This is the first article in a two part series on Microsoft Exchange 2010. In this first article we'll take a look at the changes and enhancements in Exchange 2010. The second article will be a how-to on setting up your own Exchange 2010 server.
Exchange 2010 is Release 3.2 of the product. This is good news because it means that Exchange 2010 is the second release of the third generation of the product. Exchange 2007 was the first release for G3. This can be likened to Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Windows 2000 was a significant change from NT 4, but Windows XP was mostly about tuning and adding additional features (the same is true for Vista and Windows 7). If you're looking at starting a fresh deployment of Exchange the timing is perfect.
The Exchange 2010 code was actually developed first for Microsoft's live@edu program which is a hosted version of exchange for education institutions. While this may have been a bit bumpy for students it means that the on-premises version has run through some serious real-world testing in a very large environment. That is great news for everyone looking at deploying Exchange 2010, but is especially beneficial for sizable deployments of Exchange because one of the hardest things to test is real-world scalability.
Changes and New Features
There are a host of improvements and new features in Exchange 2010. We'll step through the most important changes and reveal some of the key enhancements.
1. High Availability
Microsoft has made significant changes to high availability. With 2010 you can easily replicate your mailbox databases to other Exchange servers. If there is a problem with the primary database Exchange can automatically switch to one of the backup copies. For example, you could replicate your mailbox database to a local server for high availability / business continuity and to a remote server for disaster recovery. If your primary database fails there are two copies to fall back on.
2. Store and Mailbox Database Changes
Improvements have been made to the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) which Microsoft claims will reduce IOPS by 70 percent. This means that you may be able to save some money by using less expensive storage.
3. Delegation of Permissions
A new feature called Role Based Access Control (RBAC) allows administrators to delegate very detailed permissions to sub-administrators, help desk personnel, and even end users. While this will probably not be especially useful in small environments it is extremely beneficial in large ones. For example, an IT security specialist may be allowed to do legal discovery, and end users might be allowed to manage their own distribution groups.
4. Management/Admin Updates
Administrators will be happy to learn that one of the new management features is the ability to connect remotely to their Exchange servers. All they need is Power Shell v2 and Windows Remote Management 2.0 (this feature is not available for the Edge Transport server role).
User throttling in Exchange 2010 will help protect the system from intentional and non-intentional over-taxing of the system. For example, if an account is compromised and be used to pump spam the overall system performance will not be degraded.
6. Text Messaging
Users can now configure true SMS notification from within the Web client. If you're using AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile in the US then you can setup e-mail and calendar text notifications with very flexible rules (other countries are available as well). You could configure all e-mails from your boss to trigger an SMS notification!
Exchange 2010 allows you to archive messages on the server so you don't have to store them in a local PST file on your desktop machine. Trying to keep track of local PST archives will not be missed.
8. Outlook Web App
The Exchange 2010 web interface finally allows the full featured web interface for Firefox users!
- Administrators can now move a user's mailbox while the user is actively using their account.
- "Mailtips" will ask you if you really meant to hit reply-all to that 3000 recipient message.
- Moderators can be configured on distribution groups to monitor/approve messages.
What You May Not Like
It's not all roses, there are some limitations and requirements that you may not like so much in Exchange 2010. Once again, there is no upgrade path so you will need to setup brand new systems if/when you decide to move to Exchange 2010 from a previous version. 64-bit hardware is required so you won't be able to use an old server. This isn't a huge deal for large shops, but could be a serious factor for smaller, cash-strapped organizations. Finally, Exchange 2010 requires Windows Server 2008. Windows Server 2003 has become an extremely stable and relatively lightweight server OS. While Windows Server 2008 has had some time to stretch its legs, it is still a bit of a resource hog.
All-in-all Exchange 2010 looks like it will be a good move for most medium to large sized organizations. For smaller entities, hosted e-mail is starting to look better and better. E-mail has become very much a "utility" type service and there are a plethora of reliable low cost providers out there. If you go the Google Apps route you also get access to additional productivity tools like Google Calendar, Docs, Sites, and Chat. The ability for different users to work on the same document at the same time is a considerable value-add. Combining all that with a low price point makes for a compelling argument to go the hosted route.