In my most recent UPDATE, I wrote about some Exchange 2010 cmdlets for manipulating mailbox items directly, and I promised to cover that topic in more depth in this week's UPDATE. Sometimes real life interferes with our plans, though, so this week I have a different topic: Microsoft has released Exchange Server 2010 SP1 to manufacturing. Typically, "RTM" means that the software has to go through the whole process of being turned into DVDs, put into boxes, and so on. In this case, however, it's available for immediate download from the Microsoft Download Center.

Over the past year or two, Microsoft has become increasingly open with the details of service packs for Windows and server products alike. Exchange 2010 SP1 is no exception; many of its major features and changes have already been announced, demonstrated, or otherwise made public. For example, there have been posts on the Exchange team blog covering the new mailbox repair functionality, changes in the way throttling policies work, and changes in the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA), and the public beta of SP1 showed pretty much everything that Microsoft planned to deliver in the final product.

There are a few changes, though, as there always are. As part of the service pack release process, Microsoft runs service pack candidate builds internally and provides them to companies and partners in the Technology Adoption Program (TAP). Nearly half a million mailboxes have been running in production on prerelease builds of Exchange 2010 SP1, so the product group got a lot of real-world feedback as they went through the development process, along with tons of bug reports that they were able to fix. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't usually provide a complete list of all the bug fixes in a service pack, so it's hard to get a sense of exactly what they fixed.

Exchange 2010 SP1 also includes a wide array of new features. Some of these are things that should have been in the original release of Exchange 2010, some are improvements to features carried forward from Exchange 2007, and some are improvements on Exchange 2010–specific features. Here are a few examples from each category to whet your appetite.

In the category of things that would have been good to have at RTM, my favorite feature is the new GUI for managing Role Based Access Control (RBAC) constructs such as management role groups. A close runner-up is support in the Exchange Control Panel (ECP) for managing transport and journaling rules. In fact, ECP has sprouted a bunch of new management capabilities, all of which would have been nice to see in the RTM release.

Exchange 2007 features that have been resurrected in SP1 include full support for themes in Outlook Web App (OWA; formerly Outlook Web Access) and support for the excellent Exchange 2007 SP3 method of letting users reset their passwords when they log on to OWA if their passwords have expired. I can't wait to see what the Exchange community does with the theming ability—although I hope to avoid a repeat of the infamous April Fool's deployment of a Hello Kitty theme within Microsoft; I understand the trauma from that prank was long-lasting.

Improvements to Exchange 2010–specific features include a brand-new visual design for OWA, the aforementioned changes to ExBPA and throttling policies, and the death of Isinteg as a standalone utility (although, fortunately, we still have Eseutil). Isinteg's functionality has been subsumed in the new mailbox repair feature.

Overall, I'm really pleased with what the Exchange team has delivered in Exchange 2010 SP1, but I'm curious to know how its release will affect your deployment plans. Are you more likely to move to Exchange 2010 now that SP1 has shipped? Were you waiting for its release to deploy Exchange 2010, or are you already on the 2010 train? Drop me a line and let me know!

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