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Microsoft Backs Off Edge Services

Microsoft revealed new details of its plans for Exchange Server, including a longer wait for the security-oriented features promised with Exchange Edge Services.

Microsoft said the next version of Exchange, code-named Exchange 12, would increase collaboration and be available for any networked device. So far, there's no target date for shipping Exchange 12.

The company admitted that, despite healthy adoption of Exchange 2003, the software is still too complex and too expensive. The company aims to make Exchange 12 cheaper, even as it adds support for voicemail and faxing. Ease of management will come with scripting support, continuous backup, and a role-based architecture.

Exchange 12 will support 64-bit computing and include APIs for Web services, the company said.

Microsoft also plans a Service Pack 2 for Exchange 2003, that will include Redmond's pet project, Sender ID, as well as some Exchange Edge Services features. The service pack is expected to be delivered in 2005.

In March of last year, Microsoft said it would release Exchange Edge Services as a separate element of its server line. The security-oriented Edge Services would block incoming or outgoing malicious e-mail and junk mail, defend against e-mail server attacks and e-mail-borne viruses, and encrypt messages to optimize for security.

In a keynote address at the RSA Security Conference in 2004, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates told the audience that Edge Services would be a platform for third-party developers to build on. He suggested e-mail filters, e-mail encryption products and e-mail compliance solutions as likely products for ISVs.

By instead incorporating elements of Exchange Edge Services into Exchange 2003 SP2, Microsoft may be retreating from that path and moving back toward its all-in-one, proprietary tendencies.

Those tendencies could hurt Microsoft in the increasingly open marketplace, said Gordon Haff, an analyst with IT research firm Illuminata.

"One of the big issues from the industry perspective for Exchange and other Microsoft products, it that it isn't very open," Haff said. "Over time, market forces are going to force Microsoft towards more openness and capability in their products. From a self-interest point of view, Microsoft will have to play nice with, for example, non-Microsoft clients."