At Microsoft Exchange Connections this week in Las Vegas, Exchange expert Tony Redmond delivered a keynote address entitled "Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Exchange 2010." With Microsoft's announcement earlier this week at TechEd Europe in Berlin about the immediate availability of Exchange Server 2010, Redmond's topic was well chosen, and the keynote was well-attended. For those who couldn't be there, here is Redmond's top 10 list.

1. Exchange 2010 is release 3.2 of Exchange Server—What Redmond means by this statement is that Exchange 2010 is the second version of the third generation of Exchange. The first generation includes the versions before Exchange 2000; the second generation is Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003. The third stage began with Exchange 2007, which marked a fundamental change in the architecture of Exchange organizations. As the second release of this generation, Exchange 2010 should be past the initial growing pains that such drastic changes bring about.

2. First fundamental refresh of the Information Store since 1996—The improvements or upgrades to the Store include a larger database page size (up to 32kb from 8kb in Exchange 2007) and improved I/O, which is more sequential and less random. Because of these improvements, single instance storage (SIS) has been eliminated as no longer important. Also, storage groups are gone; management is intended to be by the database.

3. New software-based approach to high availability—High availability is built in to Exchange 2010 through Database Availability Groups (DAGs), which let you replicate databases to multiple servers with automatic failover in the event of problems. This architecture also introduces the concept of incremental deployment—that is, you can add servers and mailboxes as you need them; you don't have to plan everything before you even begin.

4. Hosted Exchange and on-premises are equal (almost)—Exchange 2010 was developed from the beginning to be scalable as a cloud-based solution as well as deployable in your on-premises data center, and it has received extensive testing through Microsoft's online initiatives. Therefore, it's clearly ready and able to be successfully deployed as a hosted service, although a few features might still be available only with on-premises deployments.

5. No upgrade path, must install on fresh hardware—I suspect this is a point that still might be unpopular with many users. Redmond explained that because you need to carefully consider your underlying OS, it makes sense to do fresh installs rather than upgrades. Exchange 2007 had the same situation; however, keeping in mind that this version is within the same generation, no doubt many admins expected the opportunity of in-place upgrade at least if they were already on Exchange 2007: no such luck.

6. More fully developed message compliance features—Compliance features in Exchange 2010 build on the good start of Exchange 2007 and provide a more feature-rich and customizable experience. Although the new personal archive isn't specifically a compliance feature, it can be used in conjunction with retention policies and rules to aid in better mailbox management. Improvements to the transport dumpster (what Redmond called Dumpster 2.0) let it keep track of all edits and deletions for better visibility of end user actions. And Exchange 2010 also introduces cross-mailbox search capability, which is a great first step toward e-discovery.

7. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) replaces ACL-based permissions—With RBAC, users see in the GUI only functions they have permissions to perform; this restriction applies also to PowerShell-based management and the ability to use only cmdlets that are authorized for assigned roles. Redmond did mention the need to be careful assigning roles or you could end up locking yourself out of the management areas you need to be in, with no way back.

8. PowerShell 2.0—As you've no doubt seen, Exchange 2010 adds many new features, and that means many new Windows PowerShell cmdlets to manage things—hundreds, in fact. Additionally, PowerShell 2.0 adds remote management capability so you no longer need to work locally to get the job done. Redmond warned to be sure to test your PowerShell 1.0 scripts because some cmdlets have been removed and some might work differently in 2.0.

9. Exchange Control Panel (ECP)—You can still manage Exchange 2010 with Exchange Management Console (EMC) and Exchange Management Shell (EMS), but now you also have the option to use the browser-based ECP, giving you additional remote management capabilities. You can also use ECP to delegate some functions to end users, such as simple password resets—and thereby save lots of call to the Help desk.

10. And lots more—OK, Tony, I think you're cheating a little with this one, but in a well-meaning way. After all, there's a lot of worthy stuff to talk about with Exchange 2010. Redmond's list of more items included such things as MailTips, Exchange Web Services as API, UM upgrades such as personal attendants, and of course the big improvements in Outlook Web App (formerly Outlook Web Access, but still OWA).

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