Almost 60 per cent of respondents in a C2C systems survey said they archived e-mails to improve Exchange mail server efficiency. The survey found the top three e-mail problems were increasing backup and restore times, then increasing message size, followed by lack of message disk space on the e-mail server. Dave Hunt, general manager of C2C Systems, a messaging product supplier, said: "E-mail administrators are currently the primary purchasers of archiving products and they purchase to improve server efficiency." C2C's research partner, Osterman Research, Inc. found that the the current demand for messaging archives tends to be focused on the most heavily regulated industries, such as financial srvices and healthcare. It believes the demand for archiving will spread to other industries as they realise the improved e-mail server efficiency that can result.

Archiving older messages off Exchange Servers makes it more responsive to users and quicker to backup and restore.

The problems around Exchange are well understood. Hunt said that, "E-mail traffic is growing more than 50 per cent per annum and message size is increasing more than 25 per cent per annum. In effect, this means a 100 per cent growth in store size." The Exchange servers become sluggish and backup and restore times increase. Also, "Around 50 per cent of companies have mailbox size limitations. Uers evade these by setting up PSTs, personal message stores, on their local disk or a shared drive. The company can be liable for the contents of these e-mails but not know where the messages are."

Exchange under-provisioned and under-specified?
So why not take the view that Exchange servers are simply under-provisioned? After all, Moore's Law and disk capacity increases should be able to cope with the burden shouldn't they? Mike Freeman, C2C product manager, says, "Exchange Servers have become such a critical item that you can't swap them out or stop them while you upgrade." But that can be taken to mean that the under-provisioning is really severe and a clustered Exchange Server is needed. Hunt agrees that large banks and similar organisations are choosing this route. It's too expensive for the average business though.

Won't Microsoft add archive facilities to Exchange and remedy what is becoming an under-specified product? The company's roadmap doesn't indicate that this is going to happen. In 2006 the next version of Exchange Server after Exchange Server 2003, code-named "Kodiak," will become available. It will be built on top of "Yukon", the next version of Microsoft's SQL Server database, which is slated for a late 2004 release. The plan includes putting Kodiak on the WinFS relational store, which will incorporate relational technology from the SQL Server world. There is simply no mention of an archival facility for e-mail messages.

Also, the insertion of unstructured e-mail messages into a structured relational database may be no simple matter. Software delays with Microsoft products are not unknown.

The C2C position is that any perceived under-provisioning of Exchange Server platforms is only a temporary response. In 2-3 years time you will be where you are today. You have to offload the Exchange Server and place, for example, messages more than 30 days old in an archive on cheaper storage with pointers to it from the Exchange server. Any perceived under-specification of Exchange itself in this area has no roadmap remedies coming from Microsoft so third-party archiving products will be needed.

Combine this with the increasing mail storage needs from regulatory compliance and the outlook is good for archive vendors.