Exchange 2003 to RTM Monday

Microsoft will release Exchange Server 2003 to manufacturing on Monday, company officials said Thursday. The company plans to hold prices steady from Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2003 and will include more flexible licensing options for the messaging server, as well.

"Availability for volume licensing customers will be later this summer. General availability for retail is going to be later this year," said Missy Stern, an Exchange product manager.

Release to manufacturing means the code is finished and ready to be pressed into CDs or posted for download. For Exchange, the milestone means the end of a three-year development cycle that saw the inclusion of part of the functionality of Mobile Information Server and an interruption for the development team to get security training and review the code under the Trustworthy Computing initiative.

The first and only Release Candidate for Exchange Server 2003 was released at TechEd on June 2. At that time, the Exchange management team predicted that it would take 6-8 weeks to finish the product, which would have put the RTM in mid-July or early August.

As part of the RTM announcement, Microsoft disclosed its pricing plans for the server, which have it holding costs steady from Exchange 2000 at $699 for the standard edition and $3,999 for the enterprise edition.

There is something of a price break for front-end server deployments of Exchange. Front-end servers are Exchange servers deployed outside the corporate firewall for tasks that pose few security risks. While Microsoft required that users buy the enterprise edition of Exchange 2000 for a front-end server, the company now supports the use of the standard edition of Exchange Server 2003 on the front-end. Exchange Server 2003 can be deployed as a front-end server for Outlook Web Access, Outlook Mobile Access or for Active Synch, a new feature which allows wireless devices to synchronize e-mail without plugging into a cradle attached to a desktop.

Following the lead of the Windows Server 2003 team on Client Access Licenses, the Exchange team has introduced several CAL options for the new version of the messaging server.

In the past, organizations had to pay a per-device CAL with an entry-level volume license cost of $67 each. With Exchange Server 2003, organizations can select per-device, per-user or a mix of the CAL types at the same $67 price. Microsoft is also introducing a $50,000 External Connector option for organizations that want to support many outside users who are not regular users. An example of a potential External Connector customer would be a university looking to offer e-mail accounts to its alumni.

Stern said the Exchange Server 2003 RTM follows the most stringent set of release criteria to date, including a six-week uptime requirement at 99.95 percent availability; sign off by all of the roughly 50 JDP customers, who had 170,000 seats deployed among them; 100 percent internal deployment of Exchange Server 2003 at Microsoft; and testing of more than 1,000 usage scenarios.

Exchange Server 2003 runs with full functionality on Windows Server 2003 and with limited functionality on Windows 2000 servers.

About the Author

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

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