Exchange 12 Gains More Testers

Microsoft has broadened the group of testers for the first beta of its upcoming Exchange "12" e-mail, calendaring and unified messaging server.

Microsoft has broadened the group of testers for the first beta of its upcoming Exchange "12" e-mail, calendaring and unified messaging server, releasing last week a Community Technology Preview to its 200,000 global TechNet and MSDN subscribers.

"The CTP is a Beta 1 release, which is still a private beta, but the second beta for Exchange 12, due this summer, will be publicly available, and anyone can then review the code," Megan Kidd, a senior product manager for Exchange, told eWEEK.

The Exchange team has received a good deal of feedback since it released the first Exchange 12 beta last December, particularly around two features: local continuous replication and cluster continuous replication, Kidd said in Redmond, Wash.

Ray Mohrman, a technical product planner for Exchange, said these features were high-availability solutions designed to meet the IT demand for increasing availability of customers systems. Messaging solutions such as Exchange were becoming increasingly core to the way companies conducted business, and customers were looking at ways to make sure that the system was always available, Mohrman said.

"In Exchange 12, we took an approach of being able to provide a scalable solution that could fit a number of customer requirements. So, local continuous replication is really bringing affordable, enterprise-ready continuity for our small and midmarket customers," Mohrman said.

The local continuous replication solution is integrated into the Exchange System Manager, which is the console used to manage everything in Exchange. Using this console, IT managers can choose the database they want to replicate and then launch a wizard that takes them through the process. "In the case of failover here, the system administrator gets an alert of the failure and goes into the Exchange System Manager and points it to the replica system rather than the production one, which then gets dismounted, turned off, and the new system gets mounted in its place and turned on," Mohrman said.

IT workers would see that the system had gone down but would be back up and running as soon as the system had been swapped over. They also would not have to reconfigure anything in Outlook, he said.

The cluster continuous replication solution works in a cluster environment and allows failover between geographically dispersed sites. "These solutions are integrated into Exchange 12, and we did this work at the underlying Jet database level in Exchange. Some of the benefits [are] that overall backup costs are reduced and the frequency of backups for archiving purposes or for a really catastrophic disaster can be closely looked at. Also, those backups can now be taken off that copy, so the production database is not actually impacted," Mohrman said.

This solution was not tied to any hardware or storage solution or hardware configuration, and customers, based on their availability needs, could choose how they set up this continuous replication and use DAS (direct-attached storage) or SANs (storage area networks), and multiple or single servers, he said.

This solution could also be set up to do automatic failover, he said.

As Exchange 12 runs on the built-in Jet database, both solutions will not work with SQL Server or other databases such as those from Oracle. "This was done by design, as it is an environment that [customers] are familiar with in the Exchange area," Mohrman said.

But some open competitors, such as Julie Hanna Farris, founder and chief strategy officer of Scalix, a messaging infrastructure company in San Mateo, Calif., criticize the underlying architecture of Exchange.

It "suffers from more than its fair share of reliability and security problems, the fundamental causes of which have not been addressed in Exchange 12," Farris said.