As the Exchange Server 2007 SP1 beta cycle progresses, you might be paying attention to news about the service pack, which is scheduled for GA around the same time as Windows Server 2008 late this year. Even if your organization has put off migrating to Exchange 2007, judging by the large number of downloads of the beta (at last count, more than 900,000—see Paul Robichaux's August 20 blog post), the signs are that we'll see an Exchange 2007 migration wave in the last months of 2007 on into 2008. Maybe it's because budget season is at hand and the timing is right for organizations to justify the upgrade expense, or maybe it's just the typical time lag between a new software release, with its bleeding-edge adopters, and when the bulk of migrations actually occur (especially after a new service pack has come out to smooth out the rough spots in the original release).

To recap, SP1 includes features that improve its unified messaging (UM) capability, in particular integration of Exchange 2007 UM with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS). Users will be able to retrieve voicemail messages and see a message-waiting indicator through the OCS client, Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. (For a helpful explanation of how OCS and Exchange 2007 UM work together, see “Getting Exchange and Live Communications Server Together on the PBX” and "Examining Microsoft's Unified Communications Strategy." Other major improvements include enhancements to OWA, such as support for Secure MIME (S/MIME), custom forms, and better self-service functions (e.g., remote wipe); many new Exchange ActiveSync policies; standby continuous replication (SCR); public folder management tools in the Exchange Management Console; and the ability to run under Windows Server 2008.

Exchange & Outlook Pro VIP and Windows IT Pro have been covering SP1 developments since March, and we have articles in the works that will provide more details about the service pack. If you have a question about a specific feature of SP1 and can't find it in any of the resources below, feel free to email me about it, and I'll try to find you an answer.

Is Your Third-Party Software "UC"?
Nothing popularizes a technology buzzword like Microsoft officially backing that technology, so it was only a matter of time before I started reading about unified communications (UC) announcements from vendors in areas ranging from backup and recovery to email archiving to systems management. Recently, I spoke with a couple vendors who are positioning their products as UC solutions. Neither of the companies offered products that I would consider UC-specific (that is, directly related to messaging, presence, VoIP, telecom, or networking); to me, they fell into the realm of UC support products. The message I took away from these conversations is that as with any new technology, UC's hype factor will be high for a while as vendors, consultants, and IT folks who are implementing UC solutions try to figure out what the pieces of a UC solution are and how they'll work together.

Readers Respond About Professional Development
A few readers responded to my commentary about Exchange professional development, mainly to agree with my take on the typical career path of an Exchange administrator. Reader Candi Thomas, for instance, started out working as a legal assistant, then transferred to a Help desk position at the law firm, and from there progressed to overseeing both the firm's Exchange and Outlook services and its telecom, conferencing, and wireless services. Candi said that she found that the specialized expertise she's developed while working with the law firm has helped her advance professionally. I know of several IT professionals with similar stories, starting out in specialized, non-IT areas and morphing those careers into IT positions. If you have an Exchange-related career story you'd like to share, email me and tell me about it. Have a great month!

—Anne Grubb, Exchange & Outlook Pro VIP Editor

Exchange 2007 SP1 and UM Resources

Exchange 2007 SP1 Information

Exchange 2007 UM Information