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Exchange 2010 from Beta to Final All in 2009

Alexander Zammit

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Alexander Zammit has been developing server applications for over 15 years. Most of his works involve Exchange integrated applications, including a FAX server, a mail security product and anti-spam products.

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Exchange 2010 beta is now publicly available and will be final in a matter of a few months. This includes various improvements that will be especially tempting to the large Exchange 2003 user base. Let’s see if Exchange 2010 is worth the upgrade.

Last week Microsoft released Exchange 2010 beta, targeting final release for the second half of 2009. This is the first in a series of releases planned for the coming months that will also include Office 2010 scheduled for mid-2010.

Today we look at what's new. While reading, you may want to follow this link and start downloading Exchange 2010.

Exchange 2010 includes significant improvements whilst retaining the same Exchange 2007 design characteristics. In its announcement Microsoft identified the key Exchange 2010 advancements to be lowering of costs, information protection, meeting of compliance requirements and user productivity.

To begin, Exchange 2010 is the first release to be specifically designed to work on-premise, as an online service, or as a mix of both. This is how Microsoft is shaping up the future of Exchange. Providing a smooth transition from on-premise to online services, Microsoft is advancing its service offering significantly.

So far Internet Explorer was the only browser providing the full OWA functionality. Other browsers were catered for with a second class interface. Exchange 2010 changes this providing Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari with the full-blown OWA. Allowing more users to work with their preferred browser is definitely very welcome. Embracing the most important browsers is important for Microsoft itself. After all, browsers contribute the main entry point for users to consume services running at the cloud.

Another very significant improvement is the built-in archiving functionality. Exchange 2010 will allow the creation of secondary archive mailboxes. The archive will be accessible from both OWA and Outlook, and will be fully searchable including attachments. One limitation is that both primary and archive mailboxes reside in the same mailbox database hence the same disk. All-in-all Microsoft is providing a good archiving solution offering a cost cutting opportunity on 3rd party add-ons.

Continuing on cost cutting, Exchange 2010 improved the performance of lower-cost, direct-attached storage (DAS) without sacrificing reliability. Microsoft claims a potential savings of 85 % on storage when using DAS.

As for user productivity we have a number of features users will certainly love:

Conversation View brings together an entire conversation even if items are located in multiple folders, the inbox, sent items and deleted items.

MailTips alert users when emails are about to be sent to large distribution groups, to recipients that are out-of-office and other conditions worth considering before hitting the Send button.

Ignore Conversation is a feature all users will be welcoming. With a click of a button we will now be able to choose not to receive any further emails from a conversation we are not interested in.

Voice Mail Preview immidiately provides a text transcript for voice messages.

Call Answering Rules enable users to create custom voice mail call-routing menus. On receiving a call the voice interface will respond providing the custom menu options. This allows users to be much more in control.

Will You Upgrade?

Upgrading from Exchange 2007 should not pose major challenges. As for Exchange 2003, upgrading will involve the same design considerations that were already presented by Exchange 2007. The only significant requirement change, over Exchange 2007, is the lack of Windows 2003 support, making Windows 2008 the only supported platform. I consider this to be a welcome "limitation". Once you are installing the latest Exchange, might as well you go for the latest platform and save yourself additional upgrades.

Note that the current Exchange 2010 Beta does not allow mixing with Exchange 2007 or any other earlier version. This is only temporary and will change as from the next build.

Technology is indeed changing fast, probably too fast for many organizations. Let's see how long Exchange 2007 enjoyed the limelight. Service Pack 1 was an important landmark for Exchange 2007 adoption. This was released on November 2007. As for smaller organizations, SBS 2008 (the one including Exchange 2007) only became widely available last November i.e. five months ago. It will be interesting to see if and when SBS will catch up. Quite obviously, the more the small business market embraces the hosted services route, the less will be the urge for new SBS releases. With the SBS package one version behind, the hosted solution also gains an edge over the on-premise alternative.

Exchange 2010 pricing is not available yet. Considering how Exchange and Outlook couple each other we will also have to wait for Office 2010 to have the complete budget requirements.

Exchange 2010 is likely to encourage the large Exchange 2003 user base to upgrade. Many of these organizations have been considering an upgrade for some time now and Exchange 2010 will probably be their best choice at this point.

Final Tips

Exchange 2010 builds on top of the 2007 release without introducing any ground-breaking changes. Many will appreciate the archiving, OWA browser support and other features. However I pick the ability to run on-premise and as a hosted service, as the most significant change characterizing this release. This is the market Microsoft is pursuing and this release is a significant advancement in that direction. Someone running Exchange 2010 on-premise might not give much weight to this. However looking at how the future is shaping, I see the advancement in Microsoft's service preposition as the key motivator behind this release.

References

Exchange 2010 Download/Homepage

Microsoft Unveils Exchange 2010 With Public Beta

Exchange 2010 Forum

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