Server mode will always have the one-time option of switching to Per Seat mode, unless they’ve switched already or that option has changed on the Windows 2000 Server.

Also, during the install, Exchange said the Directory Schema must be extended and this may take a considerable amount of time. The dialog box isn’t kidding, either. The extension took 25 minutes. This is on a machine that’s just been freshly installed. I shudder to think how long it would take for a production machine operating many more programs.

The lowdown
The install finishes at 2:43 A.M., nearly 45 minutes after it started. It looks good, and the server seems to be running quite smoothly.

There are only a couple of option selections in the Exchange Administrator folder.

My recommendations for anyone who’s considering playing with Exchange 2000 are:

  • If you happen to have production machines running Windows 2000, don’t put Exchange 2000 on them. It’s beta software, and as Microsoft will tell you, it’s not ready for prime time.
  • Make sure you install Exchange 2000 on a machine that isn’t anywhere close to being connected with production machines running Exchange 5.5. You could make a mistake and have it join the Exchange 5.5 organization and, well, you’d experience trouble sure to keep you up until 2:43 A.M., too.
  • When installing Windows 2000 Server, make it a domain controller by running the dcpromo command.

From this point, it’s on to adding users and seeing how Outlook 2000 integrates with Exchange 2000, but that’s another article.

Christopher Tellez is a network manager based in southern California. He earned his MCSE in 1997 and enjoys taking a break from corporate-enterprise computing to share time with his wife and son.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.