Exchange 2010: Summary & Key Features

On April 15, 2009, Microsoft released a public beta of the next version of Exchange, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. This has hitherto been known as Exchange 14, and been tested by some five million users via Microsoft's Outlook Live for Live@Edu program. General availability will be in 2H09.

For this author, the most important aspects of E2010 are:

  • Most of Exchange 2007 has been rewritten to better support large-scale deployments. Among other things, it has delegated administration with a much richer set of permissions. Far more work can now be pushed down to users and user-level administrators, with a lot of flexibility.
  • There is built-in archiving with retention policy and e-discovery support. Long term, this is likely to mean that the market for independent archiving products goes away. See our accompanying bulletin, Exchange 2010 Archiving: Summary & Assessment.
  • There's seamless coexistence between Exchange Online and Exchange 2010 implemented on-premises. This is very elegant, and based on a strong and innovative underlying identity architecture which we've discussed in other bulletins.
  • There's a centralized policy definition and management system. This is based on mainstream regular expression pattern matching and simple boolean logic, applying to message content and metadata, and for users and groups of users. Polices can be enforced manually or through user intervention. The policy framework is used in a variety of contexts, such as for data leak prevention, rights management, determining what is archived, and retention policy.
  • Quite a lot of features are rudimentary, such as the ability to define tags and control what's archived. However, the basic infrastructure is there, and there's a path for future enhancements to provide greater sophistication. Similarly, plenty of features are now implemented in PowerShell; more friendly GUIs will follow later.

E2010 has many other improvements, many of which will be appreciated by users or administrators. They include:

  • The Windows Mobile experience is now very close to that of desktop Outlook.
  • With "MailTips," users are automatically warned about potential faux pas when an an email is about to be sent, such as when a distribution list will cause it to be received by a very large number of people, or when the email is so large it's likely to bounce, or when recipients are out of the office.
  • OWA now supports all the main browsers including Safari and Firefox, not just IE.
  • Email conversations are much easier to manage via the updated Conversation View.
  • Voicemail previews: Text previews are generated of voicemail in Outlook, OWA, and Outlook Mobile. This saves a lot of time when quickly scanning through voice messages.
  • Free/busy times can be exchanged with outside parties, not just internal colleagues, with due privacy controls.
  • User-customizable voicemail menu hierarchies.
  • Much reduced I/O and much more flexible storage options. Continuous replication over WANs is now practical, and provides much faster recovery for damaged message stores. There is generally better resilience in case of system failure. See our accompanying bulletin, Exchange 2010: Exciting Message Store Performance and Redundancy Improvements, for a detailed assessment.
  • Much faster mailbox moves; can be done while users are online, during regular business hours.

Other Comments:

  • Microsoft points out that a number of these features help address the problem of mailbox overload, such as MailTips, Voicemail previews, the conversation management tools, the call answering rules, and the rich and consistent Windows/OWA/mobile experience. All of these are welcome and good developments. However, don't expect email overload to go away.

... David Ferris

One Comment

  1. Bob Spurzem
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 1:10 AM | Permalink

    David,

    All the points you make about Exchange 2010 regarding email archiving are fair, but I want to put them into context.

    Microsoft added support for the low speed archive class disk drives (e.g. 7200 RPM SATA) and that was sorely needed. With improvements to the ESE I/O, it is now possible to add a volume of SATA disks and put multiple databases or a complete Exchange server on low cost storage.

    In my mind, this is the key piece of technology that was lacking. Exchange already has the retention policy (added in Exchange 2007), transport rules, group policies and the like to configure the movement of email based on age and size to another location (e.g. the SATA disks).

    But in a fashion that is consistant to past Exchange releases, this change is not a complete solution. Rather it leaves it up to the customer to configure the new Exchange Server or Storage Groups and all the rules for movement, retention and policy (read only) protection. So basically, it is a “tool kit”, not a turn key archive solution. And to build a full archival solution on par with the leading 3rd-party products is non-trivial.

    Yes, I expect that Microsoft will improve on this situation in future releases of Exchange. But if we can expect Exchange 2010 in 2010, when will the next release be? In 2014? Who can be sure? I know many customers who need help today with mailbox overload and eDiscovey running on Exchange 2003. Can they wait for 5-6 more year? I am afraid they can not wait even six months!

    I am glad to see that Microsoft is addressing the storage and discovey issues of email management. I hope they do not “over sell” their “tool kit” offering and put down all the 3rd-party email archive vendors who have been working so hard for years to improve Exchange Server.

    Bob.

  2. Posted April 21, 2009 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    Bob,

    Thanks for the comment. You may also be interested in Nick Shelness’s piece at https://email-museum.com/2009/04/15/exchange-2010-exciting-message-store-performance-and-redundancy-improvements/.

    David

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