Sincere Greetings,

Well, my friends, after more than 3 years of writing for Exchange & Outlook UPDATE, the time has come for me to say goodbye. I recently accepted a position with the "evil empire" (i.e., Microsoft), a change that means my departure as your weekly columnist and News Editor. After all, I can't very well maintain my credibility and objectivity regarding Exchange Server when I'm a Microsoft employee. (Many of you think I don't do so now!) Don't worry, though, the folks at Windows & .NET Magazine have lined up a new columnist—Paul Robichaux—and I'm sure the change will be refreshing. (You can learn more about Paul and his past work for Windows & .NET Magazine and Exchange Administrator at http://www.winnetmag.com/authors/index.cfm?authorid=560 .)

Over the past few years, I've sincerely enjoyed bringing you weekly news, opinions, and technical and how-to information regarding Exchange. We've seen a lot of changes since February 1999, when this UPDATE began. Since then, subscriptions to the UPDATE have grown to more than 80,000. Thanks to all of you who have made Exchange & Outlook UPDATE successful.

Exchange has come quite a ways since that first edition of Exchange & Outlook UPDATE. At that time, Exchange Server 5.5 (code-named Osmium and released in November 1997) had become the mainstay of most Exchange deployments. In early 1999, we were all settling into solid and robust Exchange 5.5 deployments but were starting to notice certain limitations. For example, Exchange 5.5's "unlimited" 16TB Information Store (IS) offered huge relief compared with the very limited 4GB IS in earlier versions, but problems involving such a large IS were beginning to surface. Soon, hopes of scaling Exchange 5.5 servers to tens of thousands of users were dashed by disaster-recovery woes involving such deployments' large, monolithic ISs.

Exchange 5.5 was also the version in which Microsoft got serious about Internet protocols, which were more of an afterthought in earlier Exchange versions. Internet protocols were built into the IS, and SMTP gradually shifted to be the primary mail-delivery mechanism that it is in today's Exchange 2000 Server systems. Exchange 5.5 also brought us Outlook Web Access (OWA), a feature that Microsoft has continually improved.

We were also beginning to wonder what Microsoft would deliver in the next Exchange release (code-named Platinum after a satellite company's trademark blocked the original Iridium code name). Microsoft promised huge architectural changes, many of which it delivered in Exchange 2000. We now have real clustering (kind of), an SMTP Message Transfer Agent (MTA—as opposed to X.400 in earlier versions), and an entirely new storage model (called the Web Storage System—WSS) that provides huge improvements in Exchange data storage and access as well as a greatly enhanced development platform for Exchange. Exchange 2000 is also the "killer app" for Windows 2000 Active Directory (AD)-–a trait that has drastically increased the level of complexity when deploying or migrating to Exchange 2000. And the future is pretty bright for Exchange as we move toward Microsoft .NET. Microsoft continues to improve upon the technology that will appear in the next versions of Exchange, code-named Titanium and, in the still-distant future, Kodiak.

Now, this little trip down memory lane doesn't mean that I think Exchange is without problems or that Microsoft always executes new products or product versions perfectly. However, I've spent almost 6 years working with Exchange and working closely on site with the Exchange development team. I must say that—despite the criticisms, mistakes, and shortcomings that we sometimes focus on in a product such as Exchange—in my opinion, there's no better enterprise-class messaging server product. One of the brightest and most innovative teams at Microsoft develops and markets Exchange, and as I wrap up my time as your UPDATE columnist, I'm optimistic as I look forward to where Exchange technology will take us next.

To all of you whose feedback, praise, and criticism have made Exchange & Outlook UPDATE such a pleasure to write each and every week, I offer my sincere thanks for more than 3 years of great fun. I'm not putting down my "pen" completely, however. Look for me to pop up now and then in Windows & .NET magazine!

Cheers!