Q&A: Exchange Server 2003 Enhances Online Communications Collaboration through Increased Integration

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 20, 2003 — Tuesday’s coordinated launch of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and the new Microsoft Office System, on the heels of the earlier arrival of Microsoft Windows Server 2003, reflects a concerted effort by Microsoft to enhance its end-to-end messaging and collaboration offerings for information workers. By integrating Exchange Server 2003’s delivery of server and client e-mail-based communications and personal information management (PIM) with both the Windows Server System and the Office System, Microsoft aims to reduce IT complexity and total cost of operation, while simultaneously helping information workers better connect with each other, with their information, and their business processes.

In a roundtable discussion, PressPass spoke with two Microsoft executives and a leading customer: Kevin McCuistion , director of Microsoft Exchange Product Management; Terry Myerson , general manager of Microsoft’s Exchange Division, and Dennis Fouty , associate vice president at the University of Houston, one of the more than 200 organizations — representing over 330,000 end users — that have already deployed Exchange 2003 in a Rapid Deployment program.

PressPass: This is the first time that Microsoft has released a version of Exchange simultaneously with a version of Office. What was Microsoft’s thinking behind the integration of Exchange 2003 and the Office System?

McCuistion: The integration really allows users to do more with less. This directly maps to the two main goals that the Exchange 2003 and Office System development groups had in establishing joint release criteria for these new products: Improve information worker productivity and drive down the overall cost of ownership for the system that brings the tools to you.

The combination of Exchange 2003 and the Office System brings about a great level of integration between not only servers and clients, but also within the services that support the whole infrastructure. And Exchange 2003 really provides great new opportunities for working with Office System products like Microsoft Outlook, Word, SharePoint Portal Server, and Live Communications Server. Customers are saying,
“Hey, it’s fantastic that you’re making these complementary products all work together and releasing them at the same time.”

Myerson: The integration is especially important for Exchange and Outlook. From the customer’s perspective, Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003, the information management and communication program in the Office System, are really part of the same solution. We wanted to make sure that Outlook 2003 is at its absolute best when used with Exchange 2003.

PressPass: What’s new in Outlook 2003 and how does Exchange 2003 support those new features in the client?

Myerson: Many people spend much of their day working in e-mail. Outlook is a very comfortable portal for them to do their business in. We’ve made the experience even richer. There are new features that make it easy to collaborate with others on documents whether you’re in a meeting with the group or at separate locations. Now you can easily integrate documents with your personal information — your mail, calendar and tasks. And with Active Directory and Windows Server 2003 integration, the user can use Outlook to see the
“presence”
of a colleague. Right-click on a name in your Address Book and you can see if that person is in the office, online, on the phone, or in a meeting. These are just a couple of examples of ways that Exchange 2003 and Office System work together to make people a lot more productive and a lot more collaborative.

McCuistion : Another new feature in Outlook 2003 that I really like is Quick Flagging. It’s a way of triaging your e-mail, deciding which messages you want to follow-up on and which you don’t. The end-user experience with an Exchange 2003 back end is just phenomenally better than it’s ever been before. Not only are there more features in Outlook 2003, but the integration with Exchange 2003 creates a more consistent experience that makes interacting with your e-mail and other information much more efficient.

PressPass: Are these features in Outlook 2003 available to mobile users and people making remote connections?

Myerson: Absolutely. We’ve added a feature called RPC (Remote Procedure Call) over HTTP. This allows you to use an HTTP Web connection to link Outlook 2003 directly to the Exchange 2003 server. Users can work from the full Outlook client wherever you have a connection to the Internet, without have to use a costly and high maintenance virtual private network (VPN).

McCuistion: It is a huge improvement over something that got people really frustrated: you’re somewhere on the road, maybe in an airport, and you have to get a phone line and connect by VPN. Then you usually pull up a browser because you don’t want to pull up your full client; you know how long that can take. But now you get the full performance of the client just using an Internet connection. Whether you are at a hotel or the airport, find any Internet connection — wireless if you’re in a hotspot — and pull up your full Outlook 2003 client, connect to the Exchange 2003 and start to synchronize.

Fouty: The great mobile access means that a lot of our faculty and staff, who are using PDAs and handhelds in the classroom and around campus, can now access their e-mail a lot more easily and effectively than in the past. Our support staff uses mobile access to respond to support emails when they’re out of the office working at remote sites. We’ve increased our productivity all the way around. Not only from the general user perspective, but also from the support team perspective as well.

PressPass: What about Outlook Web Access?

Myerson: It’s the Exchange and Outlook experience — an identical user interface — available in a Web browser. So you have this great new end-user experience if you’re at home, in a hotel room or even at an internet kiosk. And with Outlook Mobile Access, users can access their Exchange data from a variety of mobile devices.

Fouty: We’re a major university in a major metropolitan city. A lot of our students don’t fit the traditional role of college student that you find at other college campuses. We don’t have a very large resident population. Most of our students are commuter students. We also have professional students taking graduate courses at the university while working at jobs elsewhere. And many of our faculty have consulting positions with firms in Houston.

So a large percentage of our population connects through mobile access or works remotely. Outlook Web Access allows them to access their email from wherever they might be and to stay in contact with their university peers. We have bigger mobility issues and opportunities than many other universities.

The Web interface is the big winner in the whole client experience from what we’ve seen thus far. People are thrilled that the feature set is so rich and that it’s such a reliable interface. Because the client interface and the Web interface are so similar, we’re seeing a lot fewer user issues than in the past. Users are extremely happy that the feature set that they are used to with the client is now available on the Web interface. That’s reduced the number of support calls that we’ve had.

PressPass: Have you done anything to help remote users who have slow network connections?

McCuistion: We’ve added a feature called Cached Exchange Mode. It’s fantastic for a user in a low-bandwidth situation or in a place where they have wireless access. Once it’s set up in your infrastructure, you can work with your full e-mail and calendar store, even when you’re offline. Whenever you have a server connection, Outlook will synchronize to the server. But you don’t have to tell the server,
“I’m online”
or
“I’m offline.”
It just knows.

Myerson: We built a lot of intelligence into the system to do this. It’s one of the areas where the work on integrating Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003 really paid off. Cached Exchange Mode is enabled with Outlook 2003, but it’s Exchange 2003 that makes it really powerful. The benefit is you can be sitting in your office, or in your corner Starbucks or at an airport, and you can work in full Outlook. When you connect to the server, it synchronizes. But if your connection goes down, Outlook doesn’t hang like it used to. Synchronization is essentially ongoing now. The process doesn’t shut down when you don’t have a connection. Integration of information across devices is automatic. This is really compelling.

PressPass: That all goes to the


do more


part of the value proposition. On the


with less


piece, how is cost of ownership lowered?

McCuistion: We did breakthrough work around allowing customers to consolidate their operations to fewer servers and fewer data centers, which should help dramatically reduce costs for our customers. Savings will primarily come from site consolidation. Historically you would put an Exchange server within every department of your organization. So if you had offices around the world, every office would have an Exchange server. But with Exchange 2003, some customers will be able to consolidate to one or two regional data centers. Sure, servers are relatively cheap, but having fewer of them saves you money. Even more significant, consolidating sites means businesses need manpower in fewer locations. That’s potentially a phenomenal saving.

Myerson: Another benefit of Cached Exchange Mode is that there’s a lot less messaging traffic over the wire. The client doesn’t have to talk to the server so much anymore. This, too, could mean fewer servers in a customer’s infrastructure. And fewer sites.

McCuistion: We’ve also responded to customers who told us that back-up and restore is one of their biggest problems. We worked with the Windows Server team to develop Volume Shadow Copy Services, which reduces back-up time from hours to minutes. The whole process is more efficient and reliable. It means that IT administrators don’t have to come in at midnight to do scheduled down-time. They have more flexibility and will spend fewer hours doing this critical task.

PressPass: Security is a big concern for all customers. How have you addressed these concerns?

Myerson: Security has been a huge focus for our whole company. Last year we walked through all of our code line-by-line. We’ve now made all the settings in the software secure by default. The biggest thing we’ve done here is made the links between Exchange servers and clients the Exchange communication links more secure. IT administrators can now choose to encrypt whole sets of connections.

McCuistion: I think of spam as a security problem, though it’s unique to e-mail. Spam is a huge threat to our trusting e-mail to be a secure communications environment. We want to make e-mail a really trustworthy communications tool. To me that means two things: reliability and control. I want to trust that all the e-mail that’s sent to me actually gets to me. But I also want control so that all the e-mail I don’t want doesn’t get to me. There are a lot of hard problems. But between our anti-spam work and our S/MIME work, we’ve made a lot of progress.

Myerson: S/MIME is short for Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions. It’s a protocol that allows people to send secure e-mail. It provides the means to send an e-mail that is certified as coming from you and encrypted so that it can only be read by the person who’s receiving it. It’s private. Most e-mail today flows around the Internet like postcards. S/MIME is like putting the message in an envelope and stamping it so that only the intended recipient can open it. There’s a lot of great work in Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003 to make S/MIME a much more deployable solution for enterprises to adopt.

Fouty: About a year ago the university implemented a spam-flagging product that flags e-mail based on certain characteristics. But because we’re in a university environment, we don’t remove this e-mail. Our users want to make their own decisions about what e-mail they look at.

With the new Outlook interface, people have been very pleased that they can automatically redirect flagged mail to specific folders so that it’s not going to their primary in-box and clogging it up. They can also implement a range of anti-junk-mail features. This granularity in Outlook, along with the product that we’d already implemented, means that our users can be much more productive than in the past. Now they do not have to wade through all that unwanted e-mail. They’re very pleased with this enhancement.

McCuistion: There’s a big improvement in spam prevention for customers who have deployed Outlook 2003 and Exchange 2003. We’ve built a lot of intelligence into the client to know what kinds of e-mails look like spam. The server has the capability to interact with the client to identify ongoing patterns of spam. And users now have the ability to set up
“safe”
lists and
“block”
lists to indicate the kinds of e-mail they either want to see or discard. The system learns from what you block and incorporates your choices into the spam filter.

PressPass: Why do you recommend customers using Exchange 5.5 upgrade to Exchange 2003?

McCuistion: For all of the reasons that we have discussed and more. Exchange 5.5 was a great product, but the technology is seven-years-old. The time to upgrade is now.

Fouty: We implemented Active Directory and then planned to migrate from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000. But we went directly to Exchange 2003. It fit nicely with several of the other initiatives that we have going on campus, particularly our mobility initiative. The advanced features available on Exchange 2003 were exactly what we were looking for.

We were totally amazed with how seamless the migrations were from the standpoint of the users. We were concerned about moving user mailboxes when they were away from campus for the summer. But once we verified that the migrations were so incredibly seamless, we felt confident that we could go ahead and move the mailboxes whether we were actually in direct contact with the users or not. We were extremely pleased with that. And very surprised. That’s not something we expected.

One of our biggest problems right now is that we have people calling and requesting that they be moved to the Exchange 2003 environment sooner rather than later. Everyone they know has already been moved and they want all these new features, too. The 2003 environment is so robust and reliable and the feature set has been so enhanced. Our users are demanding the extra features.

PressPass: What kinds of assistance are Microsoft and its partners making available to customers deploying Exchange 2003?

McCuistion: We have on-line deployment tools, documentation and training materials that have really been improved for this release. We’ve also begun a series of LoadFest events around the U.S., where customers are invited to bring in a server and load an evaluation copy of Exchange. Exchange experts are there to answer questions and provide suggestions and tips for deployment. These are really valuable and are proving to be a lot of fun and very popular. And our partners Solution Providers for small- to medium-size businesses, Systems Integrators for big enterprises are all thoroughly trained on Exchange 2003 and already out there working with customers on deployment.

Myerson: There are 200-plus partners who have made announcements of their support even before we launch. Many of these of are Independent Software Vendors, who have solutions that build on Exchange 2003. Usually this only happens after you launch. But the quality of this release combined with the pent up demand has been so huge that we’re way ahead of the curve right now.

Exchange Server 2003 Migration Made Easy

For customers, making the move to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 is a no-worry, no-hassle process with the extensive resources developed by Microsoft and its industry partners.
“We want to provide the tools to help IT administrators get their systems up and running with this great product quickly and painlessly, says Kevin McCuistion, director of Exchange Product Management.”
We know that well thought-out learning products and services translate into a great deployment experience for our customers.

Step-by-step instructions on how to deploy servers, analyze existing topologies, and check for prerequisites are among the new tools designed with the flexibility to allow customers to upgrade at a comfortable pace. Customers will find recommended configuration settings and validation processes.

To get started, customers can select from among these skills assessments, training and workshops, books and certifications resources created by Microsoft Learning and its partners:

  • Assess Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 readiness
    http://www.microsoft.com/assessment/

  • Introduction to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
    http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/evaluation/ex2003intro.asp (overview of new features)

  • Deploying a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Organization
    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/prodtechnol/
    exchange/Exchange2003/proddocs/library/DepGuide.asp ( recommendations for deployment, upgrade and configuration information)

  • Managing a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Organization
    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/prodtechnol/
    exchange/Exchange2003/proddocs/library/AdminGde.asp (online book on how to configure settings, manage e-mail recipients, troubleshoot)

Customers can close skills gaps with these official Microsoft Learning Products available at http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/centers/exchange2003.asp :

  • Microsoft Official Course 2400, Implementing and Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • Microsoft Official Course 2009, Updating Skills from Microsoft Exchange 5.5 to Exchange Server 2003

  • Microsoft Official Workshop 2011, Troubleshooting Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • Microsoft Official Course 2008, Designing a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Organization

Microsoft Press offers several useful books at http://www.microsoft.com/mspress/net/
servers/exchange2003/default.asp:

  • Programming Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange 2003, Third Edition

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Resource Kit

  • Secure Messaging with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Administrator’s Companion

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant

  • MCSA/MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit: Implementing and Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

Information on obtaining a messaging certification specialization:
http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/mcp/mcsa/windows2003/ :

  • MCSA: Messaging

  • MCSE: Messaging