Without a doubt, one of the most important Microsoft releases planned for 2007 is the next version of Exchange Server. Exchange Server 2007 will be the premier enterprise mail server and, as you might expect, the new release brings with it a number of important enhancements and features. However, you need to be aware of a few caveats as well. Let's look at some of the most important new features in the upcoming Exchange 2007 release. For more information about the release, you can visit http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/preview.

10.64-bit hardware required—Bowing before the inevitable, Exchange 2007 is Microsoft's first 64-bit–only product. Considering that all the company's tier-one servers are 64-bit capable, that's really no surprise. However, some confusion did stem from the beta's 32-bit support, which Microsoft provided to facilitate testing. The release to manufacturing (RTM) version will be 64-bit only.

9. An all-new setup—One of the first things you'll notice about Exchange 2007 is the new setup process. Modeled after the same setup that Microsoft SQL Server 2005 uses, the new Exchange 2007 setup first checks the system for required prerequisite components such as Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, Windows PowerShell, and Microsoft Management Console (MMC). In addition, the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer is integrated into the setup process to check for possible configuration and setup errors.

8. Exchange Management Shell— Another first for Exchange 2007 is the integration of PowerShell (Microsoft's new .NET-based scripting environment) into a feature called Exchange Management Shell. Formerly code-named Monad, PowerShell adds powerful scripting capabilities to Exchange 2007.

7. New Exchange Management Console—Another instantly noticeable feature in Exchange 2007 is its new Exchange Management Console. Unlike the older management GUI, Exchange System Manager (ESM), the new Exchange Management Console is built on Exchange Management Shell and now can perform virtually all Exchange administrative tasks. In addition, you can capture actions you take in the console as PowerShell scripts.

6. Device security and management—For organizations using mobile devices (and who isn't?), some of the best features in Exchange 2007 are its mobile-device–management capabilities. Using Exchange 2007's per-user security policies, administrators can require device PINs and setup for device wipe for data protection in case devices are lost or stolen. This device management is limited to devices supporting ActiveSync.

5. Support for unified messaging—Exchange 2007 provides support for unified messaging (UM),which lets you store voicemail and faxes in your Exchange mailbox. This support can eliminate the need for a separate voicemail system and can enable phone access to your inbox. Exchange UM requires the use of a compatible IP-enabled PBX but can also access older PBXes by using an IP gateway.

4. New Resource Booking Attendant—As anyone who regularly schedules appointments knows, booking meetings can be a frustrating experience as you not only attempt to bring together the required attendees but also try to book required resources such as conference and meeting rooms. The new Resource Booking Attendant enables centralized management of rooms and other meeting equipment and resources.

3. New Scheduling Assistant—Like the Resource Booking Attendant, the Scheduling Assistant helps you schedule meetings. A new graphical UI enables administrators to quickly see the availability of attendees and resources as well as the best times to schedule a meeting for required attendees and resources.

2. Antivirus and antispam support—Basic antispam and antivirus protection are a requirement for today's messaging servers. Exchange 2007 features a number of built-in antispam and antivirus features, including connection, sender, and recipient filtering as well as content and attachment filtering. For more robust enterprise-level antivirus protection, Microsoft separately offers Antigen Messaging Security Suite, which includes Antigen for Exchange and Antigen Spam Manager.

1. 5 new server roles—Probably one of the biggest improvements in Exchange 2007 is the introduction of five new prebuilt modular server roles. These server roles reduce the manual configuration that would otherwise be required to set up and secure Exchange 2007 to perform various mail server tasks. The new roles are: Edge Transport, Hub Transport, Mailbox, Client Access, and Unified Messaging