Microsoft makes case for upgrade to Exchange 2010

The e-mail application can be used with cheaper storage and take voice mail messages

Microsoft is emphasizing the potentially money-saving features of Exchange 2010, the latest revamp of its e-mail application officially released Monday at its TechEd European customer conference in Berlin.

With Exchange 2010, Microsoft is trying to entice CIOs in a tough economic environment to upgrade, contending that Exchange 2010's new features lets companies buy cheaper storage systems, eliminate their voice-mail systems and drop licenses for separate e-mail archiving software.

Although enterprise e-mail changes and deployments can take much time, Microsoft expects Exchange 2010 to be "quite aggressively deployed," said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division, which oversees products such as the Office suite.

As part of its case to customers, Microsoft is citing a study it commissioned from research analyst Forrester. The study says that companies can expect to recoup their costs of deploying Exchange 2010 within six months through savings in other areas.

Exchange 2010 can now be used with less expensive attached storage devices rather than SANs (storage area networks), Elop said. Another money-saving feature is Exchange's ability to take voice mail messages. A speech-to-text feature let users read rather than listen to the messages. Microsoft has also added an e-mail archiving feature, which Elop said eliminates the need for companies to purchase other archiving software.

While promoting the new software release as an economizing measure, Microsoft did acknowledge there will be a "slight" increase over previous versions of Exchange for advanced features such as archiving and voice mail.

The new version has other features to make e-mail more manageable, such as conversation threading, the ability to ignore ongoing conversations between co-workers, and protections to ensure that e-mail with sensitive information isn't released. On the security side, Microsoft also released Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange.

At the conference, Microsoft is also pushing Windows Server 2008 R2, the latest version of the server product. Last week, Microsoft made an abrupt change to its product roadmap. The company was not planning on making Exchange 2007 compatible with Windows Server 2008 R2. It meant that those who wanted to upgrade to the latest server product also had to use Exchange 2010.

"Earlier this year we made a decision in one direction, and due to the feedback we have received on this blog and elsewhere, we have reconsidered," wrote Kevin Allison, a general manager for Exchange, on a blog. "In the coming calendar year we will issue an update for Exchange 2007 enabling full support of Windows Server 2008 R2."

Microsoft has not given a date when the update may be released.

In other news at TechEd, Microsoft released a community technology preview for SQL Server 2008 R2, which will be available for download on the company's Web site.

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