Are you back to status quo from your Y2K operational mode? The only problem I experienced at 12:01 A.M. last Saturday was losing my cable TV (I don’t like Dick Clark, anyway). After all our worries, preparations, and being chained to a pager over a holiday weekend, nothing happened. C’est la vie—better safe than sorry.

In our little world of Microsoft Exchange, I think the most significant technology advance in 2000 will be the WebStore. Yes, Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server has many cool new features and impressive functionality, but I think the WebStore will be the most important. The term WebStore is as much a marketing term as it is a technology, but the feature will be one of the cornerstones of future Microsoft products and technologies.

The WebStore is really just the next evolution of Exchange’s storage capabilities. In fact, the same basic Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) is behind the WebStore. The new features that Microsoft has added to ESE let it store native Internet content, so the name WebStore is appropriate. From a technology standpoint, Microsoft added three key features to Exchange 2000 to facilitate storing Internet content. The first new feature is the streaming database file or .stm file. In addition to having a property store (*.edb file), every Exchange 2000 database also contains an .stm file. The .stm file holds native Internet content (e.g., MIME, voice, and video). The second important addition is the Exchange File System Driver (ExIFS). ExIFS lets ESE make the Exchange 2000 databases available as simple file systems for applications and clients. Applications using Win32 APIs or network clients wanting Server Message Block (SMB) connections can access the information stores (ISs) directly in Exchange 2000. Finally, for the WebStore to be truly Web oriented, everything in the IS must be URL addressable. Such is the case in Exchange 2000; you can access every item in the IS using HTTP. Although the WebStore is just a next-generation technology for Exchange, these features will make it invaluable.

Why is the WebStore such an important advance? We might not see all the ramifications of this technology today; however, beyond the novelty of mapping a network drive to my inbox and accessing a calendar appointment via a URL, the WebStore has a whole universe of features and functionality that will make users' and developers' lives much easier. Microsoft has positioned the WebStore as a fundamental technology building block of its future strategy. As Microsoft rolls out products over the next few years, you'll see the WebStore as a key component or required foundation in many of them. Microsoft’s Tahoe project, due later this year, is a good example. Tahoe, Microsoft’s Document Management and Search Server product, currently in development, will rely heavily upon the WebStore. Moreover, as application developers discover the full power of the WebStore, we'll see them abandon proprietary means of storing and accessing their data in favor of using the WebStore. Over the next few months, Windows NT Magazine (soon to be Windows 2000 Magazine) will have several articles on Exchange 2000 storage and the WebStore. Take some time to familiarize yourself with this key future technology.