Yep, it's true. As you've no doubt heard, Exchange 2000 Server has finally been signed off to manufacturing (called Release to Manufacturing—RTM). The official RTM build for Exchange 2000 (both Server and Enterprise) is 4417.5. Developers actually completed the build in mid-August as an escrow build. The escrow build was allowed to "bake" in Joint Deployment Program (JDP) implementations for a few weeks in an effort to uncover any serious problems. Last week's sign off is a good indication that testers found no serious problems, and the code is good to go. You can bet some serious vacationing will be going on in Building 43 during September.
Microsoft Select customers and channel partners should start to see the Exchange 2000 RTM version in October, with Select customers seeing the code first on their Select CD-ROMs, and channel partners getting distributions later in the month. Of course, JDP customers already have this version and are working diligently to deploy Exchange 2000. Mere mortals can download the Exchange 2000 evaluation edition from the Microsoft Web site now. Microsoft claims to have its entire Exchange deployment (52,000 mailboxes) converted to Exchange 2000 and the 40+ JDP customers are well on their way as well.
What's next for Exchange? Microsoft is already planning the next version of Exchange, code-named Mercury. (The company's soon going to run out of metals on the periodic table.) Although the specific details of Mercury are not publicly available, you can imagine some of the directions that Microsoft will take the product. We all have our wish lists of features that didn't make it into Exchange 2000: 64-bit support, snapshot backups, and 4-node clustering. Exchange will also become part of the .NET portfolio of Internet and e-commerce services that Microsoft is announcing. Exchange might fade into the background as an underlying service of .NET (see last week's commentary).
But let's not forget about Exchange 2000 and Exchange 5.5 updates. Microsoft still plans bug fixes and minor updates to these products. For Exchange 5.5 users who have no immediate plans to upgrade to Exchange 2000, Microsoft is planning a Service Pack 4 (SP4) release of Exchange 5.5 in the months to come. For Exchange 2000, the problems that didn't get fixed (and those yet to be discovered) in RTM will be rolled into a service pack release. Look for Exchange 2000 SP1 with all the Quick Fix Engineering (QFE) hotfixes accumulated between now and then to hit the streets in early 2001. In case you didn't notice, this technology is changing rapidly—too rapidly for me to keep up with sometimes. Maybe there is a lot to be said for sticking with good ol' Exchange 5.5 SP3.