Exchange Server 2007 SP1 Coming Friday

Microsoft on Friday launches its first major Exchange Server 2007 update, pushing Service Pack 1 out the door.

According to Redmond, customers downloading SP1 will be able to harness enhancements such as stepped-up support for Windows Server 2008, a better mesh with Office Communications Server 2007, and improved mobile device security and management.

Exchange 2007 SP1 also offers a friendlier user interface for Outlook Web Access, coupled with improved disaster recovery capabilities through Standby Continuous Replication. SCR helps system administrators essentially copy Exchange Server to another site for backup, restore and business continuity purposes.

Redmond released Exchange 2007 about a year ago, a launch that was part and parcel with Microsoft's wide-ranging rollout of new products programs and services in 2006. Early skeptics wondered how quickly Exchange 2007 would be adopted, based on the amount of improvements over its predecessor, Exchange 2003.

According to Microsoft, its flagship e-mail server has had success in the market. Redmond said that last year, more than 3,000 companies, representing more than one million seats, have begun the switch from rival messaging and voice mail platforms to Exchange 2007.

Still, many companies are hesitant to use a Version One of any new program.

"Usually IT people tend to wait for the service pack one or two release before they'll migrate to a new program and this is a highly anticipated service pack release, that many feel was worth waiting for," said Vas Srinivasan, vice president of marketing for San Jose, Calif.-based Sonasoft Corp. Sonasoft makes Sonasafe, migration software that helps splice together Exchange environments.

Srinivasan added that the company was one of the first ISVs to support Exchange 2007.

"That said, people who are still on 2003 will likely wait another year or so just to see how adopters deal with this release, what the subsequent service packs will offer and what developments occur in hardware and software that may change things."

Microsoft doesn't think they need to wait. Approximately 270,000 technologists were part of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program that tested the beta version of SP1. In that testing phase, the company said, more than 30,000 of the mailboxes were also running Windows Server 2008.

Keith McCall, founder and chief technology officer of Azaleos, a Redmond, Wash.-based consultancy, said he likes the changes in SP1.

"Microsoft did improve greatly with this release in advancing to high availability with Windows Server 2008, something that wasn't previously available on older Windows server versions," he said.

However, the prospect of a completely new program administration interface, as well as a complex five-server role setup, may not yet be palatable for enterprise infrastructure managers weighing their options, McCall cautioned.

"A good way to bring this all together is server virtualization," he said. "It's too bad [Microsoft] is about 18 months behind on virtualization. You could run Exchange Server on VMware and reduce the number of physical servers you have. Virtualization gives you the ability to do that, and we're sort of in a position to bridge the gap there; so what's on the horizon industry-wide with virtualization is a positive for us."

Meanwhile, companies running Exchange on 32-bit boxes will either need to replace, upgrade or reconfigure hardware if they want to take an advantage of the new features. Likewise, IT shops running Exchange on 64-bit-capable hardware will need to enhance the server OS to a 64-bit version to use the product.

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is a business consultant and an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others. He consulted for Deloitte & Touche LLP and was a business and world affairs commentator on ABC and CNN.