The popular Microsoft Exchange Server, with more than 110 million licensed seats, commands a two-to-one lead over the nearest competition, IBM's Lotus Domino. Microsoft's vision for a massive upgrade, code-named Kodiak and which will include a Microsoft SQL Server—based message store, is still several years off. But in mid-2003, the company will deliver an upgrade—code-named Titanium—that it will market as Exchange Server 2003. Here's what you need to know about the upgrade.

A Minor Upgrade
Microsoft intends Titanium to be an easily deployed, incremental upgrade to Exchange 2000. Titanium shares the same database technology as Exchange 2000, a modified version of that used in Exchange 5.5, but still based on the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) database built on top of Microsoft's generalized Joint Engine Technology (JET), and adds many features based on Microsoft Partner and customer feedback. Much of this feedback also went into the design of Outlook 11, which Titanium will include.

Customers requested better access to Exchange data from mobile devices such as laptops, Web browsers, Pocket PCs, and smart phones. Microsoft will incorporate Microsoft Mobile Information Server functionality into Titanium to provide Exchange with integrated mobile messaging capabilities that previously required a separate server product.

Titanium will include new antivirus technologies designed to prevent the spread of viruses through email. This technology builds on the virus-scanning APIs that debuted in Exchange 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1) and provides hooks for third-party software developers to create antivirus solutions that plug directly into Exchange.

Titanium will also include better backup tools and server consolidation features than its predecessor, especially when you run it on Windows Server 2003. Thanks to support for Windows Server 2003's new Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) technology, you'll be able to instantly mirror the disk on which the Exchange data store resides, performing quick backups with no downtime, assuming you're using compatible backup software. Titanium will also support Windows Server 2003 features such as eight-node failover clustering. And Titanium will include Active Directory (AD) migration tools that will help merging or consolidated companies manage their messaging infrastructure.

The biggest improvement in Titanium, however, is its new Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA) client. In Titanium, OWA will be visually identical to Outlook 11, with a rich UI that shouldn't be possible in a Web browser. For users on low-bandwidth dial-up connections, a less graphics-heavy OWA version will also be available.

No IM
One feature missing from Titanium will be Exchange Instant Messaging (IM), which is available in Exchange 2000. Microsoft will replace Exchange IM with its yet-to-be-named Real-Time Communications (RTC) server product, which you must purchase separately and which will ship sometime in 2003. For information about RTC, see "Understanding the Session Initiation Protocol," January 2003, http://www.winnetmag.com, InstantDoc ID 27397.

Recommendations
Although Titanium will provide an excellent upgrade for Exchange houses that have yet to move to Exchange 2000, the path isn't straightforward: You can't upgrade Exchange 5.5 boxes directly to Titanium. You have to upgrade to Exchange 2000 first or migrate to new Titanium boxes. Because approximately 60 percent of all Exchange deployments are still using version 5.5, the upgrade to Titanium could prove perilous. However, for Exchange 5.5 users considering Windows Server 2003, Titanium is a compelling option because you can't install or run Exchange 5.5 on the new server OS. Additionally, Titanium's feature set might be enough to make some organizations consider the migration. But Titanium is less compelling for Exchange 2000 users, unless they're running into bandwidth or scalability problems that Windows Server 2003 addresses or want to take advantage of Mobile Information Server's mobility features.