What is it?
Long experience has taught Microsoft customers to regard any new release as a beta until the first service pack (SP1) arrives. Microsoft Exchange 2007 shipped late in in 2006, and SP1 was released in August last year. But though many organisations announced plans to migrate during 2008, no information is yet available about how many are actually doing so while analysts close to IBM and other Exchange competitors like PostPath are having no difficulty finding installations for whom the cost and disruption of moving to Exchange 2007 is a matter of concern.
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This does not mean they are moving to IBM's Lotus Domino or the Linux-based PostPath: many have elected to stay with Exchange 2003 and others continue to find Exchange 2000 does the job perfectly well. According to a February 2008 survey of 900 organisations in the USA and Europe by Ferris Research, Exchange has a 65% market share.
There are still far more ads for Exchange 2003 skills than Exchange 2007, but specialists in upgrading to 2007 - or running the two in parallel - are at a premium.
Where did it originate?
Exchange Server 4.0 replaced Microsoft Mail 3.5 in 1996. Exchange 5.5 and NT 4.0 was a particularly reliable combination, and was still in use among a small percentage of installations as late as 2007, though both have long been unsupported.
What's it for?
Exchange 2007 runs on 64-bit versions of Windows Server only. 32-bit Active Directory domain controllers are, however, still supported. New or improved features range from security - better anti-spam, anti-virus and encryption for messaging, together with easier regulatory compliance - to better end-user access, including unified messaging which enables e-mails and voicemails to be accessed via the same mailbox, from mobile phones as well as PCs. Web-based messaging, calendaring and other collaboration features have been added or enhanced.
Some of the changes for administrators were controversial when Exchange 2007 was first released, in particular, the disappearance of some graphical tools that many people had come to rely on. Instead, people had to script them using the Exchange Management Shell - based on the Windows PowerShell command line shell and scripting language. With SP1, these tools can now be found once again on the graphical Exchange Management Console. (PowerShell, formerly known as Monad, is itself emerging as a premium skill for high-level Microsoft systems engineers.)
What makes it special?
Microsoft promises better performance and scalability following the move to 64-bit. New business continuity features include local and clustered data replication.
How difficult is it to master?
Introduction to Installing and Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 is a three-day course for people new to Exchange, though you are supposed to have three years' experience in network or system administration. There are also three-day courses for upgrading your skills from Exchange 2000 or 2003 to 2007. Reaching a qualification such as a Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Enterprise Messaging Administrator requires passing three exams, each needing one or more classroom or self-study courses.
Where is it used?
Ferris Research found that the smaller the organisation, the more likely they were to have made the move to Exchange 2007.
What systems does it run on?
Exchange Server 2007 requires Windows Server 2003 x64, or Windows Server 2008. Exchange 5.5 users will first have to upgrade to Exchange 2003 and Active Directory.
Rates of Pay
Exchange Server administrators earn £28,000 to £35,000.