Now that Microsoft has announced Exchange 2000 Server's release to manufacturing (RTM), what about all those third-party applications? Obviously, before you roll out Exchange 2000, you must figure out how you'll provide some key services—such as fax, antivirus, management, and backup—that aren't quite ready for Exchange 2000. If your company is beginning its Exchange 2000 deployment soon, you need to decide what to do until third-party software vendors ship their versions. Most vendors plan to ship Exchange 2000-compatible versions within 90 to 120 days of the RTM date. Now that the clock is ticking (120 days from August 31 is near year's end), let's look at some of these applications and some possible interim workarounds.
Fax server software is a possible concern; however, fax servers and connectors running on Exchange 5.5 shouldn't cause a serious problem because you don't need to immediately upgrade those servers—Exchange 2000 and Exchange 5.5 can interoperate in the same environment. When vendors upgrade their software for Exchange 2000, you can upgrade these servers. In your planning process, research and test your fax connector servers for full functionality in a mixed Exchange 2000/5.5 environment.
Antivirus software is a mixed bag. For gateway scanning tools (running on your SMTP servers), again, you don't need to immediately upgrade SMTP gateways because Exchange 5.5 can continue to host your inbound/outbound SMTP traffic in the short term. However, Exchange 2000's superior SMTP service might be a key motivation for moving to Exchange 2000. If so, you might have to wait until your vendor makes available antivirus scanners that support Exchange 2000. Be sure to think through your antivirus infrastructure as part of your Exchange 2000 deployment planning.
Management software vendors such as BMC and NetIQ have announced that their versions are Exchange 2000 compatible, but they haven't shipped final versions yet. Older management software versions might continue to work with Exchange 2000, but specific features and knowledge modules might not be available for Exchange 2000 implementations.
The final and perhaps most important product is backup software. Currently, you have only one choice: Windows 2000 Backup (the version that ships with Exchange 2000). Again, most backup software vendors, such as Veritas, Legato, and Computer Associates, have shipped release candidates but haven't shipped final Exchange 2000 versions yet. You'll have to either wait for your favorite vendor to ship its backup product or plan to roll out Exchange 2000 with Windows 2000 Backup and eventually phase over to your vendor's final product.
Assessing the third-party software products running in your current Exchange environment is a key step in planning your Exchange 2000 migration. In some cases, you might be able to get vendors to support release candidate code of your favorite third-party software. Before you roll out Exchange 2000, look closely at third-party software. After all, you have 90 to 120 days until most vendors ship their final products.