The first public beta of Microsoft's next version of Exchange, due out in the second half of this year, hits the streets today. Microsoft gave us early access and we had 10 days to put it through its paces in a VMware environment.
Microsoft has packed changes into every corner of the product — the list of new and improved features is eight pages long (see NWW blogger insight on Exchange 2010). We didn't test every one, but we can say that there's plenty for e-mail administrators and end users to like in this upgrade.
For end users, especially those making heavy use of webmail and distribution lists, Exchange 2010 provides a better user interface and expanded capabilities, including self-service management of many Exchange features (see full story).
If you are thinking of upgrading to Exchange 2007 but haven't done so, the new end-user features in Exchange 2010 may make the six-month wait worthwhile.
The self-service features in Exchange 2010 are another reason to consider delaying an upgrade. On the other hand, if you don't see VoIP features, webmail, or mobile device access as huge end-user driven factors in your e-mail deployment, Exchange 2010 won't be that much of a change from Exchange 2007.
For administrators, we found powerful new features in the areas of high availability and scalability that build on Exchange 2007, yet simplify the task of implementing large Exchange networks (see full story). In Exchange 2010, Microsoft is extending the administration and management in very logical ways from the model laid out in Exchange 2007.
In addition to the cleaner scalability and availability features, Exchange 2010 has better command-line support (including remote Exchange Shell), integrated archiving (which we didn't test, but which will have third-party archiving vendors either stepping up with better products, or being marginalized out of the market), and role-based access controls.
Snyder is a senior partner at Opus One, a consulting firm in Tucson, Ariz. He can be reached at Joel.Snyder@opus1.com.