On the heels of its release candidate of Exchange Server 2003, shipped earlier this month, Microsoft Monday released the email client and server to manufacturing, signaling that it will soon be generally available.
The company said customers can now order a 120-day evaluation kit and sign up for an Outlook Web Access demonstration account. The product, formerly code-named "Titanium," is scheduled to be made available to volume-licensing customers this summer and to become generally available this fall.
The company also provided some visibility into its pricing and licensing terms, noting that it will keep prices for Exchange 2003 at the same as current pricing for Exchange 2000. "However, customers will be getting a lot more value out of the product with improvements in scalability, reliability and security as well as improvements in Outlook 2003, Outlook Web Access and built-in wireless access (formerly provided by Mobile Information Server 2002)," Microsoft said in a statement.
The product will be available in two editions: Standard and Enterprise. The standard edition is geared for small- to medium-sized organizations, as well as branch offices, while enterprise edition targets large organizations with more complex deployments and scaling requirements. Microsoft also noted that the release marks the first time the standard edition can be used for a front-end scenario, allowing customers to deploy Outlook Web Access without having to purchase the enterprise edition.
The company is also providing more options when it comes to licensing in order to meet the needs of users who provide access for employees through multiple devices. The new flexibility comes in the form of a per-user client access license (CAL), which allows a single user unlimited access to the Exchange server from multiple devices, including desktops, laptops, home PCs and mobile devices. Companies that utilize shared PC environments or kiosks also have the option of going with the Exchange Server 2003 Device CAL, which allows an unlimited number of people to access Exchange 2003 from a single device.
Companies will also need the Exchange Server 2003 Server License, which grants the holder the right to install and use the software. Additionally, they have the option of going with the Exchange Server 2003 External Connector License, providing access to the Exchange server to an unlimited number of business partners, suppliers, customers, retirees and alumni.
"Customers told us we had to deliver greater value with less complexity," said Mohsen al-Ghosein, vice president of Exchange Server at Microsoft. "When an IT administrator deploys Exchange 2003 out of the box, it 'just has to work.' Information workers need access to their inboxes from anywhere and everywhere and they want the same performance and experience as if they were sitting in front of their desktop.
After three years of research and development, customers should have the confidence that we've answered their call. Deployment and management will be easier with Exchange 2003, and implementation will be possible with the knowledge and experience an IT administrator already has. And because IT can get Exchange up and running faster and cheaper, Exchange 2003 enables a company to optimize business processes and magnify productivity."
Microsoft is boasting new deployment tools in Exchange Server 2003. The tools are designed to help Exchange 5.5 customers plan and implement a "smooth" upgrade while also maintaining the availability of their messaging infrastructures. Part of the toolset is a set of analysis and reporting tools intended to give customers an accurate picture of their existing networks and Exchange 5.5 environment before beginning the Exchange 2003 deployment.
On the Active Directory front, Microsoft said it provides the Active Directory Migration Tool (ADMT) 2.0 and the Exchange Active Directory Connector (ADC). ADMT 2.0 is designed to aid the migration to the Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Service while ADC is intended to smooth the path by enabling coexistence and replication between the Exchange 5.5 directory and Active Directory.
The upgrade tools also verify that each step of the installation process is successfully completed before the next step begins, and they also offer the option to perform multiple, simultaneous scheduled moves of Exchange 5.5 mailboxes to Exchange 2003. They also include a public and system folder migration tool.
Microsoft said that in an effort to be flexible in meeting customer upgrade schedules and budgets, it has designed the product so it can be deployed in phases and can coexist with other messaging servers running Exchange 2000 and/or Exchange 5.5. It also noted that Outlook 2003, Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2000 can work with Exchange 2003.
"Exchange Server 2003 features more powerful deployment tools than ever before," said Betsy Speare, Exchange release manager. "For example, new wizards scan the network and advise if any patches or updates are needed prior to deployment, so the administrator is less likely to encounter problems. The architecture takes better advantage of the Active Directory directory service for more power and control -- without requiring administrators to become experts in Active Directory. Microsoft Operations Manager is easier to use with Exchanger Server, so administrators can take better advantage of an extremely powerful tool for managing their Exchange infrastructure."
The company noted that more than 200 partners are already prepping the delivery of Exchange 2003 solutions. Many of those partners are taking advantage of Exchange's new virus-scanning API (VSAPI) 2.5 and a new antispam tool in order to build integrated security, antivirus and antispam solutions for Exchange.
Microsoft said the new version, when combined with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, will provide easier email and calendar management, faster synchronization and easier Internet access. Outlook Web Access has been redesigned to add new features which provide access to Exchange data through most Web browsers. The product has also been equipped with built-in support for wireless access.