Exchange Can Be Appliancelike

One of the major challenges and goals facing the development team working on Microsofts Exchange Server is how to make the e-mail, calendaring and messaging product more like appliance products that make migration and operation automatic.

But this burgeoning appliance market poses a bigger question at Microsoft than for Exchange alone, Terry Myerson, general manager of the Exchange Server product group, in Redmond, Wash., told eWeek.

The development team has taken some tangible steps toward reducing the complexity of Exchange with the upcoming Exchange 2007 offering, as well as creating diagnostic tools such as the Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer, or ExBPA, and "Monad," now known as Windows PowerShell. But Myerson said there is a level of automatic migration and operation "that we are just not at today."

"Id love to get there, and that is a great vision for where Exchange should be. We wont be there in 2007. But, for the version after this, Exchange 14, we will be standing in front of the team and asking why someone cant buy Exchange Server from Dell or [Hewlett-Packard]s Web site, plug it in, test it for 30 days and return it if it doesnt work," Myerson said.

The Exchange team is getting very close to this goal though, Myerson said, with ExBPA scanning the environment and understanding what is and is not ready, and giving prescriptive guidance. But not everyone agrees with this assessment. Some administrators say ExBPA is merely a stopgap tool that analyzes the potential for the incorrect deployment of Exchange.

"Because there are so many ways that Exchange can be deployed, ExBPA is a required mechanism for Microsoft to reduce the cost of all of the support calls theyve been receiving due to e-mail failures over the past six years, ever since Exchange 2000 was released," one administrator told eWeek.

Myerson noted that another challenge facing the development team is the fact that there are three primary audiences for the product: the IT decision maker or CIO, who is focused on cost savings, reliability, security and compliance; the administrator, who looks at complexity; and the user, who wants the most seamless experience across all his devices.

Keith McCall—chief technology officer at Redmond-based Azaleos, which offers a managed Exchange appliance—agrees that Exchange 2007 is well-suited for the appliance form factor.