Windows shops take slow road to Exchange Server 2007

Windows managers are content with older versions of Exchange Server, so it could be a while before Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 migrations are in full swing.

Despite Microsoft Exchange Server 2007's availability and long list of features, few Windows shops are itching to make an upgrade.

Released in December, Exchange Server 2007's first service pack is already in beta. Touting significant security and management improvements, Microsoft has been noisy about pushing Exchange 2007's unified messaging capabilities when they are coupled with Office 2007.

More on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007:
What to expect in Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1

The effects of Exchange Server 2007 on Active Directory

Microsoft releases PowerShell in time for Exchange 2007

Step-by-Step Guide: Test driving Exchange Server 2007

Although mainstream support for Exchange 2000 Server ended last year, it will remain in extended support through 2011. Mainstream support for Exchange Server 2003 doesn't end until April 2009. So, it would seem like there is plenty of time for Windows shops to sit pretty on their current versions of Exchange.

"Many companies have just migrated to Exchange Server 2003 in the last year, and they're not ready for another migration," said Karen Hobert, an analyst at Burton Group, a Midvale, Utah-based consulting firm.

One systems integrator and instructor who teaches IT administrators the basics of Exchange Server 2007 said the features most prized by his IT manager students are high availability, clustering and continuous replication. But Richard Luckett, president of Systms of NY Inc. in Rochester, N.Y., added that most are not looking to upgrade to Exchange Server 2007 unless they are trying to migrate from another platform, such as IBM Lotus Notes or Novell Inc.'s GroupWise.

"Anyone who deployed [Exchange Server] 2003 when it first came out might be interested, but with Longhorn coming out, I think they are looking to do a single deployment," Luckett said. "They could be waiting for Longhorn to do their 2007 migrations."

TechTarget survey gauges interest in Exchange Server 2007

According to a TechTarget survey of more than 600 messaging managers, respondents point to two main motivators for upgrading to Exchange Server 2007. The survey said nearly 32% were interested in receiving the benefits that come with 64-bit performance and scalability, while roughly 22% said they would upgrade because their licensing contract with Microsoft allows for the upgrade.

Nearly half of respondents (46.7%) rated improved mobile device support and 64-bit performance as "important" features of Exchange Server 2007. Roughly one-quarter (28.7%) of respondents ranked scalability as "important."

Nearly 42% rated integrated antivirus, anti-spam and anti-phishing as "very important" features, while approximately 40% ranked built-in regulatory and compliance features -- such as retention and message transport -- as "very important."

And of those responding, 26% said they had no plans to upgrade and 32% said they were evaluating the platform. According to the survey, roughly 16% said they will upgrade in 2008.

Exchange Server 2007 and Office 2007 share limelight

Although Microsoft has marketed the unified messaging features in Exchange Server 2007 and Office 2007 profusely, not many IT shops seem to consider it a priority. Arun DeSouza, chief information security officer at Inergy Automotive Systems, an auto parts manufacturer in Troy, Mich., said he is not sure if the total cost of ownership is justified.

Inergy keeps a lean IT staff and farms out email support to a service provider. DeSouza analyzed the costs of unified messaging last year. With all the support considerations, he said he doesn't see a business case quite yet. "The cost of entry is low, but there are other costs [associated] that are high," DeSouza said.

On the other hand, one of Microsoft's rapid deployment early adopters has about 150 unified messaging users and about 1,000 mailboxes at its enterprise. Jared Sahleen, senior technology manager at Lifetime Products Inc., a Clearfield, Utah-based company, said he dropped the voicemail system from his Siemens PBX because it was just another store to manage and pay for. "It was one of our motivating features," he said.

Sahleen said his company is unusual in that it tends to jump on new technology, partly because some of the perks are free or reduced-cost software and consulting. Desktops at Lifetime Products are carefully managed. Users don't have CD-ROMs or floppy drives so they cannot install software, which helps to keep support costs down.

Lifetime Products does do rigorous testing, Sahleen said. He said he found the mailbox migration in the new server to be easy, but setting up the connectors between the hub transport and client-access server was a little tricky. "You have to be careful the way you set them up and what rules you put into place," Sahleen said. "The flow process is the biggest thing that you have to test."

Sahleen said he isn't crazy about the new management console user interface, which doesn't have all the features he would like to see. Exchange administrators now need to go to the PowerShell command prompt to add security to a mailbox or tweak a mailbox limit, for example.

"You can do everything from PowerShell, but everyone is used to going into the Exchange management console," Sahleen said. "Unless you grew up as a Unix administrator, no one wants to do that. All the features are there, but you just have to go to two places," he said.

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