Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced an update to the product roadmap for its Exchange messaging server that rolls Exchange Edge Services—once intended as a separate release—into future Exchange versions and commits the company to evolving Exchange into a unified messaging platform.

In addition, the company for now is abandoning the adoption of SQL Server as the data store for the next-generation version of Exchange, promising improvements to the Access-based JET (Joint Engine Technology) data store in Exchange instead.

Exchange Edge Services, a series of technologies for blocking spam at e-mail gateways, originally was supposed to be released separately this year. Instead, technology intended for that release will begin to appear in Exchange Service Pack 2, slated for release in the second half of this year. This will include support for the Sender ID e-mail authentication framework.

The rest will be included in the next release of Exchange, currently code-named Exchange 12, which is expected in the 2006 to 2007 time frame, Microsoft officials said. Microsoft has previously identified these technologies as including IP safelist and presolved puzzle validity—a technology that would require sending servers to solve complex computational puzzles for each e-mail they send out.

Click here for Microsoft Watcher Mary Jo Foley’s take on the Exchange developments.

Microsoft officials have previously indicated that they will look to provide technology that detects spam based on e-mail traffic analysis as well.

“We wanted Edge to be a broader platform for not only e-mail security but compliance and policy management, so we decided not to release it as an interim release,” said David Thompson, corporate vice president of the Exchange Server Product Group at Microsoft.

Microsoft also will improve public folder management, including a new user interface in Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2, officials said.

Read more here about Microsoft’s backpedaling on its Exchange security roadmap.

Unified messaging support is key to the Exchange 12 release, with Microsoft promising a “simplified, role-based architecture” for e-mail, voice mail and fax.

Other planned new features include a new user interface for ESM (Exchange System Manager); support for continuous backup and commodity storage; improved search; an improved, shared calendaring functionality that would integrate users’ calendars with schedules for facilities such as conference rooms; Web services APIs; an improved policy compliance infrastructure; and previously announced plans for 64-bit support. Exchange 12 also would share the Windows Server System Common Engineering Criteria with other Microsoft server products.

“This would make it easier for IT organizations to understand server attributes across our product stack,” Thompson said of the shared engineering criteria.

The next-generation version of Exchange, once code-named Kodiak, was to have been built on a relational data store based on Microsoft’s SQL Server database. But Microsoft has abandoned those plans in Exchange 12, due largely to a desire to prevent more customer migration headaches, according to a company spokeswoman.

Instead, Microsoft is banking on other improvements in Exchange 12, such as 64-bit support, continuous backup, and Web services support to remove some of the limitations that Exchange customers currently face with JET.

Microsoft is leaving open the possibility that future releases of Exchange beyond Exchange 12 could eventually be built on the SQL Server data store, the spokeswoman said.

Microsoft officials said Exchange 2003 had the fastest adoption rate ever for any Exchange product, and that it accounts for about 20 percent of the total Exchange user base. Officials claimed a 25 percent reduction in the installed base on Exchange 5.5, but said 30 percent of the Exchange installed base remains on that product.

Exchange customers have been slow to leave 5.5, since upgrading from that version requires the adoption of Microsoft Windows Active Directory Services. Customers will need to be on at least Exchange 2000 to migrate to the Exchange 12 release when it is generally available, officials said.

Check out’s for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.