Brace for Exchange hurdles

I'm waiting until SP1 hits the streets before I run with Exchange 2007

CES is over, I'm 41, the Jesuits have gone home, and I'm sick as a dog. It's been an eventful week.

Today, I'm taking some potshots at Exchange 2007. Later on, you'll be able to find a feature article I did on Vista deployment issues. One of the main issues, ironically, seems to be that it's not just about Vista; it covers Office 2007 and Exchange 2007, too. My experiences in the labs have borne out that Office 2007 is a good bet for prime time, but it's turning out that Exchange still has some issues.

Overall, Exchange 2007 offers some great benefits; the bundled security tools, for example, of which the anti-spam tools will be hugely important in the coming year. Then there's the mobile overhaul, which can turn a Windows Mobile device into a pretty good imitation of an in-house BlackBerry. Tack on a sexy new Outlook Web Access interface that looks pretty close to Outlook 2003, plus some new management utilities aimed at making IT admins' lives a bit easier.

All that is true, and it certainly reads well, but the platform still has issues. And those issues are making me think it might be best to delay deploying Exchange -- at least until the full arrival of Longhorn. First, there's the hardware issue. Exchange 2007 wants 64-bit hardware, and that's that. No workarounds. That means a new server. I have trouble buying a new server today running Windows Server 2003 and taking the time to deploy a next-gen e-mail server, only to have to upgrade the OS a few months later. Problem No.1.

Strangely enough, this 64-bit problem gives rise to a bunch of other problems. For one, even though Exchange 2007 and Longhorn are both 64-bit environments, there are reports coming out that the one still isn't compatible with the other, even on the latest Longhorn builds. We just got those disks and we'll give the thing a test run on Longhorn, but the reports say that the chief problem surrounds Active Directory. Without fixing this problem, you'll need to keep separate Longhorn's AD and any AD trees containing Exchange 2007 servers. Problem No. 2.

And we're still not done with the 64-bit issues. Both an upgraded version of Windows Server 2003 and the upcoming Longhorn OS will make much deeper use of virtualization, and Microsoft has been working hard on upgrading its virtualization toolkit over the last year. Only trouble is that Exchange 2007 doesn't run on these latest virtualization versions, due in part to the fact that Microsoft's present virtualization toolkits can't handle 64-bit operating systems. The sad part for Microsoft is that its chief rival in this department, VMware, has no problems running any of this. See, that needs to be addressed. Problem No. 3.

Because Exchange 2007 is a next-gen e-mail server, we decided to run Exchange's management tools. That fizzled fast. Turns out that Exchange 2007 and Vista don't see eye-to-eye in that department. That means you're managing your Exchange 2007 servers via Windows XP or remotely. Problem No. 4.

What's it all add up to? Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1, that's what. Microsoft has a lot of fix-its to supply in that little release; so if it's me, I'm waiting until SP1 hits the streets before I run with Exchange 2007. Larger enterprises can probably manage the problem overhead associated with the new Exchange, but for smaller and mid-size companies looking to run streamlined operations, these problems can prove more trouble than they're worth -- especially since an updated version will likely be available before the end of the year.

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Oliver Rist

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