Microsoft, SuSE Linux unwrap messaging servers

SAN FRANCISCO (10/24/2003) - With cost pressures at the front of enterprise customers' minds, Microsoft Corp. and SuSE Linux AG have aimed their new messaging servers at aiding the corporate bottom line.

As part of its Office System launch, Microsoft this week rolled out Exchange Server 2003, officially starting its quest to convert the many users of the e-mail server software's aging Version 5.5. SuSE Linux, meanwhile, launched a new version of Openexchange that features improved server support for Windows Outlook users.

In addition to a smooth upgrade path, Microsoft promises cost savings and productivity enhancements with Exchange Server 2003. Scalability and remote connectivity have been improved, allowing companies to host more mailboxes on a single server and removing the need to have dedicated servers at remote locations.

"We spent three years listening to customers and developing (migration) tools based on that feedback. We anticipate a rapid take-up of Exchange Server 2003," said Missy Stern, product manager of Exchange at Microsoft.

Microsoft estimates that between 40 percent and 50 percent of its users are on Exchange Server 5.5, which came to market in March 1997. The introduction of Exchange 2000 Server in October 2000 did not move users to upgrade, largely due to the tough upgrade path.

Pella, a window and door maker in Pella, Iowa, skipped Exchange 2000, but is now in the process of upgrading from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003. Improved remote connectivity played a big part in Pella's decision to go with Exchange Server 2003, said Jim Thomas, senior business systems manager at Pella.

"It saves bandwidth cost and it allows me to reduce my remote servers without adding incremental bandwidth to those sites," Thomas said. The company is reducing the number of servers from 16 at 12 locations to six at a single location.

With its new version of Openexchange, SuSE Linux is trying to cut deeper into the market share of Microsoft's Exchange server.

SuSE officials hope the new version will further encourage corporate users to migrate many of their communications services to Linux, which they believe will then be less expensive to maintain compared with similar Windows services and applications.

For the first time Version 4.1 of the product allows Outlook users to access calendar and contact information as well as access documents stored in Openexchange Server, company officials said. One of the new features includes an alert that lets Outlook users know when they have conflicts among their appointments.

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