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Microsoft Unveils Details of Platinum

DALLAS -- Microsoft Corp. has entered the Beta 2 phase for its next version of Exchange, code-named Platinum, a release targeted at improving scalability in part through tight integration with the Active Directory services of Windows 2000.

Gordon Mangione, product unit manager for Microsoft Exchange, detailed many of the new features and aspects of the architecture during a technical session at the Microsoft TechEd user conference.

The upcoming version is designed to push Exchange into large hosted environments with up to 10 million users, which is the theoretical limit for objects within an Active Directory domain. The closed beta release went only to users who had committed to deploying the new version of Exchange within 90 days of general availability.

To improve scalability and reliability of Exchange, Microsoft is providing support for partitioning and enhancing cluster management capabilities. Platinum allows users to partition by dedicating servers to specific Exchange processes including protocols, storage or directories. The new version also enables partitioning of the Exchange database and multiple instances of the Exchange database on the same server.

Cluster management in Exchange builds on that partitioning. "Clustering is really an area where we’ve made massive investments in Platinum," Mangione says. An Exchange administrator can configure two Exchange storage servers in an active-active cluster, with each server running three instances of the database. If one of the servers fails, the databases can fail over to the other machine.

Integration with Active Directory includes support for Active Directory’s Access Control List (ACL) security feature on items in Exchange and allows unification of mailboxes with their Active Directory users.

The release includes many enhancements at the user level through integration with Office 2000 and puts many collaboration tools in developers hands.

Platinum includes URL addressability for all hierarchies, folders, messages and attachments. "We’re basically making all of the data in an Exchange server Web-readable," Mangione says.

Integration of that feature with Office2000 should allow Web access to mailboxes. The products will be capable of determining the type of browser in use, and those with support for XML should have a Web experience of Outlook that is nearly identical to an Outlook client, Mangione says.

Platinum also shares the Grizzly architecture, a code name for a set of Workflow objects being built on top of the SQL Server database, which will allow tight integration between those two products in upcoming releases, Mangione says. -- Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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