Startup aims to simplify x64 Exchange upgrades

Azaleos, a new company started by a former Microsoft Exchange director, aims to ease customers' transition to 64-bit Exchange.

A new company started by a former Microsoft Exchange director aims to solve potential challenges Microsoft customers will face when Exchange moves to x64 hardware in the next 18 months.

Azaleos, with headquarters just down the street from Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, was started a year and a half ago by Keith McCall, who previously served as director of the Exchange solutions group at Microsoft.

McCall is now chief technology officer of Azaleos, a Microsoft partner that offers an Exchange hardware appliance as well as e-mail services, such as monitoring and patch testing and management, to ensure companies' e-mail servers are secure and healthy, he said.

Microsoft's plan for Exchange 12 to run only on 64-bit hardware will pose a problem for customers, McCall said. It will force them to incur costs of upgrading the 32-bit hardware on which their current versions of Exchange run to x64 hardware, he said.

"It's actually going to introduce a huge challenge for customers who have adopted the Exchange platform," McCall said. "Many of them have already incurred the cost of the hardware. With this new version of Exchange, Microsoft has introduced a discontinuity that is not only software- but hardware-based as well."

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Servers and Tools Business, announced that Exchange 12 would be available only on 64-bit hardware at Microsoft's IT Forum in Barcelona earlier this week. The current version of Exchange, Exchange 2003, runs in 32-bit version. Exchange 12 is scheduled to ship in late 2006 or early 2007, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's reasoning behind the move is that e-mail is a mission-critical application in most organizations today, and customers have demands that are straining current 32-bit hardware implementations of Exchange.

Customers also want to consolidate servers to manage cost and the complexity of their IT environments, so running Exchange on 64-bit servers will give them an option to consolidate current 32-bit servers running the software.

Microsoft also justifies the requirement for Exchange 12 customers to have 64-bit hardware in a couple of ways. According to the company, the majority of server hardware being sold today is x64-based, so many businesses will not need to purchase new hardware to upgrade from Exchange 2003 to the new version. Additionally, Microsoft executives said that research has shown that approximately 75 percent of organizations deploy new hardware along with the rollout of a new, major upgrade of Exchange Server, so it will be a normal procedure for them to purchase x64 hardware systems for Exchange 12.

To help facilitate the transition to 64-bit Exchange, Azaleos is offering to do the work for customers that have contracts with them, and will offer a 64-bit hardware appliance running Exchange that will plug into networks currently running 32-bit hardware from companies such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, McCall said.

"What we're committing to those people who are on Exchange 2003 today who are looking to move to Exchange 12 is that we'll help them migrate seamlessly," he said.

McCall believes this will eliminate a significant amount of cost for those organizations. According to San Francisco-based Ferris Research, he said, it can cost between US$50 to US$300 per mailbox to do an e-mail server upgrade.

That will increase by at least 50 percent in a move from 64-bit Exchange from 32-bit Exchange because of the hardware upgrade and network retooling that must be done, according to Ferris, McCall added.

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