Until now, Microsoft has scaled Exchange using large numbers of clustered servers to support several thousand users. But the company has revealed that the new version of Exchange, which is due later this summer, has architectural changes that will enable the server to support larger numbers of e-mail users on fewer servers.
Microsoft programme manager Scott Bowie explained that scalability had been achieved by separating the back-end e-mail database, called the Webstore, from the front-end processing. "At Microsoft we were able to reduce 35 servers each supporting 1,000 users down to eight," he said.
By splitting Exchange into the front-end and Webstore server components, Bowie said users would be able to optimise their configuration depending on the workload.
For instance, the front-end Exchange servers could be optimised for speed and network access using load-balancing. The back-end could be optimised for fast access to large amounts of storage.
With these alterations, Exchange is being positioned by Microsoft as a viable alternative to Lotus Notes. But Bloor Research chief analyst Martin Brampton believes Microsoft still has some way to go.
"Exchange has gradually become a more attractive platform for collaborative application development but many of the features Microsoft will offer already exist on Notes," said Brampton. He noted that, unlike the Lotus software, Exchange 2000 only supports the Windows platform.
Exchange 2000 has also been closely linked into Windows 2000. It supports Active Directory, which can be used to set a user profile to control access to Exchange from within Windows 2000.
It can also act as a Windows 2000 Installable File System, where the Exchange Webstore can be accessed as a network disc drive and used to store documents.
Along with scalability through server consolidation, a key focus of Exchange 2000 has been making the server a platform for developing groupware applications.
Microsoft has demonstrated several Exchange 2000 applications including project management, customer relationship management, workflow and document management software.