In the nine months since Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 RTM became available on October 9, 2009, and generally released month later on November 9, many new developments have been brewing in the world of Exchange. June 11, 2010 marked the fourteenth anniversary of the release of Exchange Server 4.0 back in 1996, as a successor to Microsoft Mail. And now, after much beta testing, and waiting, service pack one (SP1) was released by Microsoft on August 25, 2010.
While many people are still asking what to expect of Exchange Server 2010, I think a more appropriate line of questioning now is what to expect from Exchange Server 2010 SP1. The quick answer “maturity,” neither answers very many business nor technical questions, yet certainly any one new or upgraded feature amidst all of the accumulated features of Exchange Server does not bring forth words such as radical, game-changing, or paradigm-shifting. Indeed, Exchange Server 2010 SP1 is quite mature as messaging platforms go, and as such great care has been taken to ensure that the stability and security we expect from a mature product has not been compromised by newfangled bells and whistles. Even so, there are many exciting new features – with a stable platform, most of the enhancements are focused on a higher level of service.
Angle of Attack
Certainly, depending on where you’re coming from and where you want to go, what is essential to mention about such a broad, feature-rich product will vary from someone else’s interests based on different needs. If you and your organization have been well established in use of Exchange Server for many years and you are already running Exchange Server 2010, what you need to know is quite different than if you’re looking at Exchange 2010 or 2010 SP1 from the perspective of Exchange 2007, Exchange 2003, Lotus Domino/Notes, Novell GroupWise, or open source offerings built around sendmail, postfix, and others. Are you using Postini, Barracuda, or other products instead of Exchange’s Edge Transport role? Are you using or interested in Unified Messaging? In innocent question like “what to expect” is complicated by the reality of market diversity. With this in mind, the follow assessment focuses on Exchange 2010 SP1 with aspects of 2010 and 2007 versions included for perspective.
Some of the Exchange Server 2010 SP1 (E2010 SP1) enhancements affect end-users directly, others are more important to administrators, and some even get security analysts and financial auditors excited. Here are five phrases to focus on:
• Division of Labor
• Enhanced Mobility
Division of Labor
Realistically, many small-size organizations have systems administrators who manage both Exchange Server and Active Directory, however it is typical in medium-size and large deployments to have separate Exchange administrators and Active Directory administrators. Many administrators were surprised when going from Exchange Server 2003 to Exchange Server 2007 because with the 2007 version, the Exchange Management Console (EMC) and Exchange Management Shell (EMS) were used for recipient administration (e.g users, contact, groups) rather than the classic (E2K, E2K3) use of Exchange extensions within Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC). Optionally, with Exchange 2010 SP1, administrators can go another step further in this separation. Although E2010 SP1 still defaults to a Shared Permissions Model, administrators can choose to use a Split Permissions Model instead. Not only are the tools separate as with E2K7, but it is far easier to distinguish between the permissions granted to Active Directory administrators and Exchange administrators. E2010 SP1 can use either a split permissions model based on Active Directory or on a Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) system. To summarize, you can now choose between three models: shared, AD split, and RBAC split permissions models.
The immediately imperative mindset and framework of some operations can sometimes pose as limitations to productive administration. Running a command synchronously and waiting for the results could lead to a significant waste of time. Luckily, over the years Exchange administration has allowed more and more operations to be executed asynchronously. For example, E2010 processes mailbox move requests in the background. Along with some improvements to that process, E2010 SP1 now supports soft-deletion and restoration of mailboxes as well as the ability to utilize separate databases for archive and primary mailboxes. In addition, mailbox repair requests can also be performed through a similar request procedure, even when the mailbox database involved is still online.
Vast amounts of messaging activity takes place outside the walls of offices and normal workplaces. E2010 SP1 supports greater degrees of mobility in a variety of ways. Assimilation of SMS messages from mobile phones into their users’ Exchange mailboxes is one such feature of E2010 SP1. Another aspect of enhanced mobility is the ability for administrators to manage a user’s Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) devices as well as maintaining policies for all EAS devices. Yet this management of EAS devices can easily be performed remotely because E2010 SP1 supports these features via the Exchange Control Panel (ECP). Although these mobility features are new, the ECP debuted as a part of Outlook Web App (OWA) in Exchange Server 2010 RTM. Further new features of EAS include improved Information Rights Management (IRM) which can be extended to non-Windows Mobile devices and Windows Mobile devices alike.
Exchange Server 2010 SP1 not only has many more significant features beyond the E2010 RTM version, but for all those organizations who customarily wait until the first service pack is released until adopting a new version, the wait is over. If you haven’t already delved into Exchange Server 2010, now with SP1 available, the time is ripe.