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Exchange 2010, which is a 64-bit only server, includes new storage and deployment options, enhanced in-box management capabilities, built-in e-mail archiving, new database clustering, additional hardware options, and a revamped Outlook Web Access client.
In addition, the server is being touted as a hybrid -- equally at home as the foundation for a hosted e-mail service or a corporate messaging infrastructure. The hosted version of Exchange 2010, however, is not expected to ship until May or June 2010, although Microsoft does not have an official release schedule.
Microsoft already hosts more than 10 million users on Exchange 2010 as part of its Live@Edu program. And end-users are already planning corporate rollouts, including Ford Motor Co. with plans to deploy 100,000 seats.
"Our senior leadership team has signed off on the final code, and it has been sent to our early adopters for one final look before its public release," read a blog post signed by "The Exchange Team".
Microsoft has said previously that it has specially architected Exchange 2010 for high-availability and cross-domain integration using techniques such as pairing the server with Windows Server 2008 clustering technology and directory federation features.The company said that the ability to use Exchange as a hosting platform is now built into the product.
Lee Dumas, the director of architecture for Azaleos, a provider of remote management services for Exchange and SharePoint, says 2010 has challenges and rewards.
"I'm not slamming Exchange, but to achieve the level of [service-level agreements], and dealing with large amounts of data, multiple copies of databases, server roles, and load balancing makes complexity inherent in getting the whole system in place," he says.
The rewards, however, will follow for those that heed due diligence, he says.
Network World Lab Alliance member Joel Snyder said in his Exchange 2010 review that corporate users should carefully assess the implications of the new server.
"The combination of clustering, replication and low-cost disk support means that reliability and scalability can be based on replicating small, inexpensive servers both within a data center and between data centers. E-mail managers thinking of deploying Exchange 2010 should step back and evaluate closely these new grid-style architectural approaches -- and be sure that your Exchange team has adequate time to re-think and re-evaluate commonly held beliefs on how to build large Exchange networks."
Exchange 2010 is the first in a wave of new Office products set to ship this year and next including Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010. A date for the next version of Office Communications Server has not been set.
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Read more about voip & convergence in Network World's VoIP & Convergence section.