Microsoft always has difficulty deciding when to discuss future product releases. The concern is that when customers hear about the next release, they'll stop buying the current release, putting a huge damper on revenue streams. But the cat finally seems to be out of the bag (it's been out for beta and Joint Development Program—JDP—customers for quite some time): Microsoft seems willing to talk publicly about the next release of Exchange 2000 Server, code-named Titanium.
Titanium will be the "official" Exchange Server product for Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server), although Titanium will also run on Windows 2000. Microsoft won't support Exchange 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3) or earlier on Win.NET Server, even though that configuration seems to work. This decision seems to be causing a lot of flack for Microsoft-–especially because it comes right on the heels of announcements regarding support end dates for Win2K, Windows NT, and Exchange Server 5.5. Microsoft appears to be herding customers to its most recent product releases, an action that seems to be designed to keep Microsoft revenues growing. However, Microsoft can't achieve the high degrees of product stability and supportability that customers are demanding unless it makes tough choices about the support scope for products such as Exchange. In the short term, these decisions are irritating, but in the long term, customers should enjoy better support of the fewer available product versions.
Titanium will continue to build on Exchange 2000's "abilities." Reliability is a key area in which Microsoft is making substantial efforts. To enhance clustering support, Titanium will include a better cluster-resource dependency model and promises to reduce many of the memory-management headaches that plague clustered Exchange 2000 deployments. And after waiting several years for this enhancement, I'm pleased to announce that Microsoft will finally add snapshot and cloning support to Exchange's disaster-recovery options. When running Titanium on Win.NET Server, systems managers will be able to take advantage of the OS's Volume ShadowCopy Service (VSS) to take snapshots or make clones of Exchange Stores. (This support will be contingent on hardware and software vendors providing the technology and supporting the VSS interfaces in Win.NET Server.)
User-experience enhancements will be another significant aspect of Titanium. First and foremost, Titanium will coincide with the release of Microsoft Office 11 (the next version of Office). Thus, for the first time in several years, the Exchange Server and Outlook client product releases will be aligned. Together, the two product teams can invest in huge improvements in the Exchange/Outlook interface, usability, and even in how the Outlook client communicates with Exchange and stores data. Second, and closely tied to these standard-client improvements, the mobile-client experience is also a priority in Titanium. Microsoft is rolling key elements of its Mobile Information Server into Titanium, Outlook 11, and mobile clients such as the Pocket PC. The resulting mobility enhancements will greatly improve messaging and collaboration capabilities for wireless and mobile users of Exchange. Third, Microsoft is further enhancing Outlook Web Access (OWA) with features such as a spelling checker to make OWA look and feel as similar to the Outlook client as possible. By drastically overhauling UIs, communication protocols, and mobility functionality and by adding new features across the board, Titanium promises to provide the best user experience yet.
Titanium is almost a year away, and I doubt that the majority of organizations are ready to start thinking about it despite these significant motivations to upgrade. But keep an eye on this incremental release of Exchange 2000, which is likely to be the last major enhancement of the Exchange 2000 codebase (with the exception of future service packs). After Titanium, we aren't likely to see much new in Exchange 2000; instead, we'll be talking about Kodiak—the distant future release of Exchange that will be built on the next Microsoft SQL Server release, code-named Yukon.