Exchange 2007 SP1 briefing

Ed Banti briefed me on Exchange 2007 SP1 a couple of weeks ago, but the things he told me were under embargo until the 14th. I wasn’t able to post then, but I wanted to share a few notes on things we discussed.

So far, MS is well-satisfied with the number of customers: more than 900,000 downloads of the beta, moving to over 300,000 full evaluations and 260,000 trial usages of the packaged virtual machine demos they’ve been shipping. The Unisys-hosted trial system has been hosting an average of 1000 trial accounts per week; all of these numbers exceeded the product team’s expectations.

The Exchange team focused on two primary areas when deciding what to include in SP1: general planning inputs (including customer feedback and features that were in early 2007 betas but didn’t make the release) and feature criteria (including improving the OWA feature set and hitting particular customer scenarios for HA and management, among others). The result of this focus is a set of features that cover the “three pillars” originally used as the rationale for Exchange 2007′s launch: anywhere access, operational efficiency, and built-in protection.

What does this mean in practical terms? Here’s a laundry list:

  • improvements to unified messaging and support for OCS 2007, including using Exchange UM to provide voice mail services for OCS calls. IMHO the big burrito here is being able to generate a message waiting indicator (MWI) for Communicator clients, but the new security features (including SRTP and secure SIP support) are welcome too.
  • Public folder management tools in EMC, plus public folder access from within OWA
  • Support for Windows Server 2008 (“Longhorn”), as well as support for Windows Vista for the Exchange management tools. One major change from the original plan is that the UM role can now run on Windows Server 2008; the original plan called for it to run on Windows Server 2003 only.
  • Expanded support for clustering (including clustering support in the EMC)
  • SCR
  • A greatly Improved OWA, with support for custom forms, a server-side rules editor, the return of S/MIME support, and better support for self-service functions like remote device wipe and deleted item recovery. Bonus item: the HTML document transcoder now displays Office 2007 docs properly.
  • support for slipstream installations
  • several new Web services, including public folder access, delegate management, delegate access, and folder-level permissions
  • 28 new Exchange ActiveSync policies for various aspects of device behavior, including encryption, authentication, and device, network, and app control. Note that these policies require Windows Mobile 6.0 devices, but they give you some nifty new features (like policies to turn off WiFi or cameras, or to enforce the use of S/MIME).

One of the biggest changes in SP1, of course, is the long-awaited standby continuous replication (SCR) feature. Beta 2 of SP1 includes SCR, so you can begin testing it in your own environments. I’m looking forward to setting up CCR on Longhorn, which should be a lot of fun to experiment with. In addition, the OWA improvements help make OWA that much more useful, especially for organizations that require S/MIME. Microsoft naturally warns that you shouldn’t use SP1 in production, but it’s fine for use on test and demo systems.

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