Well, things are hopping at Microsoft Exchange Conference 99 (MEC99) here in Atlanta. Exchange Server general manager Eric Lockard and his boss, Paul Gross, started the conference on Monday with a great look at Microsoft’s future strategy for knowledge workers and then dug deeper into Exchange 2000 Server.

You guessed it—Exchange 2000 Server and Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server are the official product names for the next release of Exchange, code-named Platinum. This week, many sessions will still focus on Exchange Server 5.5, but Exchange 2000 will be where everyone’s attention is focused. The conference will have sessions discussing every facet of the new product as Microsoft makes MEC99 the coming-out party for Exchange 2000. Lockard spread his keynote address over 2 days, delving into the new features and technology available in Exchange 2000. One notable demonstration was Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server running on a 4-node Windows 2000 (Win2K) cluster. Demonstrators powered off one of the four nodes, and the other three nodes picked up its workload. This demonstration indicates a significant advancement over Exchange Server 5.5.

Clustering in Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server supports an active/active scenario in which Exchange runs on each node of the cluster. Exchange 2000 supports a new concept of a storage group for managing user data (public and mailbox stores). In a clustered environment, the storage group is the basic failover unit. In a 4-node cluster, a typical failover would have the failed node redistribute its storage groups across the remaining nodes. For example, let's say you had four nodes, each configured with three storage groups. If one node fails, each remaining node will pick up one storage group. The result would be three nodes, each running four storage groups. As you can see, this scenario offers much greater flexibility and functionality than Exchange Server 5.5 offered. This feature should cause organizations to take another look at clustering for their Exchange deployments.

Other exciting events and activities at MEC99 included several great discussion panels. Also interesting were the deployment panel sessions for Exchange Server 5.5 and Exchange 2000 Server and a Meet the Development Team panel. More importantly (the real reason you go to conferences), Microsoft brought in the B-52s for the conference party on Wednesday night, and Compaq hosted a killer event Tuesday night at the Tabernacle—one of Atlanta's hottest nightspots—for customers and partners attending MEC99. Overall, it was a great week in Atlanta.