As Microsoft works to integrate management and administration of your Exchange 2000 Server environment into the "bigger picture" of Microsoft's and the industry's management paradigms, let's look at what's changed in Exchange 2000 and what the future might hold.

The most glaring change in Exchange 2000 is the switch from Exchange Administrator to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. By moving Exchange to the same management interface as other BackOffice/.NET applications, Microsoft has provided better management flexibility and improved granularity and decoupled the administration of Exchange 2000 from the topological focus (site-container-server) present in Exchange 5.5 and earlier versions. With just a few MMC modules, Exchange 2000 administration is complete. Microsoft has also included more wizards with Exchange 2000 that simplify tasks such as delegation, mailbox creation, and migration. The Exchange Task Wizard lets you perform several operations, depending on the context under which you activate it.

Within the MMC framework, you can load DLLs that perform specific functions but work within the look and feel of MMC. Exchange 2000 comes with five main snap-in modules: System Manager, Message Tracking Center, Public Folders, Security, and Conferencing Services. These Exchange modules can manage users and contacts, groups, organization, administrative and routing groups, and policies. In addition, server-specific objects, such as storage groups (SGs), protocol virtual servers, queues, and monitors are accessible via the MMC interface.

Where the built-in management tools for Exchange 2000 leave off, programmatic extensions for Exchange management pick up. These extensions are called Collaboration Data Objects for Exchange Management (CDOEXM). Combined with Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI—for access to AD objects), CDOEXM really has no direct user interface; it's a set of CDO extensions that allow manipulation of Exchange objects and some of their methods. Together, CDOEXM and ADSI let Exchange administrators augment the built-in MMC snap-ins by developing their own management applications and tools specific to their deployment needs.

The future of Exchange (and Windows 2000) management lies in Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). WMI is Microsoft's implementation of Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM—click here for more information). In Win2K, WMI already provides access to a variety of management information. Look for Microsoft to leverage WMI even more heavily in the next Win2K version (Whistler) and Exchange version (Mercury). Keep an eye on Win2K management. The more features that Microsoft enables in the core OS, the more the Exchange folks will leverage.