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MS Exchange 2010 beta arrives and it's not all about the cloud

The beta of Exchange 14, now known as Exchange 2010, hit the streets on Wednesday and Network World has a full review of it. According to Microsoft Subnet's sources, three key features will make Exchange 2010 attractive to the enterprise: 1) Improved client access for non-Windows non-Internet Explorer clients, including support for Safari and FireFox. 2) A much improved set of disaster recovery functions that creates high availability, potentially eliminating the need for SAN replication or even third-party products like NetApp SAN Snapshots or VMotion replication. 3) Vastly improved features for regulatory compliance, especially eDiscovery.

Microsoft has also made much of the idea that this version of Exchange was built from the ground up to be both a premises server and a cloud service from Microsoft (see video). Which leads to the question ... should you plan an upgrade at all? Or is it time to take your company's e-mail to the cloud? Our sources said that for many companies, a hybrid solution will be best. The company would own an Exchange Server but it would serve a limited number of clients -- only the office workers for whom e-mail is mission-critical. The company would save a few bucks by rolling out cloud e-mail to employees who need lighter access to e-mail, those who can do their jobs without it (think factory workers, warehouse employees, trucking companies, etc.).

Microsoft Subnet blogger Alex Lewis adds, "Small-to-medium businesses with little or no in-house IT support are great candidates for messaging services in the cloud. I've personally helped many businesses jump online with Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite). It allows companies to upgrade to current technology, or technology they couldn't otherwise implement, with a predictable recurring cost. Larger enterprises with established IT groups are generally not ideal candidates for services and may find it more cost effective to upgrade in-house. Larger enterprises also often have more complex needs around integration and compliance making direct control and management of their messaging infrastructure a requirement."

Exchange 2007 is already available for a cloud or hybrid approach via Microsoft BPOS but, with its egalitarian view towards clients, 2010 does cloud e-mail better, our source says.

Exchange 2010 also improves on 2007's presence technology and universal inbox (integration of e-mail with voicemail) and integrates tighter and easier with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Like 2007, the new version of Exchange provides presence status, e-mail and voicemail. OCS 2007 R2 adds instant messaging and audio/video conferencing, as well as PBX functions. But the 2010/OCS 2007 R2 combo doesn't have to replace the PBX, and it can even work with other VoIP options including Cisco, Microsoft says.

"OCS 2007 R2 has made the jump to being able to stand alone as a PBX for many organizations. However, that doesn't mean it can’t integrate with other solutions," says Lewis. "There are also many proven scenarios involving Cisco Call Manager (or CUCM as it’s now called) and Avaya. Third party tools from companies like Genesys can tighten OCS integration with other PBXs as well." (Here is a full list of supported scenarios from the Microsoft Open Interoperability program.)

To get a closer look at Exchange 2010 beta, check out this slideshow of screen shots.

For more information on how Microsoft built Exchange 2010 to be a cloud e-mail service, check out this video from Microsoft posted on TechNet.

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