Blogger: Bill Pray
As the Microsoft marketing machine cranks up the information on Exchange 2010, it is interesting to note how many articles are devoted to new productivity capabilities for users. However, user productivity is not what Exchange 2010 is about… Exchange 2010 is about Microsoft competing with Google and anyone else who throws their hat into the ring – Cisco? IBM? Yahoo!? - in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) e-mail market. While there is no question that Google still has a limited presence in enterprise e-mail, Gmail continues to garner fans and install base in the small and medium business market. Microsoft is no stranger to that strategy and must respond by providing a better enterprise SaaS e-mail solution or risk losing future market share.
Microsoft has not made it a secret that Exchange 2010 is intended to become Microsoft’s attack on the SaaS e-mail market, but the Microsoft marketing machine sometimes obscures things in an effort to get messaging to various audiences. However, the press announcement states in the second sentence: “Exchange 2010 is part of the next wave of Microsoft Office-related products and is the first server in a new generation of Microsoft server technology built from the ground up to work on-premises and as an online service.”
Several of the features that have been added in this release are important for a SaaS offering. First, a robust web client is a critical element for SaaS e-mail. Fat client management is a nightmare that no SaaS service wants to tackle. For Exchange, that means enhancing Outlook Web Access (OWA). Some of the key enhancements are:
- Calendar sharing in OWA – A feature needed to compete against Gmail. Gmail’s calendar functionality is liked by users.
- Multiple browser support - OWA support for IE 7 & 8, Firefox 3, and Safari 3. Having a robust web-client that runs in multiple browsers is critical to competing against Google’s Gmail.
- Rights management in OWA – Making OWA more like Outlook is what is needed for SaaS e-mail and this feature steps OWA up into an enterprise feature that the competitors currently lack.
Just about any improvement to the server side will be beneficial to Microsoft for SaaS Exchange and here are a few in this release that should help:
- Multi-mailbox search – An interface that can be used by a non-administrator for searching through mailboxes. This permits the enterprise to handle HR and compliance issues without involving admins from the hosted service.
- Database availability groups – Redundant copies of mailbox databases with continuous replication and automatic recovery. Insuring availability and recovery is a must for a hosted service.
- Database-level failover – Eliminates clustering requirement and should improve uptime. Uptime is Service Level Agreement (SLA) friendly for hosted services.
- Exchange Control Panel – Self-service for users for tasks that used to require administrators. Very helpful when the admins are working for Online Hosted Exchange.
- Federation – Creating trust relationships between Exchange servers that traverses the firewalls for calendars and presence. This will be needed for mixed deployments where enterprises choose to put some workers on SaaS e-mail and others use on-premise.
- I/O optimization – I/O bursts are reduced. This should make Exchange more server virtualization friendly, which would be very beneficial in hosted environment.
- JBOD support – Replicated mailbox databases can use JBOD instead of RAID arrays. More efficiency = easier for Microsoft as the hosting provider.
- Online move mailbox – Mailboxes can be moved with the user online. Very handy for future requirements of potentially moving users back and forth between hosted and on-premise.
- Page patching – Repairs corrupted database pages automatically. Automatic repairs always make an admins job easier, which is needed when admins are responsible for hosting millions of mailboxes.
- Role-based access control – The ability to delegate administrative roles will could potentially help with enterprises that want some admin control over the hosted solution.
Obviously, many of these features are good for an on-premise implementation also. However, when you start perusing the feature list for Exchange 2010, it is clear that Microsoft is executing on a strategy to make Exchange SaaS friendly. The story line for Exchange 2010 is not about enhancements in productivity features for the enterprise, it is about Microsoft taking Exchange to cloud.