Exchange 5.5's Ripple Effects
In 1996, Microsoft Exchange Server 4.0 came into the world after an extended gestation period. The year 1997 saw Exchange 5.0 embrace the Internet. What will Exchange 5.5 bring in 1998? Here are the trends that my crystal ball predicts for this year.
First, Exchange's war against Lotus and Netscape continues. Exchange had a tenfold increase in user numbers during 1997 (to 7.2 million seats), but Lotus Notes also doubled its installed base. Netscape's attempts to enter the corporate messaging market have largely been blunted by both Lotus and Microsoft incorporating support for important Internet messaging protocols into their products. Exchange now boasts free connectors for both cc:Mail and Notes, and companies in which Notes has a presence will find it easier to introduce Exchange. Exchange includes migration utilities for cc:Mail (albeit not cc:Mail 8), and companies such as the Mesa Group (http://www.mesa.com) can port Notes applications.
Exchange 5.5 supports the major Internet protocols and has incorporated high-end features, such as those used to control Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCEcommonly known as spam), directly into the product. Post Office Protocol (POP) 3 and Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) 4 clients, including Microsoft's Outlook Express, can connect easily to Exchange, and Web browsers are better served now that the Outlook Web Access supports calendaring. The question competing vendors have to ask is, "Where are the gaps in the Exchange armor?"
Expect the fight to continue in 1998. I feel that Exchange will begin to erode the Lotus-installed base more aggressively than ever before. As for Netscape, I can't see how its fragmented suite of server products can compete with Exchange, unless UNIX is the operating system; for UNIX systems, Exchange is not even at the party.
Companies that have been deploying Exchange for years have probably discovered that they have a few too many servers in production for comfort. When upgrade time comes around, the network administrator has to visit each server—and upgrade time in the Windows NT Exchange space comes around quite often. In addition, the more servers you have, the more software license fees stack up. Exchange 5.5 lets people ignore the previous 16GB limit for stores and build clustered systems, potentially leading to the consolidation of several smaller servers into larger systems. The fewer servers you have, the less time you must spend managing, updating, and maintaining them.
However, Exchange 5.5 has a few challenges. Exchange in a clustered environment is more resilient than on separate servers, but the disk subsystem still represents a single point of potential failure. Also, clustering isn't as functional yet as you'd like it to be, and you'll have to wait until NT 5.0 for clustering to improve. Consolidating a few servers will result in very large information stores (databases), so be prepared to exercise disciplined backup policies and use the fastest possible backup devices.
Groupware has never been a comfortable function for Exchange. Public folders and electronic forms are not good enough. But the Exchange Scripting Agent shows signs that it will help developers build sophisticated applications on top of public folders and begin to leverage the email infrastructure. The third-party market is also heating up, and I expect to see in 1998 second-generation workflow and document management applications that are integrated with Exchange and offer many different client interfaces (i.e., not just Outlook).
Microsoft launched Exchange Small Business Edition (SBE) at the end of 1997. At first glance, SBE is a truncated and brain-dead version of Exchange 5.0; it's limited to 25 users and is unable to connect to other servers, except across Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) links. But those limitations aren't important. SBE is the missing piece that will let thousands of small businesses that run Microsoft Mail post offices today move over to Exchange. I don't perceive much interest at Microsoft in keeping Microsoft Mail around for long. If you're running Microsoft Mail and haven't yet moved to Exchange (probably because of its complexity), you'll want to move now.
According to the pointers revealed at the last Exchange conference in California, Exchange 5.5 is the last Exchange release for NT 4.0. The next release of Exchange with new functionality is closely tied to NT 5.0 and will ship shortly after NT 5.0 hits the streets. Whether this prediction turns out to be true depends on competitive pressures and the shipping date for NT 5.0. I wouldn't be surprised to see a small feature release of Exchange come out sometime in 1998.
Thin Is in Small Business
Seizing the opportunity to help small businesses grow, Microsoft released Small Business Server in the last quarter of 1997 (see Mark Smith, "Small Business Server Brings Big Opportunities," November 1997). Among the other firms that also see opportunities in the small business arena is Citrix. Citrix has released a new, small-business version of its popular WinFrame product. WinFrame provides a server-side back end that hosts a network's applications, all of which run directly on the servermuch like X Windows in a UNIX environment, where the server does most of the processing. The new version, WinFrame Workgroups, supports up to five users. WinFrame relies on Windows NT as the server platform.
WinFrame's type of functionality reduces the cost of ownership through centralized management, and WinFrame works with existing applications. Citrix says franchise operations are perfect candidates for the new software because many of the franchise operations are widely dispersed, and Citrix excels in remote access situations. Citrix entered into a licensing agreement with HP that lets HP bundle Windows-, DOS-, and Java-based Citrix client software on its systems. WinFrame Workgroups has a suggested retail price of $2495, and the Citrix Load Balancing and Secure ICA options cost $1495 per server.
—Mark Joseph Edwards
IE 4.0 Available on Other Platforms
Microsoft is making Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 available for mixed platform environments that might not include Windows NT. Microsoft has provided a Preview 1 release of IE 4.0 for several UNIX platforms, beginning with Sun Microsystems' Solaris platform and expanding to include versions for HP-UX, IBM AIX, and SGI IRIX platforms.
At press time, the Macintosh version of IE 4.0 was in beta, due out January 6, 1998, and Microsoft said it would ship a Windows 3.1 version by the end of 1997. Dave Fester, project manager for IE, says that Microsoft has reworked the Windows 3.1 version for smoother operation with existing hardware and software; it will run with less than 8MB of RAM. But because Windows 3.1 is a native 16-bit platform, don't expect the same performance as you find on 32-bit operating systems such as NT.
—Mark Joseph Edwards
Changes in Microsoft's Licensing Policies
No one seems to clearly understand Microsoft's licensing structures—the scheme is too complex. The folks in Redmond undoubtedly know the scheme is too complex; I suspect they've logged thousands of calls asking for clarification. One clue to understanding the plan's complexity is that Microsoft has a license wizard on its sales Web site that guides you through figuring out what you need to buy. But even the nifty wizard isn't enough to clarify the policies.
If you thought you had just about figured out the leasing structures, you might have to start over because Microsoft recently made more changes. For some users, the new policy might mean you'll have to pay more to get the desktop coverage you need. As of December 1, 1997, Microsoft no longer offered the Maintenance Plus and Upgrade Advantage Plus concurrent licensing options for the Office suite. Customers under these licensing options must choose a new option when their current license expires.
Concurrent licensing is popular with many firms, not just large corporations. Concurrent licensing lets a company with 750 users purchase only 100 licenses if only 100 users run the software simultaneously. Many companies use this technique to keep costs down. For example, if a company has offices in Britain and the US, the British office can use the software during its business hours, and the US office can use the software during a different set of hours—a completely feasible arrangement in light of the countries' large time difference. Microsoft dropped this option.
Corel responded to the news by promoting its concurrent licensing schemes. Many buyers already see Corel's Perfect Office as more affordable to own and maintain than Microsoft Office. But Office continues to dominate the desktop. Microsoft will not drop its volume licensing, but it will restructure those plans for pricing per desktop.
—Mark Joseph Edwards
New Threats to Privacy
Just when you thought you'd put encryption keys and privacy issues to bed, the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP) released a new report that includes encryption and public key escrow issues. The report recommends the creation of a key escrow so that under a court order, law enforcement officials can access your private communications.
Although many users are fiercely against key escrow, our public servants see things differently. They want encryption users to offer copies of their private keys, which introduces new potential for misuse or abuse.
The PCCIP report argues, "Today, the right command sent over a network to a power-generating station's control computer could be just as effective as a backpack full of explosives, and the perpetrator would be harder to identify and apprehend." I want to know why someone would connect a sensitive power-generating plant network to the Internet in the first place.
The government implies that it wants your private keys (if you use them) so that sometime down the road it can try to mandate the use of these keys on everyone for positive identification. Either way, our privacy is again coming under attack. For opinions on both sides of this debate, go to http://www.pccip.gov/summary.html or http://www.crypto.com/key_study.
—Mark Joseph Edwards
Intergraph Sues Intel
Intergraph and Intel's ongoing dispute over patent rights culminated in a lawsuit last November when Intergraph charged Intel with anticompetitive behavior. Intergraph claims that Intel is trying to coerce Intergraph into relinquishing patent rights to its early microprocessor technology, which
was Intergraph's attempt to bring mainframe-class computing to compact, low-cost integrated circuit technology. Intergraph further alleges that when Intergraph resisted this pressure, Intel used its market dominance to punish the company by withholding vital technical information necessary for Intergraph's continued workstation development efforts. The complaint states that Intel "has used, and is using, its dominant market power in the computer industry to pressure Intergraph to give up its valuable property rights, or to crush Intergraph in retaliation for refusing to do so."
The patents in question relate to Intergraph's Clipper microprocessor, which was the legacy hardware in Intergraph's RISC/UNIX workstations. These workstations dominated the workstation market, and Intergraph still supports its legacy hardware that uses the Clipper microprocessor. Based on Intel's assurances, Intergraph decided that the Intel Pentium family of microprocessors, combined with Windows NT, could provide workstation-class performance and handle high-end creative and technical applications.
In 1993, Intergraph began pioneering affordable, high-performance workstations based on the open architecture of the Intel/NT platform. The same year, Wade Patterson, president of Intergraph Computer Systems, proposed that Intergraph work with Intel to introduce the Intel/Windows platform as an alternative to RISC/UNIX systems.
The companies enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship: Intergraph developed award-winning workstations, and Intel expanded its microprocessor sales beyond PCs and into new workstation markets. Intergraph was the first vendor to use dual-processor technology for Pentium-based workstations. The boost to system performance from dual-processor capability caused wider acceptance of the Pentium as a workstation solution.
In the lawsuit, Intergraph is asking for monetary damages and an injunction to let Intergraph continue developing its Pentium-based workstations. Intergraph CEO Jim Meadlock said that Intergraph and Intel representatives have discussed the issues in the lawsuit for more than a year. "We now need to take action that is in the best interest of our shareholders, customers, business partners, and employees," he said.
Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said that Intergraph and Intel never asserted the patent rights in question in the beginning of the Intergraph-Intel relationship. He explained that Intergraph was asserting these rights to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who then queried Intel. The two companies began talks to clarify the rights in question, and Intel made offers for the patents that Mulloy described as fair. According to Mulloy, Intel believes that Intergraph has no rights to these patents, but company officials entered talks to gain clarity about a very real dispute.
Intel filed a separate suit in US District Court, San Jose, last November seeking a declaratory judgment to declare the patents invalid; the court can't find Intel guilty of infringing on patents that are not valid. "We would prefer not to be in litigation," Mulloy said. Of the Intergraph claims, he said, "We don't think that suit has any merit."
Intergraph insists that Intel must guarantee continued supplies of the Pentium II processor before Intergraph will resolve the legal dispute. "That would have to be part of the settlement," said Intergraph's CEO, Jim Meadlock. "We have to have a clear agreement that Intel can't play games." Pentium II chips are key to Intergraph's efforts to expand its NT Workstation market share in 1998.
Intel had intended to sue Intergraph first, but Intergraph beat Intel to the punch. At press time, Intergraph planned to file a motion asking the judge to toss out Intel's request for declaratory judgment, and neither company was seeking any type of out-of-court settlement. Sources close to Intel say the company prefers to settle without litigation.
Are You a Target for Malicious Intruders?
What are the odds that a malicious intruder will attack your Windows NT system in an Internet-related setting? NetSolve, an Austin-based network integrator, released results of a study conducted between May and September 1997 of its customer sites, which vary in size from small firms to large enterprises. The study results show how often systems come under attack.
NetSolve gathered information on more than half a million actual alarms (security systems detecting unwanted access attempts). The results show that half the attacks came from Internet Service Provider (ISP) addresseswhich makes them harder to trace. Almost all the attacks targeted electronic commerce sites, and 72 percent of all attacks originated outside the US.
The most prevalent intrusions were against Web server script mechanisms such as Common Gateway Interface (CGI). The second most prevalent were simple TCP port scans looking for available services (step one in breaking into a network).
NetSolve said monitoring during July through September showed an increase in attacks against software using the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) and against the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), probably as a result of the recent release of the Smurf program used to launch such attacks. NetSolve said that, overall, about 80 percent of the monitored companies had experienced at least one major network attack per month, and every customer had heavy probing by intruders looking for a system's vulnerability.
—Mark Joseph Edwards
Waiting on a Pentium II Clone
In last month's NT News Network, I hinted at National Semiconductor's acquisition of Cyrix—shareholders approved the merger on November 17 of last year. Through this acquisition, Cyrix can access the Pentium II architecture and might be in a position to produce its own variation of the Pentium II chip by late 1998. The rights to the Pentium II designs come from a relatively old cross-license agreement between National Semiconductor and Intel. Effectively, this agreement means Intel will probably face some stiff competition from Cyrix in the high-end desktop arena.
Sources familiar with this development say Cyrix's rights to the Pentium II technology depend on whether Cyrix's patents become part of National Semiconductor's portfolio. Conversely, Intel might be able to access Cyrix's intellectual property. Attorneys for Cyrix and National Semiconductor say that Cyrix will be able to use the Pentium II technology in any scenario.
—Mark Joseph Edwards
Wondering when the latest version of your favorite Microsoft product will hit the streets? You don't have to guess any more. Thanks to inside sources, Windows NT Magazine will try to keep you up to date on release dates. Just be warned that many of these dates are tentative and based on Microsoft's timetable.
- NT Server 5.0: Next beta in first half of 1998; release in second half of 1998
- NT Workstation 5.0: Next beta in first half of 1998; release in second half of 1998
- Windows 98: Release in second quarter of 1998
- Windows CE 2.0: Released September 29, 1997
- SQL Server 7.0 (Sphinx): Beta 2 released December 1997
- SQL Server Enterprise Edition: Early 1998
- Exchange Server 5.5: December 1997
- Exchange Server 6.0: Release shortly after NT 5.0
- Proxy Server 2.0: Released October 8, 1997
- Internet Information Server 4.0: Released December 2, 1997
SQL Server Service Pack
Microsoft has released Service Pack (SP) 4 for SQL Server 6.5. You can download SP 4 from the following sources: http://support.microsoft.com/support/downloads/default.asp; ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/sql/public/fixes/usa; ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/softlib/mslfiles.
Cloning NT Made Easier
Rolling out large numbers of workstations (i.e., cloning Windows NT installations) is a monumental chore. The basic problem is the Security Identifier (SID) that NT uses to uniquely identify systems on the network. Usually, the NT installation creates the SID; therefore, cloning NT systems by copying hard disks results in duplicate SIDs and, thus, machines that won't talk on the network correctly. Network administrators need a new utility that simplifies network build-outs.
Several companies have introduced tools to change SIDs on cloned NT installations, but these tools are typically components of high-end packages and not necessarily standalone utilities. Windows NT Magazine's NT Internals columnist Mark Russinovich has created and released NTSID, a new SID-changing utility. The tool and source code are available for free to anyone. You can download it from the NT Internals Web site, http://www.ntinternals.com/ntsid.htm.
—Mark Joseph Edwards