Getting Ready for MEC 2002

I always look forward to the annual MEC conference, even though the focus has changed over the years. When I first attended in 1998, MEC stood for the Microsoft Exchange Conference. A few years later, this name had morphed into the Microsoft Exchange and Collaboration conference. This year, Microsoft isn't even trying to rationalize the name. (In fact, the European version is now called the IT Forum.) But whatever it's called, the annual MEC is a great way to get in-depth technical information about Exchange Server and its fellow products, as well as to meet and mingle with other administrators from all sizes of enterprises. In anticipation of MEC 2002, I want to examine a few key trends that are likely to be on prominent display.

First, of course, is the next release of Exchange, code-named Titanium (or Ti, its in-house nickname). As I write this, Microsoft hasn't officially announced what it's going to call Titanium, but because the product formerly known as Whistler is now known as Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) 2003, my money is on a similar name for the new Exchange release. Whatever the name, Titanium promises a wealth of new features, some of which (e.g., support for point-in-time copies when used with Win.NET Server) Microsoft has publicly disclosed. Expect some big surprises when Microsoft's David Siroky and Terry Myerson take the stage for their Exchange Product Roadmap session. (Those of you who depend on Outlook Web Access—OWA—will particularly like the new OWA implementation, which is faster and better-looking than the already-good OWA 2000.)

In the same vein, I expect to see plenty of public disclosure about the next release of Outlook (code-named Outlook 11). The Exchange and Microsoft Office teams tried to synchronize their schedules so that Exchange 2000 Server and Office XP would be released concurrently, but they didn't quite make it. However, this time might be the charm because the teams are expressly developing Titanium and Outlook 11 together. Jensen Harris and the rest of the Office program-management team will host several sessions dedicated to showing off the new Outlook client (Wednesday features three back-to-back Outlook 11 sessions).

Speaking of sessions, I'm delighted with this year's mix—there's something for everyone. You'll find sessions about deploying Win.NET Server, Active Directory (AD), and Office XP; managing various Exchange aspects such as security and storage; and developing and deploying mobile applications. You'll even see several sessions about Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server, SQL Server, and Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000, all of which are increasingly common as part of large, multiapplication messaging system deployments.

Besides attending sessions, one of my favorite things to do at MEC is cruise the exhibitor area looking at cool new products. One measure of Exchange 2000's accelerating deployment rate is the rapid appearance of little companies offering new Exchange products. Keep your eye on vendors such as CipherTrust, DYS Analytics, and Allocity-—what you see might surprise you.

If you can't get to MEC this year, don't despair. In next week's UPDATE, I'll give you a wrap-up of the best of MEC 2002. Until then, go to the URL below for details about the conference.

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