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Microsoft MVPs offer Exchange 2013 preview, Office 365 predictions

From political pundits to NFL analysts, everyone has predictions. Microsoft MVPs offer theirs on Exchange 2013, Office 365 and messaging's future.

Exchange Server 2013 will hit general availability early next year, bringing new email and messaging capabilities to IT departments. For example, there are new features like data loss prevention, which improves compliance; a beefed up management console dubbed the Exchange Administration Center; and improved integration between on-premises Exchange deployments and Office 365.

We asked three Microsoft Exchange MVPs to share their predictions on Exchange Server 2013 and Office 365 adoption, plus where Microsoft messaging is headed.

Do you think there will be more early adopters of Exchange 2013 than in years past? Also, what is your best advice on the product?

Steve GoodmanSteve Goodman

Steve Goodman, technical architect, Phoenix IT Group: There's certainly been a lot of build up around Exchange 2013. Because Exchange 2010 is such a great product, there's a lot of confidence that [Exchange 2013] is going to take things to the next level in terms of user experience, administration, cloud integration, hold and discovery.

It's not going to be easy to be an early adopter unless you've got a green field environment, so I think it's going to be some time before many companies migrate. The best advice I can give is to learn about it and understand its architecture so that you're not doing things the ways you were doing in earlier versions. Understand the new benefits so that when the time comes, you can design a solution that really takes advantage of all the improvements.

J. Peter BruzzeseJ. Peter Bruzzese

J. Peter Bruzzese, Exchange instructor, TrainSignal: We're seeing a bit of hype spillover here. After a couple of pretty dry years from Microsoft, we now see a new Windows Server OS, Windows 8, Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013 and a host of other exciting releases. There is more buzz overall, but I don't know if we'll see a tremendous push for early adoption of Exchange 2013.

It's a great product, but it's hard to say if it will sell off the charts. The new management UI may make it difficult for some legacy Exchange admins to embrace immediately. Also, while many of the newly added features are important and necessary, they don't exactly blow the doors off Exchange 2010 to the point where they would force folks to Exchange 2013.

Nicolas BlankNicolas Blank

Nicolas Blank, infrastructure architect, NB Consult: I'm always hesitant to expect customers to rush into a new version of Exchange without seeing a massive advantage over the previous version. Exchange 2010 had a number of very public [Technology Adoption Program] success stories to help drive adoption.

That said, very few companies deploy green fields anymore, and without the service packs and rollups for Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2007 respectively, it's not possible to test coexistence scenarios. It's always fun installing something new and kicking the tires, but it needs to be done in a lab scenario -- never live -- until you've developed the operational experience to know how to handle anything new.

What new Exchange 2013 features are admins going to find themselves wondering how they ever got along without?

Goodman: The in-place hold features are a big improvement. Also, admins who are sold on cheap disks and the fact [that] Exchange data is often best left in Exchange will love the new compliance features. Additionally, I think that single global namespace across multiple sites or geographic regions will be huge. The new Managed Availability feature is big as well.

Bruzzese: I hope more administrators give Unified Messaging a chance now that it is automatically bundled into the mailbox role. It's also possible that the new Exchange Administration Center (EAC) will catch on. Personally, I'm having a hard time working with it because I don't typically like Web-based consoles.

I think admins will more appreciate all the nuances, like data loss prevention, a new Managed Store, high availability improvements and so forth. None of them really wow me individually, but when you take the collection as a whole, I am very impressed.

It's always fun installing something new ... but it needs to be done in a lab scenario -- never live.
Nicolas BlankExchange MVP

Blank: Those who hated the slowness of the Exchange Management Console will love the speed increases gained with the new EAC. There are now more controls in one place than ever before, and the logical grouping of said controls makes a lot of sense. For those with [just of bunch of disks] JBOD deployments, the AutoReseed feature for Exchange 2013 database availability groups should be very exciting.

What do you think will be the biggest story involving Office 365 in 2013?

Goodman: I think we'll see a massive influx of Office 365 users due to education customers who move to the platform in droves next year, whether they like it or not. This will give Microsoft some massive enterprise-size customers on the platform to talk about. Live@edu is very similar to Office 365 as well, so they'll have a lot of success moving.

Bruzzese: I think we will see more small companies going to the cloud, because it just makes sense. Office 365 is a no-brainer for smaller organizations. Why should they maintain an infrastructure, pay for hardware, worry about backups and anti-malware when Office 365 does all that and is cheaper? Office 365 provides solutions that small companies often don't have time to implement or learn, while also providing SharePoint and Lync Online.

Blank: I think we'll see more mid-sized and enterprise customers adopt Office 365 as the market becomes more comfortable with the service. I think you'll also see interesting products evolving in the Office 365 space, such as hybrid-mode interfaces, to cover single points of failure.

Where do you see the world of messaging headed over the next three years?

Goodman: It's easy to say to the cloud, but I don't think the adoption rate will be as high as some people may lead you to believe. Generally speaking, Exchange Server is low-maintenance, highly available and doesn't need expensive hardware. Therefore, it's not a clear-cut move to the cloud.

Outside of Exchange Server, I think we'll see more Lync deployments that have tight integration with other systems. Finally, let's hope that Google continues to improve their enterprise platform, because competition is healthy and only serves to keep Microsoft on the ball when it comes to Exchange.

Bruzzese: Hybrid deployments will be big in 2013 as companies move partially to the cloud. I suggest familiarizing yourself with both Exchange on-premises and Office 365 with an eye towards hybrid scenarios this year. Over the next few years, however, I see the switch to a cloud-based mailbox majority as more control is provided to admins over cloud-based solutions.

Blank: The new Office represents a substantial gamble by Microsoft across the Outlook client, Exchange, SharePoint and Lync. It will be interesting to see how the market adapts to the new look and feel, as well as the broad themes expressed throughout the products. Not everyone is comfortable with change. The good news is that while the new wave introduces substantial interface changes, they also add new and significant capabilities.

Care to share your own 2013 predictions? Email us with your thoughts.

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