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Chapter 8: Communicating with Other Elecrtronic Messaging SystemsIn the previous chapters, we evaluated the design goals of different types of organizations, taking into account the impact that an installation of a new Microsoft Exchange environment would have in an isolated environment. The reality, however, for most organizations is that they already have an electronic messaging system in place. For some organizations, the existing electronic messaging system may not be widely used, so the implementation of Microsoft Exchange may not have a major impact. For others, however, electronic messaging ranks in importance with voicemail and faxes as a primary method of communications within the organization and with clients, vendors, and associates.
When organizations elect to install Microsoft Exchange as their future messaging and groupware environment, their need to maintain the flow of communications with an existing messaging system becomes crucial. The coexistence of two messaging systems may last only a short time while the organization switches from one system to another, or it may be sustained as portions of the organization may choose not to switch to Microsoft Exchange. In organizations with the need to communicate with clients or vendors running different electronic messaging systems, the ability to communicate externally with the Microsoft Exchange system will be just as crucial as the organization's ability to communicate internally.
The more able Microsoft Exchange is to provide smooth integration with other messaging systems, the better it will be able to minimize downtime or interruptions in messaging services for users. Integration is also crucial to the organization's ability to communicate effectively with other departments within the company or with external business partners. This chapter will review and evaluate the general integration needs and requirements of organizations to assist in their integration of Microsoft Exchange with other electronic messaging systems.
Integrating with Other Messaging and Groupware Environments
Similar to our previous environment evaluation processes, we will assess the electronic messaging systems with which the Microsoft Exchange environment needs to communicate in order to consider if and how to integrate the existing messaging system with Exchange. The assessment of the other messaging environments is not necessarily limited to the current message environment of the organization, but could potentially include an evaluation of both the existing messaging system and the other organization(s) that will need communication links and access to information in the new Exchange messaging environment.
The extent of the integration, conversion, and migration process is dependent upon whether the other systems provide only e-mail services or whether the organization is currently using groupware functionality (personal and group scheduling, or forms and document routing). Additionally, if the existing messaging system provides a great deal of messaging and groupware functionality, but the organization needs only to integrate the electronic mail component communication between two divisions, then the demand on the organization to develop a complicated link is minimized. Clearly, a more sophisticated existing messaging system will have a greater need to integrate all its aspects with Microsoft Exchange, resulting in a more complicated integration or migration.
Open Environment or Proprietary Environment
Of great importance in determining the complexity of the integration with Microsoft Exchange is whether the other electronic messaging system supports open industry messaging standards or whether it is of a proprietary format. Because Microsoft Exchange supports the most common industry standard formats of SMTP through the Internet connector as well as X.400 messaging, if the other environment supports one of these standards, it will be able to communicate with Microsoft Exchange. However, even proprietary formats are available for Microsoft Exchange, including gateways to Microsoft Mail IBM/Lotus cc:Mail, IBM/Lotus Notes, IBM Profs, or DEC All-in-One mail. Microsoft's ability to provide support to a number of messaging gateway formats into Microsoft Exchange as well as third-party support for gateways that Microsoft does not directly support has given many organizations the capability to integrate Microsoft Exchange with their existing environments.
A Gateway Versus a Connector
In many of the readings available on Microsoft Exchange, there are references to gateways to other messaging systems as well as to connectors to other messaging systems. The term that is most commonly used in the industry is gateway The terms gateway and connector have similar meanings, but their communication capabilities can be drastically different in terms of support or functionality. A gateway is typically a standalone device that allows one messaging system to communicate with another. It acts as a translation system that accepts messages in one format and dispatches them in another format. The more sophisticated the gateway, the better the integration between Microsoft Exchange and the other messaging environment.
Within Microsoft Exchange, the term connector is used to describe a gateway that is tightly integrated into the core Microsoft Exchange communication system. Connectors within Microsoft Exchange tend to support a broader range of message and communications links that include not only electronic mail message interchange, but also capabilities such as appointment schedule interchange and user list name directory synchronization. Rather than acting as an external gateway component that accepts information to and from a Microsoft Exchange organization, the connector resides within the Microsoft Exchange Server, which provides the Exchange system the ability to manage and interpret the information directly with the information and directory stores within Exchange for better services management.
Also, because a connector is integrated into the core directory store, message information management store, and system attendant components of Exchange, it logs all message transmissions and processes directly within the same message and transaction logs used within Microsoft Exchange. With tighter tracking and controls, an administrator is better able to track the status of messages with integrated Exchange connectors than through an external gateway, where limited information, management, and message control exists.
Key to any electronic messaging environment that includes two or more different messaging systems is the ability to update user lists of each organization and make the updated information available to all users. Although the task of maintaining an updated list of users and making it available to all e-mail clients may sound simple, directory synchronization is actually one of the more complicated tasks within cross-platform message administration. Functionally, any time users are added, deleted, or modified as individuals, or added and deleted from messaging groups, the changed information needs to be forwarded to all attached networks. For two small organizations synchronizing user lists, it would be a simple process to simply send an updated user list to the other organization any time information is changed. However, as shared user list distribution grows for larger organizations, the ability to send a modified user list every time there is a...