Some new Exchange Server 2007 features will be extras

The good news: Exchange Server 2007 is on track to ship either late this year or early next year. The bad news: If you want unified messaging, it's going to cost you more.

The next version of Exchange Server is loaded with features for IT administrators, but corporate customers won't automatically get one of its most highly touted features for end users -- unified messaging – unless they buy a higher priced license.

Exchange Server 2007, which is on track to ship either in late 2006 or early 2007, will offer two licensing options to enterprise customers. Customers who have spent the extra money to get Software Assurance as part of their licensing agreement will receive only the Exchange Server 2007 Standard Client Access License (CAL).

The standard CAL has plenty of new features targeted at IT administrators. This version includes local continuous replication and cluster continuous replication, automatic patching and updating, edge-to-edge encryption, improved support for information rights management and some improvements to its own antivirus and antispam features.

There are also improvements to server mobility features and operational efficiencies including new server roles. The price will remain the same as the current Exchange CAL.

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A second Enterprise CAL will be sold to customers who want unified messaging and the managed antivirus and antispam services from Exchange Hosted Filtering and Antigen for Exchange. Microsoft requires Software Assurance for this CAL because the managed services are sold on an annuity basis. Microsoft did not disclose pricing for the Enterprise CAL, but said that the price would be about 50% less than if companies purchased the components individually.

Exchange Server 2007 Beta 2 is due out this summer, and sources said it's likely to become available in mid-June.

The fact that Microsoft is charging a higher price for the unified messaging feature could be controversial for some shops, considering that many thought this feature would be the impetus for users to upgrade to Exchange Server 2007 from Exchange Server 2003 or earlier versions.

"The whole game is you keep adding new capabilities so people will upgrade," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consulting firm. "But this extra CAL and the cost associated with it might negate the most exciting thing Exchange has to offer to end users."

Some IT shops are fine with the separation of features in different CALs. Tim Pemberton, director of information systems at Toronto Grace Hospital in Toronto, said he was interested in checking out the unified messaging feature. But if it is something that customers don't need in the beginning, they don't have to pay for it. "They can just add it later if they want," Pemberton said.

64-bit, no matter what

Microsoft has already said that Exchange Server 2007 will run only on 64-bit servers. Pawlak said he believes that the 64-bit requirement will also be a barrier to adoption because there are lots of technological trends converging that customers have to consider.

For example, customers will have to buy new Exchange Server hardware. To complicate matters, anyone looking to build new Exchange Servers is probably looking at virtualization, which today can't run 64-bit guests. "It's possible that customers will wait until a lot of these issues are sorted out," said Pawlak.

Despite these issues, Microsoft is sticking to its decision to offer Exchange Server 2007 only on 64-bit platforms, said David Thompson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Exchange Server Group. "There is no going back," he said. "Because of the nature of the product, [64-bit] is the right choice."

Thompson said that only about 16% of the Exchange Server installed base is running Exchange Server 5.5 today, compared with 40% of the installed base that was running the older version of the server software last fall.

Some customers testing Exchange Server 2007 have mixed feelings about the server software's requirements. Smaller organizations will like the Local Continuous Replication and Clustered Continuous Replication for the higher availability it can provide, said Brian Tirch, a senior consultant for a U.S. Army research facility in Fort Belvoir, Va.

Tirch also said he appreciates the eventual move away from user names and passwords to smart cards in Outlook Web Access, which people expect will be farther down the road in Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1.

IT managers may need to watch for potential design changes in their network because Exchange Server 2007 uses Active Directory for routing, Tirch said. "If your directory doesn't correspond to what your messaging is today, you may need to make some changes," he said.

But the move to 64-bit hardware is "one generation too early," he said. "A lot of people just moved to Exchange Server 2003 because it's the end of life for Exchange 5.5. That required 32-bit servers. It's going to be a hard sell to management [to get new hardware] unless there is some big feature."

Tirch said he does like 64-bit hardware, but added "I just don't like the 'forcing'."

This article originally appeared on SearchWinIT.com.

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