Scaling the Eiger

Ever wanted to have a lightweight version of XP to install on your desktop machines? Something that is not burdened down with all the nonsense of a media player, games and the rest of the peripheral trivia that Microsoft keeps loading onto the OS? Something that’s directly manageable via Active Directory policy, of course, but which will run on older machines and give them an extended lease of life? Well, that’s the idea behind a rumoured forthcoming version of XP called Eiger. It is aimed at older hardware, but it is not as lightweight as a pure thin-client solution aimed at the terminal server marketplace. No, this version is aimed at the lightweight ‘information worker’ who bashes out documents in Word and Excel, does a bit of email in Outlook and maybe some terminal server sessions into some bigger corporate servers too.

Scaling the Eiger

Is Eiger, and its bigger companion Monch, a good idea then? Well, I think any move by Microsoft to repackage Windows into appropriately sized versions is by-and-large a good thing. This process started with the Server 2003 version, where many components were either not installed or else disabled, and all for good reasons of improving reliability and stability. With XP, Microsoft is still facing a considerable problem in getting XP Professional nailed down in the server networking space. Getting SP 2 out and onto all the client machines was a good start, but we really need a cut-down version with another dose of the same strong medicine applied – that’s if Microsoft is ever going to be taken seriously in the corporate computing space, where IT managers are getting tired of the constant patching and fixing that XP seems to require. And bear in mind that support for Windows 2000 ends this summer, which makes the current ‘XP All or Nothing’ approach a little bit rich for many customers. Keeping them onside with an XP Lite might be just the ticket.

Exchange Service Pack 2

While reading down the list of tweaks and adjustments that Microsoft is lining up for SP 2 of Exchange Server 2003, a couple of items leapt out of the screen at me. First, the Exchange Server store size limit has been increased from 16GB to 75GB, which is a welcome change. That 16GB limit was becoming a major pain for those installations where the cost and complexity of a full Enterprise version of Exchange Server was unwarranted. To be honest, the best reason for going with the full Enterprise version is to get the clustering support, but there are other useful features in there too, one of them being unlimited storage size.

The 16GB limit might have been acceptable a few years ago, but it feels positively cramped today. Even a few dozen users can easily chew through that amount of storage, especially if they decide to use Exchange Server as a storage engine for documents as well as emails. Hence, the increase of the limit in the Standard product is a smart move and one that’s long overdue. It means that those people who have Small Business Server can move to a Windows Server 2003 with Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition to increase their storage from 16-75GB without spending too much, and without incurring the cost and complexity of Enterprise Edition, which was always a frankly ridiculous upgrade route for Small Business Server users.

The other interesting new feature is the capability to interact with the new smartphones from Microsoft. A big worry for many corporations has been information theft if people lose their phone, but now with Exchange Server 2003 SP 2 you will be able to remote manage the phone through the new Direct Push system. Here are the three key new abilities you will get, in Microsoft’s own words:

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