Exchange 2000: Bringing People and Information Together

ATLANTA, Oct. 4, 1999 — Greg Scott says he runs a pretty lean shop, and you have to agree with him.

Scott, the information services manager for the College of Business at Oregon State University, has just three full-time employees and two part-time students to support the IT needs of more than 15,000 faculty, staff and students. The infrastructure he manages includes 18 servers, seven electronic classrooms and a 150-workstation computer lab. As if keeping the servers up and the email flowing isn’t enough, Scott also wants technology to provide a competitive advantage for OSU, which boasts one of the nation’s oldest collegiate schools of business. Scott could use an ace up his sleeve. And he says he has one with Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server.

“Exchange 2000 is the single most strategically important application we run,”
says Scott, who has been using a pre-release version of the newest Exchange Server — formerly code-named
“Platinum”
— since June.
“We see it driving the instructional innovation we’re planning over the next couple of years. That’s why we’re more than willing to make the effort to implement it. For me to make an investment with my small shop, I need to know there’s a payback — and in my mind, there’s no question of payback when it comes to Exchange. For example, Microsoft’s new Web Store technology will make it a lot easier for us to deliver collaboration-based instructional solutions.”

A lot of other IT directors will soon see why Scott is so excited, as Microsoft releases the Beta 3 version of Exchange 2000 at the Microsoft Exchange Conference in Atlanta this week, giving a record 5,000 attendees their first detailed look at the knowledge management features behind the new product.

Exchange 2000 is the reliable, easy-to-manage platform for messaging and collaboration that brings users and knowledge together, providing an enhanced platform for messaging and collaboration, increased knowledge worker productivity and access to information at any time, from anywhere. The product will play a key role in Microsoft’s four initiatives to meet the needs of 21 st century knowledge workers, including a “digital dashboard” to deliver the right information to knowledge workers at the right time; Web Store technology that opens applications to knowledge of all kinds; mobility and wireless solutions to provide broader access to information; and intelligent interfaces to revolutionize the way people work.

Web Store Enables Single Platform for Collaboration

The Web Store technology in Exchange 2000 Server gives organizations the unprecedented ability to store, manage and use increasingly diverse types of information, such as email, Web pages and documents from powerful business applications.

In addition to tighter integration of these disparate data types, Exchange 2000’s Web Store will support rich views of information and search tools that work across a wide variety of information. The Web Store is also a complete application platform for Web-enabled business applications, such as workflow tracking and routing.

Specific Web Store features being shared with Microsoft Exchange Conference attendees include the following:

  • Easy access to email, documents, Web pages and business applications from a wide variety of client software , including Outlook, Office 2000, Windows Explorer, any Web browser, any Windows 32-bit application, Microsoft FrontPage2000 and even the MS-DOS prompt.

  • Store and retrieve Office 2000 documents with the Web Store using standard dialog boxes, providing a single set of tools for managing email and documents.

  • Built-in content indexing enabling high speed, accurate full-text searches to find information quickly.

  • Leading support for the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Document Authoring and Versioning (DAV) standards , enabling high-performance Web interaction.

  • Complete application platform for Web-enabled business and workflow applications , supporting OLE/DB and ADO for easy access and navigation of Web Store data, a Web forms architecture, and integration with Microsoft FrontPage 2000.

  • Comprehensive server event model, enabling designers to create powerful workflow and administrative applications.

OSU’s Greg Scott says he’s particularly interested in the synchronous event architecture in the Exchange 2000 Server’s Web Store, which enables applications to boost productivity by replacing processes that must be handled manually today, such as expense reporting.

“When we began looking at the auto-indexing and synchronous event capabilities of the Web Store, it really made sense for us to move data off NTFS (NT File System) and directly onto the Exchange 2000 Web Store,”
says Scott.
“You gain the ability to immediately access data with any standard Web browser or Windows application, the ability to have more sophisticated folder views, and more.”

As an example of how the Web Store will help Oregon State University, Scott cites an MIS class in which students create files that must meet specific criteria for page and paragraph formatting, organization, and so on.

While those assignments can be submitted over the Web today, and even run through applications that assess and grade them, instructors have to assign graduate students to manually retrieve the files from folders and run them through the grading application. With synchronous event triggers, the entire process could be automated, with assignments automatically routing to the grading application and students receiving their grades within minutes, or even seconds, after submitting their assignments.

Scott says he sees the Web Store supporting OSU’s business school in other ways, as well. For example, Scott anticipates being able to publish to the Web personal calendars for each of the college’s 3,000 students, including customized class-assignment due dates. The Web Store makes it possible for the college to assemble, manage and publish the various types of data that will appear in each personal calendar.

Beyond the Web Store, Scott says he sees a broad range of other features in Exchange 2000 Server that can boost educational efficiency. For example:

  • The Web Outlook Access Client will greatly lower total cost of ownership. Currently, Scott’s IT team must support all remote installations of Outlook. Moving to Outlook Web Access will simplify the support for remote and roving users, he predicts.

  • Integrated content indexing and search look attractive to OSU because they address the school’s
    “number one problem in user interaction with the network,”
    according to Scott: the inability of users to keep track of all of their files stored on the network. With the Web Store, users can keep up-to-date indexes of user files organized however the user wants, making it easy for users to find what they need.

  • Real-time collaboration features such as audio, data and video conferencing will make it easy for faculty office hours to go virtual, facilitating student/faculty interactions. Collaboration tools will also make it easier for students to work more productively in “virtual teams” on class projects.

Joint Development Partners Program Gives Organizations a Head Start on Implementing Exchange 2000

OSU’s College of Business got its head start on Exchange Server 2000 as a participant in Microsoft’s Joint Development Partners program. Under the JDP program, corporations, schools and other organizations get early beta copies of new software and provide feedback that helps shape product direction.

Scott says he began talking in earnest with Microsoft about Exchange 2000 Server — then called
“Platinum”
— more than 15 months ago, listening to what Microsoft wanted to do with the product and sharing his belief that the product should be easy to use in custom application development. As a result of those conversations, Scott began to talk with internal developers at OSU about leveraging the new software to support course delivery. He also made the decision to upgrade his storage capacity to 2.0 terabytes from 500GB.

“When I saw what the Web Store could do, I knew we’d take great advantage of it — and that we’d want more storage capacity to do so,”
Scott recalls.

Other companies and organizations can begin to take advantage of Exchange 2000 Server, Beta 3 software, as well. The latest pre-release version is being distributed to conference attendees here in Atlanta and is publicly available from the Microsoft Web site in English, German, French and Japanese versions.

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