Microsoft Releases 'Cloud-Forged' Exchange Server 2016

With a focus on improved workplace collaboration and faster search, Microsoft releases the on-premises version of its latest email server.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2016

A little more than two months after releasing a preview version, Microsoft has made Exchange Server 2016 available for download. Although meant to run on-premises, the latest version of the email server software was influenced by the cloud.

"What sets this version of Exchange apart from the past, is that it was forged in the cloud," blogged Microsoft's Exchange group in a Sept. 1 announcement. "This release brings the Exchange bits that already power millions of Office 365 mailboxes to your on-premises environment."

Despite efforts to unseat email as the business communications medium of choice, the inbox remains a firmly entrenched part of the workday for many users. Microsoft believes there's room for improvement by integrating some of the collaboration features found in Office.

"Exchange 2016 includes a new approach to attachments that simplifies document-sharing and eliminates version control headaches," wrote the bloggers. "In Outlook 2016 or Outlook on the Web, you can now attach a document as a link to SharePoint 2016 (currently in preview) or OneDrive for Business instead of a traditional attachment, providing the benefits of co-authoring and version control."

Search has also been overhauled to deliver "more accurate and complete results," according to the software giant. "Outlook 2016 is optimized to use the power of the Exchange 2016 back-end to help you find things faster, across old mail and new. Search also gets more intelligent with Search suggestions, People suggestions, search refiners and the ability to search for events in your Calendar," asserted the company.

The mobile-enabled, browser-based Outlook component gains new functionality and a few improvements. Users that access their inboxes via the Web can now pin items, undo actions and include emojis in their messages. Visually, the Web app now supports a single-line inbox view, new themes and enhancements to its HTML rendering engine.

Intensive e-discovery projects should benefit from a faster, more reliable pipeline. A new, asynchronous and distributed search architecture provides better fault tolerance by sharing the workload across multiple servers.

In addition to a more modern user interface and toolset, the email server software also improves on administration and management experience.

"Exchange 2016's architecture reflects the way we deploy Exchange in Office 365 and is an evolution and refinement of Exchange 2013," stated the Exchange team. "A combined mailbox and client access server role makes it easier to plan and scale your on-premises and hybrid deployments. Co-existence with Exchange 2013 is simplified, and namespace planning is easier."

Outages and failures should be far and few between, as well. New automated database repair capabilities, including database divergence detection, along with stability and performance enhancements, make for a sturdier software foundation for an organization's email system, according to Microsoft.

Exchange Server 2016 can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center here (requires Windows Server 2012 and up). Customers can evaluate the fully-functional product for 180 days.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...