Microsoft Exchange set; SharePoint, OCS to follow

Microsoft Monday shipped the final release of Exchange 2010, ushering in not so much the latest version of its messaging server but the first updated piece of its unified communications and collaboration platform.

The release was no surprise, given the fact that last month Microsoft released the software to manufacturing -- the so-called RTM -- and said it would ship Monday as part of the agenda at its annual TechEd Europe conference.

Review: Best and worst of Exchange 2010

Next year, Microsoft will update SharePoint Server and Office Communications Server (OCS) to the 2010 moniker. The server duo along with Exchange forms a foundation for Microsoft's unified communication platform. SharePoint 2010 and OCS 2010 are expected to ship in May or June of next year, although Microsoft has not released an official ship date.

"We are very much a Microsoft shop and it is because of that integration," says George Hamin, director of e-business and information systems for Subaru Canada. The company is fully deployed on Exchange 2010 and it also runs OCS, SharePoint, Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager and a laundry list of other Microsoft software. "I have tried in the past using third-party products and tried to integrate it all. Our previous phone system had it but their concept of unified messaging was unified to the Outlook client and not to the Exchange server. So voice mail did not come through to your cell phone, voice mail was not available on the Outlook Web Access portal. So it was not true unified messaging. There was no concept of presence.”

In the long run, Hamin like others sees e-mail not so much as a separate entity but part of a larger platform. Monday, Microsoft focused on email, but three weeks ago the focus was on SharePoint 2010 during the annual conference around that server software. And next week, as part of its annual Professional Developer's Conference, developers will be brought into the equation.

The Exchange, OCS, SharePoint trio of servers also forms the core of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, a set of hosted services, including LiveMeeting, that can be used separately or together.

The suite also has a set of companion security tools as part of the Forefront lineup. On Monday, Microsoft released Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server, an online messaging security service. SharePoint and OCS will get similar tools.

One of the points Microsoft emphasizes with Exchange is that its architecture supports both online and on-premises deployments, and company officials say that Exchange 2010 is available as the foundation of its Exchange Online service with some limitations.

"We won't have flexibility to run custom code for a single tenant," says Rajesh Jha, senior vice president for Exchange. "We have a flavor or Exchange Online services called Exchange Dedicated service and it is a single tenant model and you can have custom code. "The Exchange 2010 server released Monday is a 64-bit only server that includes new storage and deployment options, enhanced in-box management capabilities, built-in e-mail archiving, new database clustering, additional hardware options and a revamped Outlook Web Access client.

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