What is it?
Exchange Server 2003, the current version of Microsoft's messaging and collaboration software, was designed to run with Windows 2003 Server. However, many users kepttheir wallets firmly closed, wary of the cost and disruption of upgrading.
Although Microsoft claims Exchange 2003 had the fastest adoption rate of any Exchange product, as few as 20% of user organisations have adopted it.
Up to 40% of users are still effectively two releases back, with Exchange 5.5; the rest are on Exchange 2000. The skills involved in migrating to Exchange 2003, particularly Active Directory Services, will be in demand as Microsoft withdraws support for earlier versions and users invest in new hardware.
Users will need at least Exchange 2000 as a baseline if they are to move to the next release, Exchange 12, expected in 2006 or 2007.
Where did it originate?
The Exchange client was part of Windows 1995. Exchange Server arrived a year later.
What is it for?
Plans to make Exchange the vehicle for all Microsoft collaboration products have been dropped, as has the move to a SQL Server-based data store. Exchange will continue to use the Access-based Jet database.
Since releasing Exchange 2003, Microsoft has steadily bundled in mobile support, and has begun tackling spam. There will be more mobile and more anti-spam features in Service Pack 2, due later this year.
How difficult is it to master?
With tools such as Best Practice Analyser and Microsoft Operations Manager, Microsoft has made configuration and availability management easier. You can take a two-day introductory course, or plunge straight in to five days on implementing or administering Exchange. Look out for intensive certification boot camps.
Those with Exchange 5.5 skills can spend three days learning to upgrade to 2000 or 2003, although Active Directory is more of a challenge.
What makes it special?
With Exchange 2003 and the Exchange 12 announcements, Microsoft has concentrated on making its messaging products more manageable, usable, stable and secure, reining back the rush to new functionality. Exchange Server 2003 raised the maximum number of users per server from 2,000 to 5,000 - although 1,000 and 3,000 are probably more realistic figures.
Where is it used?
Exchange still has the main share of the messaging market, though Lotus Domino is a perennial challenger, Sun and Novell have strong contenders, and there are several Linux-based upstarts.
What systems does it run on?
Exchange 2003 can run on Windows 2000, but Windows 2003 is needed to take full advantage of functions and scalability.
Not many people know that
A survey by Dynamic Markets found 68% of users become irate within 30 minutes without e-mail access, and almost a third of IT managers said they would rather face divorce than an e-mail outage.
What's coming up?
Exchange 12 will add 64-bit support, continuous back-up and enhanced web services support.