Exchange 2007 SP1 Moves a Step Closer

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-08-14

Exchange 2007 SP1 Moves a Step Closer


Exchange 2007 SP1 Moves

a Step Closer">

Microsoft has opened up the second beta for Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 to more than a million Microsoft Developer Network and TechNet subscribers under a new technology preview program.

More than 150,000 technical adoption customers have been testing the first private beta of the service pack, but this second beta is feature-complete and contains new technologies not found in that first beta, Ray Mohrman, the group product manager of Microsofts Unified Communications Group, told eWEEK.

The Forefront Security for Exchange Server SP1 beta will also be made available Aug. 14, and both service packs are expected to be generally available in the last quarter of 2007, he said.

Read more about how an Exchange update fixed potential iPhone issues here.

"We have seen over 1,000 customers dropping off Lotus Notes and coming to Exchange in the past year alone. That represents about three million PCs and more than three million people, which shows that Exchange has quite a bit of traction in the marketplace," he said.

When asked how many customers were moving off Notes to Exchange 2003 rather than 2007, Mohrman said he did not have those numbers at hand.

"But a lot of this depends on where they were in the cycle of switching over. Obviously 2007 with SP1 has a great set of features and is a very solid, quality product and moving onto Exchange 2007 gets them onto the Unified Communications platform. Adoption for 2007 has been great," he said.

With regard to Linux and open source as a competitor on this front, Mohrman said that Notes was its largest competitor and therefore popped up more frequently, particularly in the enterprise space. "I dont remember hearing about any Exchange customers lost to Lotus Notes," he said when asked this.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner recently took aim at Lotus Notes. Click here to read more.

But Keith McCall, previously a Microsoft executive and now CTO at Azaleos, which offers on-premises, managed services for Exchange, points out that many customers traditionally wait for the release of Service Pack 1 before adopting a release of Microsoft software into production. He expects the "big bang wave" of Exchange 2007 adoption will crest on the release of SP1.

"The fact is that Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1 will be later to release than for any other version of Exchange. This has caused delay in customer adoption of Exchange 2007, which has likely impacted Exchange revenues for Microsoft," McCall told eWEEK.

Some 20 percent of Azaleos customers have already moved to Exchange 2007, and are upbeat about the advanced Outlook Web Access and, in some cases, the new Unified Messaging capabilities. Azaleos expects 50 percent of its customers to have made the move to Exchange 2007 by the release of Service Pack 1 in the expected November timeframe, he said.

Mohrman said Microsoft had started working on the Exchange SP1 shortly after Exchange 2007 shipped, and the service pack is based on customer requests, particularly for features like Standby Continuous Replication and Active Sync policies, both of which were requested by enterprise customers.

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Standby Continuous Replication is a high-availability feature that helps organizations recover quickly from site-level disasters that affect an entire data center. It works by continuously replicating mailbox data to a standby server using Exchange Servers built-in log file shipping technology. The standby server can be quickly activated if the primary server or data center is offline, Mohrman said.

To read more about the storage package SMBs got for Exchange, click here.

Asked how this move affected Microsoft partners like NeverFail and XOsoft, who offer competing solutions for continuous data protection, Mohrman said it was all about choice. "You have to look at the business requirements and with standby continuous replication there is a manual activation process. We do believe that we are providing a complete solution for the majority of customers and their requirements," he said.

With regard to any competitive impact on the Exchange Hosted Continuity services offered by the old Frontbridge team acquired by Microsoft, Mohrman said that those business continuity services were a great offering and customers typically used this if they were already using the anti-virus and anti-spam filtering.

"If you are using Exchange Hosted Services to filter your viruses and spam ahead of time you can then queue up those messages and have business continuity in the cloud. It also allows you to do other things like archiving; all the stuff that comes around the Exchange ecosystem. That works for some customers, typically in the midmarket and small business space, while a lot of enterprise customers still want an on-premise solution for their disaster recovery as well," he said.

"So its about choice, about fitting your requirements and whether or not you are fine with having your data residing offsite and being able to connect in through Web-based clients or if you want on-premise, multi-site control and disaster recovery," Mohrman said.

Asked if there were any plans for an Exchange Hosted Service to give customers Standby Continuous Replication capabilities so that they could host a copy of their data on Microsoft premises, Mohrman said there was no news on that front and not something his team was directly looking at.

But for Azaleos McCall, the storage and scalability capabilities in Exchange 2007 alone have created benefits for server consolidation and e-mail service reliability, while SP1 adds critically needed business continuity functionality through the Standby Continuous Replication capabilities. "Together these capabilities easily compensate for the cost of the migration to Exchange 2007," he said.

Similar business continuity capabilities for Exchange were previously accessible only through costly snapshot-based storage solutions from companies like Network Appliance and EMC, although these solutions still offer richer functionality than the new features in Exchange 2007 SP1, he said.

Read more here about how Microsoft is striving to make Exchange more like an appliance.

"Snapshot-based replication solutions still kick butt over continuous replication capabilities for Exchange business continuity, but they can cost a little more," McCall said.

Exchange Server 2007 SP1 also brings new policies for synchronization, authentication and encryption policies, as well as device, network and application controls. These new features allow network administrators to help manage and secure Exchange ActiveSync enabled mobile devices.

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Exchange Server 2003 SP2 had brought DirectPush and policies for Windows mobile devices, while 2007 had new policies to control those devices. SP1 would extend these further on the encryption, device and application management fronts, such as locking down the device to turn off the way that intellectual property could leave that device and go somewhere else.

Asked whether he had any information about whether Apple had licensed ActiveSync for the iPhone, Mohrman said he did not. "I have no more information on that than you do," he said.

Exchange SP1 also brings support for the upcoming Windows Server 2008 meaning that Exchange Server 2007 SP1 will run on either Windows Server 2003 SP2 or Windows Server 2008, giving them IPV6 support and enabling site level disaster recovery.

Testers will also be able to run Exchange Server 2007 SP1 on Windows Server 2008 beta 3, he said.

As of SP1, the Exchange 2007 management tools can now run on Windows Vista, but not Exchange 2007 itself. However, it can be deployed on Windows Server 2008 starting with beta 3.

SP1 also has enhanced integration with Office Communications Server 2007, allowing users to retrieve voice mail messages from Microsoft Office Communicator with a single click.

To read eWEEK Labs review of Exchange Server 2007, click here.

Exchange Server 2007 SP1 also integrates with Microsoft Forefront Security Server SP1 for Exchange Server, which brings improvements in content filtering and scanning performance, as well as support for Windows Server 2008.

Exchange Server 2007 SP1 also includes features that enhance the user experience in Outlook Web Access, and provide greater functionality in the Exchange Server 2007 Management Console.

Asked if there were any plans to support Exchange 2007 in a virtual environment in production, Mohrman said most customers were interested in this in sandbox environments and test beds, which was one of the main reasons it supplied a 32-bit trial version for quick trials and training.

"We havent had significant requests to virtualize the core of Exchange, but Microsoft had invested in virtualization in Exchange 2003 SP2, which was the first time the company supported Exchange in a virtual environment. Were definitely looking forward to the next release of Microsoft products to support that as well," he said.

Mohrman declined to talk about Microsofts plans for Exchange appliances going forward, saying he had no news about any future release of Exchange outside SP1.

With regard to the lack of complete public folder access in Exchange 2007, he said SP1 brought access to public folders through Outlook Web Access as well as from Outlook. "You can also access SharePoint sites through Outlook Web Access, which was new in Exchange 2007. So, customers who are transitioning to SharePoint still have public folders they can get to.

SP1 also allows public folders to be managed through the graphical user interface rather than just through the command line, as had been the case with Exchange 2007 until now. This change is designed to make the transition to SharePoint easier, he said.

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