A few months back, I wrote a bit about what to expect in the next version of Microsoft Exchange Server. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about Exchange Server 2007 (formerly codenamed E12) but couldn’t repeat much of it. The following highlights are some of the additional information that was made public in Eileen Brown‘s presentation at last week’s Microsoft Technical Roadshow, starting with Exchange Server product progress (since the launch of Exchange Server 2003):
- October 2003 – Exchange Server 2003 and Office System 2003 released.
- May 2004 – Exchange Server 2003 service pack 1 (SP1) released.
- September 2004 – Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA) released (more about ExBPA).
- February 2005 – Microsoft buys Sybari.
- July 2005 – Microsoft buys FrontBridge.
- October 2005 – Exchange Server SP2 released.
- December 2005 – Exchange Server “E12” beta 1.
- March 2006 – Hosted Exchange services.
- Mid-2006 – Exchange Server 2007 CTP
- June/July 2006 – Exchange Server 2007 beta 2.
- Late 2006 Exchange Server 2007 RTM.
- Early 2007 Exchange Server 2007 general availability.
Key new features with Exchange Server 2007 (some of which I’ve written about previously) include:
- The use of 64-bit server technology facilitates a reduction in input/output operations and hence allows more databases (with larger mailboxes) to be placed on each server.
- High availability enhancements, allowing increased data and service availability: database continuous replication (either local or clustered) allows daily full backups to be replaced with weekly full backups and daily incrementals the second copy of the database plays the transaction logs from the first as they are written, meaning that it is never more than once transaction log behind the first; and there is now support for geoclustering.
- Improved mobile e-mail, including push e-mail, policy-based provisioning and security.
- Improved system management tools: a new MMC 3.0-based Exchange System Manager and the Exchange Management Shell (running on Windows PowerShell).
- Automatic client configuration.
- Encrypted and signed intra-organisation e-mail (by default) and encryption at the gateway (where supported) for business-to-business e-mail with no additional client requirements.
- New message hygiene functionality.
- Message journalling at the transport level with new data retention rules and a new content indexer, allowing a multiple-mailbox search with low CPU impact and fast re-indexing.
- Improvements in Outlook cached mode operation.
- Integration with SharePoint folders.
- New AD schema extensions for resource mailboxes (room or equipment) as well as an all rooms address list.
- Meeting requests can now be accepted or declined within a preview (no need to open the message).
- A to-do bar allowing tasks to roll over to the next day if they have not been completed.
- Ability to view multiple calendars overlaid on one another.
- An improved scheduling assistant that provides hints to the best times for all meeting attendees as well as tentatively accepting new requests, automatically handling updates to meeting information and removing out of date meeting requests/updates.
- Calendar sharing is now more granular, with the ability to deny all access, show time and free/busy status only, show time, subject, location and free/busy status, or show full details, even down to a per-user level.
- Schedules can be set for out of office replies.
From a client perspective, Outlook 2007 provides the richest user experience (when connected to Exchange Server 2007, although it will also work with previous versions); however Outlook Web Access (OWA) is now almost as good. There’s also Outlook Mobile for Windows Mobile 5.0 and the ability to interact with Exchange’s unified messaging functionality from a phone.
Exchange Server 2007 offers significant improvements over 2003 and earlier versions; however it will be interesting to see if these improvements are enough to entice the many companies that are still running basic e-mail services using Exchange Server 5.5 to upgrade their systems.