The Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration 3.5 has now been released to the web!
Now that it’s released, I’ll upgrade my lab and report back on what I find.
Without going into great detail, here is a quick list of some of the improvments from HMC 3.0:
Support for Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (including the new Mobility features provided with the SP2 update)
Integraiton with "Microsoft Identity Integration Server" (MIIS) to enable "Single Password" support between a corporate customer and their hosted services.
Migration Tools that enable migrating a customer from their current Exchange platform to easily migrate their data to their hosted service.
Improvements to the MPS Deployment Tool.
Here is a link to an MS site that defines what's new in the solution: http://www.microsoft.com/serviceproviders/solutions/hostedmessagingnew.mspx
Scott Allen has good post that provides a basic overview of why any Service Provider that is offering ASP.NET (specifically 2.0) as a service, should make Medium Trust as the default for all websites.
Recently, Microsoft shipped "Microsoft Visual Studio Express Editions" (VWD) and have made them freely available for one year. You can download it here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/vwd/download/
This is extremely interesting for Service Providers offering web hosting on the Microsoft Platform. For years, Microsoft has leveraged the FrontPage Server Extensions to allow end users using FrontPage or Visual Studio.NET to upload their content to a Windows based service (i.e. IIS). From the end user side, this was cool setup as they just needed to point their client to their website's URL, and off the content. On the other side, Service Providers had to fight with all of the security and deployment issues that FrontPage brought (and hasn't been fixed over the past 4+ years). Both Visual Studio.NET 2005 (all of the versions) and Visual Web Developer 2005 utilize FTP as the default content publishing mechanism which, again, is a significant (and great) change. This doesn't remove the current requirement for Service Providers to continue to provide FrontPage Server Extensions as those legacy clients still requirement.
Visual Web Developer 2005 Express is a great alternative to FrontPage, although it doesn't have the "Web Components" (aka bots) that come with FrontPage. But it does provide a method of designing your web page and (not included in FrontPage) the ability to program the site in ASP.NET and SQL Server (either the full version of SQL Server 2000/2005 or the SQL Server Express Edition). Microsoft also provides a collection of "Starter Kits" that makes it quite easy to build a DYNAMIC (this is important) site based on ASP.NET today. And for Free (except for the Service Provider fees)!
Now with Visual Studio.NET 2005 and Visual Web Developer 2005 Express, Service Providers should start offering a Service Plan focused on those customers and deploy them on a separate collection of servers with the .NET Framework 2.0 installed. Based on that new service, customers should use FTP as their primary method of content management. This in the short and long term should reduce the cost in managing a Windows platform for web hosting and should also reduce the cost for the service for customer. This enables the entire (Windows Web Hosting) market to better manage their costs and adding additional value.
Learn more about Visual Web Developer 2005 Express here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/vwd/
I plan on writing up a few posts on using VWD with a given Service Provider (anyone willing to donate a site and some space for me? Email firstname.lastname@example.org) soon.