As Microsoft updates the individual key components of its enterprise software, integrating those pieces is proving challenging.
The issues center on Exchange 2007 and its relationship to Vista, released late last year along with Exchange to corporate users, Virtual Server 2005 R2 and the forthcoming Longhorn Server, slated to ship by the end of the year. In a nutshell, Exchange 2007 can't run on Microsoft's most current virtualization software, Exchange's management tools won't run on the just released Vista desktop operating system and the 64-bit messaging server is not compatible with Microsoft's forthcoming 64-bit server operating system called Longhorn.
Microsoft officials say it all comes down to timing issues in the development processes of the individual software and that solutions are in the works. Critics say it is another indication that Microsoft's product teams often are marching to different drummers.
For corporate users, it means deft deployment planning to make sure everything they need works together even though they are getting it from a single vendor.
In any case, users are already reacting, especially in regards to virtualization, which has become a hot bed of networking activity, as well as, a major area of competition for Microsoft with VMWare and open source Xen on Linux platforms.
Ironically, users can run Exchange 2007 on the VMWare platform, which does support 64-bit guest systems, and some users are making the switch.
"Microsoft has certainly made a dreadful mistake in not getting the capability for 64-bit guests out on the street," says Mark Arnold, infrastructure architect for Posetiv, the UK's largest storage integrator. "They've had since June 2006 and now, nearly seven months, since Exchange 2007 hit public beta."
Currently, Microsoft does not plan to support 64-bit guest systems until it releases Windows Server Virtualization, its next virtualization software upgrade that is planned to come within 180 after Longhorn is shipped.
Arnold has already ditched Virtual Server for VMWare in order to run Exchange 2007. He says virtualization is helpful, because Exchange 2007 can be deployed in a number of different roles such as remote client access, transport/routing, mailboxes and unified messaging. He says some of those roles can be run on virtual machines on a single box in order to alleviate issues of underuse of a server's resources.
Arnold is not alone, Keith McCall, CTO of Exchange service provider Azaleos, says he has had to scrap plans to run some of the Exchange 2007 roles on virtual machines.
"Without Virtual Server support from Microsoft it is difficult for us to support Exchange on the Microsoft platform," McCall says.
Azaleos is testing some of the Exchange roles on VMWare, but McCall says licensing requirements around clustering free versions of the VMWare software make deployment cost prohibitive.
"It brings back the question, if you are not going to support 64-bit guest systems, why not support 32-bit Exchange 2007 for production deployments," says McCall.