Better calendar federation in Exchange 2010

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by James Gaskin - There's plenty to like about Exchange 2010. In this insider tip, Michael Atalla, Group Product Manager at Microsoft for Exchange, promises help for some existing Exchange issues, and some new features to make life easier for Exchange admins.

First the bad news, at least for some. Microsoft retains Jet, the much maligned database underpinnings that many consider an Exchange limitation. No plans today for a move to SQL, and no plans tomorrow. Jet haters remain thwarted. Supposedly, customers are no longer complaining since Jet is highly available and stable. Sorry, Microsoft, but customers always complain about issues and want better products.

[ See also: Microsoft Exchange insider tips: Cut help desk headaches with MailTips ]

Standards fans won't be happy to hear that Exchange 2010 makes no improvements in IMAP support, sticking with MAPI. The focus has been on EAS (Exchange ActiveSync) to better support devices like iPhones and Nokia smart phones after they add the EAS client software.

The best news may be for fans of calendar federation. In Exchange 2007, only calendars on the same server in the same company can be federated and joined in useful ways. Exchange 2010 offers calendar federation across servers, across companies, across to Microsoft's Exchange Online hosted service, and even one-to-one calendar joins.

My take is that the cross-server calendar federation will receive cheers. Those companies diving into cross-company federations with small groups of users, down to a one-to-one link, will beg for better management tools immediately. Stick with cross-company and workgroup links to critical suppliers and customers, and don't mention the one-to-one federation options to any vice presidents who get grand ideas.

Your hardware costs savings program will get a boost, since Exchange 2010 has beefed up disk performance using directly attached inexpensive SATA drives to near SCSI Fibre Channel SAN levels. Not surprisingly, performance was at the top of the Exchange 2010 wish list from users. Nice to have a request answered now and then.

Those who used Exchange 2007's Unified Messaging Stack for voice mail will be thrilled to hear about the new call answering rules. Route incoming calls wherever you want them to go, including options for work hours and out of office forwarding routes. Create personal auto attendant messages for each user if you want, because there's no practical limit to the number of rules allowed per user. If you didn't jump into Exchange 2007 voice mail, you might pull up that manual in preparation for more call routing options in Exchange 2010.

Finally, mail box moves no longer require interruptions or downtime. This feature comes as a bonus to the page level patching on the Jet database now possible without failing and interrupting affected users.

Atalla suggests using Exchange Online to handle seasonal or project workers. No need to buy new Exchange 2010 hardware to handle a four month surge in mail boxes since you can federate them even when hosted by Microsoft. Pay the dollars per user per month as needed, rather than buying a few new servers that go underused later. Although, honestly, getting new servers on the Exchange budget that can be used elsewhere later may be a good thing in your shop. But at least now you have the option to expense, rather than capitalize, a temporary surge in user population.

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