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Real-Time Messaging Needs

One final major area to consider is what you want to accomplish with the Microsoft Exchange Conference Server (ECS) real-time messaging and collaboration tools.

To summarize, the Exchange Conference Server components can be installed as a departmental server or as a part of the Exchange 2000 Server:

  • Data Conferencing Services (DCS)

  • Audio and Video Conferencing Services (VCS)

  • Schedule Management via the Conference Management Service (CMS)

For instant messaging functions:

  • Chat

  • Instant Messaging

Of all these features, the heaviest potential user of network bandwidth will be the ECS-specific features. While ECS services are available with Exchange 2000, they are deployed in conjunction with Windows 2000 sites, not Exchange servers or routing groups. However, an Exchange 2000 server is used to store and manage schedules and reservations of conference resources. To this end, Exchange Free/Busy information must be supported and replicated or available via referral from the hosting Exchange server to other servers and users.

Thinking about basic planning for Exchange 2000 and deployment of instant messaging and collaboration functions, there are several questions that should be addressed:

  • Will all users be offered access to chat and instant messaging (IM)? If so, then sufficient servers to support traffic will need to be planned for and IM domains will need to be designated.

  • Will ECS be made available to all users or selected locations? Detailed bandwidth analysis and Windows 2000 quality of service (QoS) considerations will need to be reviewed.

  • What kind of access will be offered to the public Internet and extranet? Careful configuration and testing of the firewall, as well as possible router configuration changes, will need to be undertaken. Security planning will, of course, be of the utmost concern.

  • Does your organization plan to offer IM functions to more than 10,000 users concurrently? Consider setting up a front-end server as a single point of connection, with numerous back-end servers handling the workload.

  • What kind of telephony connections and equipment might be connected to the ECS? Review supported standards and integration options by vendor.

  • As you design your ECS topology and install components in Windows 2000 sites, where will you install the MADCAP services? Review current DHCP infrastructure to coordinate MADCAP placement and integration.

  • Who will own the monitoring of network utilization to ensure that combined IM, chat, and ECS usage do not bring the network down? This is a critical question that must be answered before deployment of any functions.

Given the tremendous number of options for integration and questions that must be answered, it may be tempting to delay further planning of these real-time collaboration functions. It is advisable to spend some portion of time reviewing options and setting initial guidelines that can be revisited by an architectural team after the overall Exchange 2000 deployment has begun. These are extremely useful services that many corporations will want to deploy, but, deployed improperly, they could have a major negative impact.

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