Microsoft on Thursday said Exchange 2007 would include a new client access license option geared to enterprise users and that Beta 2 of the server will include new e-mail hygiene, compliance, replication and data protection features.
Microsoft said it plans to ship Beta 2 of Exchange Server 2007 this summer with final release slated for late 2006 or early 2007.
"The future of Exchange is as a foundation component of this integrated unified communication services infrastructure we are building," says Dave Thompson, corporate vice president of the Exchange group at Microsoft. That infrastructure is the result of Microsoft's merging in January of its Exchange Group and its Real Time Communications Group into the Unified Communications Group. "Our goal is to simplify access to rich communication services for both users and IT pros," said Thompson.
Microsoft, however, is doing that with some competitive prodding from longtime rival IBM/Lotus, which is busy crafting its own platform that integrates messaging, collaboration and real-time communications, such as instant messaging and Web conferencing.
And Microsoft is likely to have a challenge converting users to Exchange 2007. According to Microsoft officials, nearly a quarter of its users migrated off Exchange 5.5 in the past year and either went to Exchange 2003 or to a competing platform. And those users that stayed with Microsoft likely won't be upgrading in the near future even if they have Software Assurance maintenance contracts that provide access to the Exchange 2007 upgrade.
However, last fall, Microsoft said it still had 16% of its installed base on Exchange 5.5, a group that would be prime candidates for an upgrade but are also being tempted by IBM/Lotus, open-source e-mail vendors and others.
The rest of the Exchange user base is spread across Exchange 2000 and 2003.
Microsoft did not announce pricing for the new Exchange Enterprise CAL (client access license), but said it would include access to unified messaging, user-centric journaling, and managed e-mail folders. The unified messaging option includes such features as speech recognition for e-mail/voicemail/contacts and integration with IP-PBX.
In addition, users with Software Assurance maintenance contracts also will get multi-tiered malware protection with Antigen for Exchange, which is anti-virus and anti-spyware software run locally, and online anti-virus and anti-spam services offered through Exchange Hosted Services, which is the technology from Microsoft's acquisition of FrontBridge.
Microsoft officials said those features and services would be priced at 50% lower than if users bought them separately.
Microsoft announced a similar Enterprise CAL earlier this year for Office 2007, which is due to ship by the end of the year, that gives users access to added features such as searching and rights management and was available only to volume licensing customers.
Both CALs are part of Microsoft's attempt to add incentives for volume licensing users with Open and Select contracts to commit to Software Assurance.
The company said the price for the Exchange Standard CAL in Exchange 2007 would be unchanged from its current starting price of US$67. The Standard CAL for Exchange 2007 includes better anti-spam, management and mobility features, according to Microsoft. It also has new encryption features for business-to-business messaging, cross-organization mailbox search and new mail flow rules.
In addition to the new CAL, Microsoft also introduced features for Beta 2 under the banner of "Built-in Protection," which is designed to ensure e-mail is up and running and is protected from security and other threats. The company lumped the features into four categories: anti-virus/anti-spam, confidentiality, compliance and business continuity.
The anti-virus/anti-spam features include a new quarantine feature that is in both Exchange Server 2007 and Exchange Hosted Service, a safe sender flag that users can store on the server to ensure mail from specific senders is not blocked, and the malware filtering capabilities available through the Enterprise CAL.
The Confidentiality features include inter-organization encryption by default, message-level encryption between Exchange Edge Servers, and enhanced information rights management.
The Compliance features include server-based mail flow rules that ensure certain users can't communicate via e-mail when barred by compliance rules, cross-organization mailbox search, journaling and archiving on a per user basis, and managed e-mail folders that can be enhanced with policies such as retention and deletion rules.
Business Continuity includes local continuous replication that replicates to a second database on the same server but on a different drive, cluster continuous replication for failover between different servers and automatic patching and updating.