The writing is on the wall: The Exchange Administrator tool is on its way out. We've all become used to Exchange Administrator after using it for three generations of Exchange Server. Now, in Exchange 2000 Server, the Exchange System Manager takes the place of the Exchange Administrator tool.

Unlike Exchange Administrator, which is a Win32-based tool, Exchange System Manager (ESM) is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in designed to meet the overall needs of a general-purpose administrator. Initially, you might not like ESM because the look and feel isn't the same as the Exchange Administrator tool, and some keystrokes, mouse-clicks, and menus are completely different. I was part of a usability study last year for the Exchange development team. We tested several new administrative tool paradigms for the upcoming Exchange 2000 product. The initial idea was a completely browser-based experience that was very unwieldy. I was glad to see what we ended up with in Exchange 2000. I think that after you work with ESM, you'll probably never want to go back to the old tool.

The Exchange team based ESM on Exchange Management Objects (EMO). EMO is an extensive set of objects that gives exposure to key management levers and knobs in Exchange 2000. And ESM isn't the only MMC snap-in available. By leveraging the power of MMC snap-ins and EMO, you can develop your own management components and interfaces to fit your Exchange administrator and management needs. One example is the design of a specific MMC snap-in for a group of administrators that will manage Exchange 2000 storage resources. MMC and EMO allow a much more customizable and flexible distribution of management tasks in an Exchange organization than earlier versions afforded. You can combine this new management flexibility with policy-based management. The policy-based management feature, made possible by Windows 2000 (Win2K) and Active Directory (AD), is a critical component of Exchange 2000's new management framework. You can set policies for many things that used to require user-by-user attention in previous versions of Exchange. For example, you can set up a policy for mailbox quotas and message-size restrictions as needed. By designing policies to accompany your Exchange management tools, the picture is complete.

Exchange 2000 offers powerful features and functionality that we're all eager to deploy. However, we must not forget that, although the core of Exchange management is powerful, Microsoft completely overhauled it to fit better into the Win2K and BackOffice management vision. Make sure you and your staff are familiar with how Exchange 2000 management works, and how new features give Exchange administrators and system managers many more options.