Exchange 2007 bites into 64-bit

Coinciding with the launch of Windows Vista on November 30, Microsoft Corp. will unveil the latest version of its messaging application, Exchange 2007, which will run exclusively on 64-bit machines.

Exchange 2007’s new features and capabilities include an “anywhere access” functionality with Outlook Web Access and Unified Messaging, highlighting the increasing importance of e-mail in the enterprise, said Bryan Rusche, unified communications product manager at Microsoft Canada.

With Exchange 2007 on a 64-bit system, he said enterprise adopters can manage their messaging infrastructure more efficiently and with greater storage capacity.

Typically, a 32-bit system only allows for up to four gigabytes of addressable memory, while 64-bit architecture allows up to 16 exabytes of memory.

Taking the 64-bit plunge

Rusche cited a 2006 study by IT market research firm Radicati Group which predicted that businesses will require about 15.8 MB of space daily to handle corporate e-mails by 2008. Today, the daily storage space required for e-mails is around 10 MB.

“We looked at the business environment and the changes in work communications environment. People are (getting more) concerned about the business implications of e-mail,” said Rusche. He added that e-mail communication in businesses today has become as important, if not more important, than telephones.

Exchange 2007’s 64-bit-based architecture may become an impediment to migration to the new messaging application today, but it certainly won’t be in the future, according to Michelle Warren, research analyst at Toronto-based Partner Research Corporation.

Although the general market trend is shifting towards 64-bit servers, many enterprises are still running on 32-bit and are not expected to upgrade until the next scheduled server refresh.

“If companies haven’t already switched, they will be switching (to 64-bit) in the next three years. So it might be a hindrance for today for companies to adopt Exchange 2007,” said Warren.

More and more 64-bit servers are also being shipped today by major manufacturers like IBM, which has already indicated that it will be shipping only 64-bit systems, the analyst said. About 45 per cent of servers shipped in Canada today are 64-bit, she added.

“With 64-bit you now have the opportunity to consolidate your e-mail into fewer servers so it’s not as heavy a requirement on your disk sub-system,” said Microsoft’s Rusche.

Microsoft is counting on enterprises reaching the end of their hardware lifecycle and facing a server refresh. “They are also going to look at hardware refresh in order to be able to run Exchange 2007. For the most part, we don’t think that [the 64-bit architecture] is going to be a major problem (for Exchange 2007 adoption),” said Rusche.

User feedback

Toronto-based CMS Consulting Inc., a Microsoft certified partner, has implemented the beta version of Exchange 2007 for one of its customers in the healthcare sector, which CMS and Microsoft declined to identify prior to the official launch of the product. The healthcare organization has found the Outlook Web Access particularly useful, according to Brian Bourne, CMS president and CEO.

“Being in healthcare, not everybody has a machine dedicated (to a user) with Outlook on it. So [the customer] is a very heavy Web Outlook user and it’s one of the things the users are enjoying,” said Bourne.

With the Outlook Web Access, users can access their e-mail account from any computer that runs Outlook and is connected to the Internet, Rusche said. In addition, Outlook Anywhere provides a new Autodiscover feature that lets users configure their Outlook profile automatically by simply providing their username, password and e-mail address.

Exchange 2007’s integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint application for collaboration is also another feature that the healthcare organization has found very useful, Bourne said. The Outlook Web Access feature enables users to access network resources such as SharePoint sites and file shares without a VPN.

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