Late yesterday, Microsoft announced the completion of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, the company's upcoming new messaging server. Microsoft originally scheduled Exchange 2003 for release in June alongside related products such as Microsoft Office 2003, but diverging development cycles altered that schedule. Microsoft will release Office 2003 and its Exchange-related Microsoft Outlook 2003 client to manufacturing in August and will launch the products in October.
"Customers told us we had to deliver greater value with less complexity," said Mohsen Al-Ghosein, vice president of Exchange Server. "When an IT administrator deploys Exchange 2003 out of the box, it just has to work. Information workers need access to their inboxes from anywhere and everywhere, and they want the same performance and experience as if they were sitting in front of their desktops. After 3 years of research and development, customers should have the confidence that we've answered their call. Deployment and management will be easier with Exchange 2003, and implementation will be possible with the knowledge and experience an IT administrator already has. And because IT can get Exchange up and running faster and cheaper, Exchange 2003 enables a company to optimize business processes and magnify productivity."
Microsoft describes Exchange 2003 as "the most reliable and secure version of Exchange Server to date." The company developed the product with the same Trustworthy Computing coding principles used during the Windows 2003 development, meaning the product is secure by design, secure by default, secure in deployment, and secure in communications, to use the company's now-familiar refrain. Primary functional improvements in this release include a completely revamped Outlook Web Access (OWA) client that closely resembles and works like Outlook 2003, significantly faster synchronization between Exchange and Outlook 2003, new mobile device integration, a new HTPPS connection mode that negates the need for complex VPN access to the server, and improvements gained when the server is installed on Windows 2003, with which Exchange adds support for better backup-and-restore methods and eight-node clustering.
Exchange 2003 will cost the same as its predecessor, Exchange 2000, although customers will generally receive more bang for the buck with this release, especially if they're interested in deploying OWA. The product will be available in standard and professional editions and will include licenses for the server, users, devices, and an external connector, which lets an unlimited number of external users access the server.