Covering Exchange

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Preface

Covering Exchange

The Exchange product has steadily become more complex over the years. In 1996, the problems that system administrators and designers faced were simpler than today. Hardware was significantly less capable, and some of the early deployments rolled out on 100-MHz Pentiums equipped with 128 MB of memory and a whole 4 GB of disk. While these systems did not support the thousands of mailboxes that today's servers commonly take on, they were as difficult to manage because the management tools and utilities were not as developed as today. However, the overall environment was less demanding, which in turn meant that it was easier for people to write books about Exchange.

Given everything that has happened since 1996 and today, I am not so sure that Exchange is easy to write about anymore. Massive tomes have replaced the slim volumes that could credibly claim to contain all the best practices that you need to deploy Exchange. I have given up trying to cover everything, because I know I just cannot hope to discuss all possible topics, so I am afraid that this book represents a very personal view of the challenges of understanding the technology inside Exchange and how best to deploy it. I therefore seek your indulgence if I omit your favorite topic and can only suggest that you check out some of the other books about Exchange.



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Product names

I fully acknowledge all trademarks and registered names of products used throughout the book, especially when I have forgotten to do so in passing. For the sake of clarity, product names are shortened and version numbers are not used unless necessary to tie functionality to a specific version. For example, I refer to the Microsoft Exchange Server product as "Exchange," unless it is necessary to state a specific version such as "Exchange 2003," "Exchange 5.5," and so on. In the same manner, I use Windows as the generic term for Microsoft's enterprise server operating system and only spell out "Windows 2000," "Windows NT 4.0," or "Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition" when necessary to identify a specific release.



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Omissions

In my previous books about Exchange, I attempted to cover technology that I omit here. Possibly the most notable omission is the advanced security subsystem, the part of Exchange that deals with digital signatures and message encryption. You now enable advanced security through a mixture of client and server components. The Key Management Server (KMS) disappears from Exchange 2003, since the Windows 2003 Certificate Server now takes its role. The rich version of the Outlook Web Access client now supports message signing and encryption, so there is change on the client side too. My decision to omit advanced security, which typically occupied a complete chapter in previous books, is simply a reflection that not many organizations actually deployed advanced security. Many system administrators looked at what Exchange had to offer and deployed the KMS to check things out, but the sheer amount of additional administrative overhead normally stopped things from going any further. This does not mean that advanced security is not valuable: It does mean that organizations have other priorities on which to spend their time. It might also indicate that the pace of change marked by the transition of X.509 V1 certificates to X.509 V3 certificates, the introduction and general support of S/MIME, the changing role of the KMS, and the different ways that clients support advanced security have combined to prevent organizations from deploying advanced security until things settle down in this area. In the meantime, if you are interested in advanced security, I suggest that you get some specialized consulting help, because you will need it to have a successful deployment.

I also made the decision to remove any mention of the Exchange Conferencing and Instant Messaging subsystems. These subsystems are optional components of Exchange 2000 that Microsoft removed in Exchange 2003. I think this is a result of some market pressures, because Conferencing was never successful enough to justify the engineering expense needed to maintain the subsystem, and the free versions of Instant Messaging have phased out the need for most organizations to deploy their own special version. If you need Instant Messaging, you can deploy MSN Messenger, AOL IM, Yahoo! Messenger, Jabber, or applications that allow you to communicate with users of many different messaging systems. Once again, the Exchange branded version did not succeed, so it lost its way inside the product. The nature of Microsoft is that it does not give up after just one attempt, so its Greenwich initiative (or to give the product its real name, Real Time Collaboration Server 2003), based on less proprietary protocols such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), is likely to be more successful. In the interim, you can continue to run the Exchange 2000 version of IM as long as you keep an Exchange 2000 server around to host the service.

I covered SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) in my Exchange 2000 book. It was early days for SPS, but the product demonstrated enormous potential. In fact, SPS was the first V1.0 product from Microsoft that I was truly able to deploy and use without worry. The fact that SPS used a modified version of the Exchange Store also made it a good candidate for discussion in any book about Exchange. Since then, Microsoft has taken SPS forward and moved its focus away from Exchange toward SQL. In addition, it integrated SharePoint Team Services (STS) into Windows 2003, so it becomes part of the basic Windows functionality. I still think the SharePoint product family is a very interesting and useful technology, but as it lost its connection to Exchange, I concluded that I did not have the luxury of page space to be able to continue coverage. There are, after all, so many topics to discuss about the basic Exchange 2003 server.



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