Microsoft will make Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 available to customers Nov. 29, a company spokesperson confirmed to eWEEK.
The update features support for Windows Server 2008, better integration with Office Communications Server 2007, and improved mobile device security and management.
"SP1 also enhances the user experience in Outlook Web Access, provides greater functionality in the management console, and delivers improved disaster-recovery capabilities through Standby Continuous Replication," the spokesperson said.
Keith McCall, a former Microsoft executive and now chief technology officer at Azaleos, which has been testing SP1 under Microsofts Technology Adoption Program, welcomes the new functionality and support in the update.
"An issue blocking migration was that companies had difficulty seeing value in Exchange 2007 versus Exchange 2003. With the release of Service Pack 1, Microsoft has truly taken the gloves off, adding impressive functionality for business continuity, mobile device management and Windows Server 2008 support," he told eWEEK.
Click here to read more about Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1.
Gary Cooper, a senior systems engineer at Horizons Consulting, agreed, saying the additional enhancements contained in SP1 make Exchange Server 2007 a "must-have."
"The enhancements we are most excited about are the improved Site Resiliency Solution with the inclusion of Standby Continuous Replication and the continuous improvements to Outlook Web Access," he said.
SP1, which is available at no cost, will be available for download here. More than 270,000 information workers tested the SP1 beta as part of Microsofts Technology Adoption Program, with more than 30,000 of those mailboxes running Windows Server 2008.
The release of the update comes close to a year after the software was made available to business customers on Nov. 30, 2006.
"Since then, more than 3,000 companies representing more than 1 million seats have begun the switch from rival messaging and voice mail platforms to Exchange Server," the Microsoft spokesperson said.
EMC fully supports Exchange 2007. Click here to read more.
Azaleos McCall said SP1 has also shown some significant performance improvements in the IOPS (input/output operations per second) for the passive node. "Were encouraged by these improvements," said McCall, whose company offers on-premises managed services for Exchange.
Another positive for Microsoft is that the release of SP1 should help drive corporate adoption of Exchange 2007, especially among those who held off until the update was released.
"Many of the 140 million corporate Exchange users worldwide have stalled their adoption of Exchange 2007 waiting for the release of Service Pack 1. With budget planning under way for 2008, and with SP1 shipping today, the next 18 months is the time for IT departments to make the move," McCall said.
But some of the challenges associated with moving to Exchange 2007 remain, including the cost of retraining IT staffs on a completely new administration interface, the complexity added by five different server roles, and the lack of critically needed functionality for archiving for storage management and end-to-end mobile device management, he said.
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Microsoft is also offering a hosted model for Exchange, but that faces a number of challenges, including the "blatant conflict" with its hosting partners and the fact that most companies are unwilling to relinquish control of e-mail content to any hosted provider, McCall said.
Research from analyst firms such as Osterman Research shows that less than 2 percent of the Exchange market is currently hosted, and this is not projected to grow rapidly.
Some of the companies looking for the benefits of hosted Exchange, but still wanting to maintain control of their e-mail assets in-house, are looking at hybrids, which consist of on-premises deployed appliances backed by managed services that emulate the value of hosted services. They are available in physical and virtual machine configurations.
Virtual machine technology creates "the perfect storm" hitting the Exchange customer base, McCall said, noting that adoption of VMware is being driven by the added complexity of five server roles, challenges in configuration and patch management, and the desire for business continuity.
Read here about Azaleos OneServer Virtual Edition.
"Azaleos and our customers are still a bit disappointed that we have to wait until the first service pack for Windows 2008 Server, expected at the end of 2008, to finally get the release of Microsofts hypervisor technology, known as Hyper-V, that will support Exchange. In the meantime, we are very encouraged by our use of the VMware platform to support our new OneServer Virtual Edition product," he said.
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