A hot technology topic is that some organizations are considering jettisoning their Exchange infrastructures in favor of either outsourcing the service or eliminating it altogether for another service (such as Gmail). In some industries, it has become commonplace to migrate from Exchange to an alternative solution. In higher education, for example, a lot of institutions have moved or are moving to Google's free mail service or Microsoft's Live@Edu service in order to get out from under the costs and complexity of maintaining an internal Exchange infrastructure.
However, for all the organizations that are considering a major move away from their legacy Exchange environments, there are as many that are standing firm and retaining Exchange infrastructures in-house and considering moves to virtualize Exchange. There are a plethora of options from which to choose when it comes to Exchange (or not to Exchange!).
Benefits of implementing Exchange 2010
Microsoft says that Exchange 2010 is the leanest Exchange ever from an I/O perspective, making it a great candidate for virtualization which, in turn, reduces the total cost of ownership for the product. Exchange 2010's support for SATA disks and other lower cost storage equipment certainly makes it a more affordable product. But those I/O improvements have come at the expense of single instance storage (SIS). Between the elimination of SIS and the introduction of Database Availability Groups (DAGs), overall capacity needs for Exchange have exploded. The end result is that, with Exchange 2010, organizations can implement a more flexible, fully virtual Exchange system using cheap storage, but there will be a lot more of it required than would have been necessary in the past.
Why some organizations haven't migrated to Exchange 2010
Although Exchange 2010 brings a lot of goodies to the table, including a fantastic new Outlook Web App, many organizations haven't migrated to the latest version of Exchange. This is partially due to Exchange's inability to be upgraded via an in-place upgrade. The last time that an Exchange system could be truly upgraded was Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2003; Exchange 2007 did not support in-place upgrades from older versions due to the 64-bit nature of Exchange 2007 (prior to Exchange 2007, Exchange was 32-bit only). The inability to perform in-place upgrades with Exchange 2010 makes moving to a virtual environment more appealing since you have to get new servers anyway; it also holds some organizations back from making the jump to the newest version.
Exchange 2010 and the cloud
With Exchange 2010, Microsoft has also made a huge cloud push, positioning Exchange as an on-premise and a hosted solution. For quite some time, there have been hosting companies offering Exchange mailboxes, but now, Microsoft itself has gotten into the game with its Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS). Starting at $10.00/user/month, BPOS provides users with Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online.
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Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.