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Microsoft Taps Schools To Test Exchange 14

Microsoft has begun ramping up the dialog about its upcoming Exchange 14 mail server solution, which is slated to become the successor to Exchange Server 2007. Exchange 14, also known as "E14," isn't available as a commercial product yet. Instead, Microsoft has been testing it under its Live@edu educational initiative and Technology Adopter Program.

On Tuesday, Microsoft's Exchange team talked about those tests, which originally started as part of Microsoft's Exchange Labs project in October of 2007. Microsoft currently has more than 3.5 million e-mail users supported by the E14 solution, which serves about 1,500 schools, according to the Exchange team blog.

The company is particularly focusing on testing the scalability of its online solution using a multitenant hosting architecture. Microsoft began developing E14 with the objective of using a single code base for both the customer-installed and online versions, according to the team blog.

The Exchange team is working on a simplified user interface for E14, along with the capability for end users to manage the experience themselves, explained Jim Lucey, product manager for Exchange Labs, in a Microsoft-released video. For school systems, E14 will have to be flexible enough to comply with a number of regulations, which requires adding filtering capabilities in some cases.

The E14 solution will work with Microsoft Outlook and enable calendar sharing. Those users lacking the Microsoft Office suite will still be able to share documents by opening them in a Web browser, Lucey explained. Microsoft is planning to enable mobile access to e-mail through an "active mobile" feature, he added.

The Exchange team expects to see cost reductions for enterprise customers when the E14 service becomes commercially available, especially in comparison with using Exchange Server 2007. Microsoft has not publicly announced a product release date for E14.

In the mean time, Microsoft has lost at least one big academic e-mail contract to Google. In June, an Australian school district dumped an installed Microsoft Exchange Server setup for hosted Google gmail service. Google's service was slated to provide e-mail accounts to students, faculty and administrators at a cost of about $9 million. The Google deal replaced a three-year, $33 million contract with Microsoft and its partners.

Google is also expanding its online services to the enterprise. On Wednesday, the company announced a new Google Apps Authorized Reseller Program. The company plans to expand the partner community that now provides customized Google Apps to business customers.

KC Lemson, lead program manager for Microsoft Exchange, said in the team blog that Microsoft would talk more about Exchange 14 "over the coming months."

Microsoft currently offers various hosted solutions, including Exchange Online, Dynamics CRM Online, SharePoint Online and Office Online. Most of those solutions had their debut late last year and are available through Microsoft and its partners.

Microsoft also unveiled a broad cloud computing effort in late October when it announced Windows Azure and the Azure Services Platform.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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