Since the release of the public beta of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 last month, there's been a lot of news coming out about Exchange. This week's TechEd North America 2009 in Los Angeles has generated some messaging news as well. Perhaps getting a little lost in this flood of information was the announcement on the Microsoft Exchange team blog earlier this week that Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Exchange Server 2007 will be released in Q3 of 2009. The recent focus from the Exchange team on Exchange 2010 has caused some Exchange administrators to questions whether Microsoft would still produce another service pack for Exchange 2007.

The big news in this SP2 announcement is the inclusion of a plug-in that will let you use Windows Server 2008's Backup utility to perform Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)–based backups of your Exchange 2007 organization. Nino Bilic of the Exchange team followed up the original post with a new post on just this feature. The key takeaway here is that this backup method, while Exchange-aware, is not Exchange only: Windows Server Backup backs up the entire volume at a go.

The lack of a native backup function with Exchange 2007 on Server 2008 has been a real sore spot for a lot of Exchange admins. Obviously this plug-in will be welcome news; it's sort of a shame it's been such a long time coming. Microsoft has been talking a great deal about increased interoperability recently, yet here it feels like they forgot to engineer a basic feature to let their own programs fully interoperate.

But don't think for a moment that this new backup capability is the only thing to look forward to with Exchange 2007 SP2—'cause wait, there's more! The service pack will add new Exchange auditing events as well as a dedicated audit log repository. Although the blog post doesn't tell us what these new events are, the intent is to let you more easily keep track of your Exchange environment, which seems a perfectly excellent idea. You'll also find that you have control of diagnostic logging through Exchange Management Console; previously this was one of those things that required PowerShell commands through Exchange Management Shell. So, score one for the GUI fans.

However, the Exchange team hasn't forgotten fans of the shell: Exchange 2007 SP2 will also feature some new and revised PowerShell cmdlets. Specifically, you'll find improved cmdlets for public folder quota management, and new cmdlets to let you centrally manage many organizational settings for your Exchange environment. Also, you'll be able to monitor named properties usage on a per-database level through PowerShell.

According to the blog, Exchange 2007 SP2 "sets the foundation for the transition to Exchange Server 2010." So another of the new features is dynamic Active Directory (AD) schema update and validation. This feature will help prevent conflicts when a new property is added to the AD schema, and should make future schema updates easier to manage, which I'm guessing is where that "foundation for the transition" part comes in. SP2 is a requirement if you want to run Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 in a coexistence scenario.

Although the Exchange team blog post is a little light on actual details about these announced features, it's good at least to know that Exchange 2007 hasn't been cast off with same disregard as Windows Vista was at the first sight of Windows 7. Look for Exchange 2007 SP2 to be available sometime in Q3.

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