As I've mentioned previously in Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, Microsoft is making a significant effort to provide enterprise mobility solutions. One key to the company's plans is Microsoft's Mobile Information 2001 Server (MMIS), which Microsoft released in June 2001 as the foundation for its mobility platform.

MMIS is wireless middleware that acts as a wireless proxy, providing mobile access to enterprise data sources. MMIS integrates with Active Directory (AD) and Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server for tight back-end integration and single-source administration.

MMIS is available in Enterprise (EE) and Carrier (CE) editions that combine to provide a secure end-to-end solution. Many IT professionals are most interested in MMIS-EE. MMIS-EE typically resides in the enterprise demilitarized zone (DMZ) and uses IP Security (IPSec) to connect with the MMIS-CE edition at the carrier through a VPN.

MMIS provides two main features: data browse and data push. Data browse resembles the process of accessing a typical Web application, in which the user requests data and the application returns the data to the user's wireless device. Data push is a mechanism for notifying the user about data changes or urgent messages.

The current version of MMIS ships with two applications: Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) and Intranet Browse. OMA, as its name implies, provides mobile access to Exchange email, calendar, contacts, and tasks. The current Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled version of OMA provides realtime access to Exchange data, letting you change or update the data directly. So, for example, if you update an appointment in Outlook, you'll see the up-to-date appointment on your wireless device. Both Mobile Information 2002 Server (which is currently under development) and the Pocket PC 2002 (which I discussed in the last UPDATE) will include updated OMA features.

Mobile Information 2002 Server will feature Server ActiveSync for wireless synchronization of OMA data between Exchange 2000 and the Pocket PC 2002's version of Pocket Outlook. With this synchronization, users will be able to work offline if a wireless connection isn't available, then synchronize that information when a connection becomes available—without needing a desktop computer.

Intranet Browse lets users securely access intranet-hosted WAP applications. As a result, a company can host custom WAP applications on its intranet Web servers and grant secure access to employees to use these applications on various wireless Internet-enabled devices. This approach lets you host these corporate mobile applications and avoid the security risks associated with Internet Web servers.

Out of the box, MMIS includes an Exchange 2000 event source that alerts mobile users to calendar and task data changes and can notify users of urgent email messages. In addition to this event source, Microsoft has released an MMIS software development kit (SDK) that lets third parties create custom event sources. Any alert-generating application can send alerts to MMIS for message delivery to wireless users.

Next time, I'll continue to discuss MMIS and take a closer look at some of the features and deployment considerations. Until then, have a great week.