Exchange 2010 SP1 is coming

So I recently did an Exchange 2010 SP1 presentation for the NY Exchange User’s Group.  As many of you know, I’ve been at Microsoft for a while working with the Exchange Product Group on various projects in the field and this is the first time that I was overwhelmed at the amount of content that’s come out for a Service Pack release.  When I started to prepare for the NYEXUG presentation, I found just a tremendous amount of information on what’s coming in SP1 so preparing for that presentation was a significant challenge.  Doing a balance of full Exchange 2010 overview content with a heavy dose of Exchange 2010 SP1 content was turning out to be a tall order.  The Technical Product Management team had really done a nice job of surfacing the hard work that the Exchange Team has been working on for most of a year (and in some cases more than a year) and getting the information out there.  The Exchange Product Group on MSExchangeTeam blog site has started to surface some of this information, but the internal amount of information that had been generated on this was surprisingly huge.  I spent a significant amount of time trying to balance the presentation around the above mentioned tenets to get the word out, so I think it makes sense to try and disseminate this information here so others who missed the meeting can see it summarized as well.

Due out in the second half of this year, and currently available to download in Beta form here, Exchange 2010 SP1 is expected (by me and others) to accelerate customer’s move to Exchange 2010.  Whether you’re an ultra-conservative IT person who falsely believes waiting to SP1 is when to migrate (are you not aware of fully regression tested rollups coming out every 6-8 weeks??) or you’re waiting for some of the features you’ve heard about in Exchange 2010 SP1 from the MSExchangeteam blog site, this is a good time to move at the very least. 

Probably the most anticipated feature coming in SP1 from my point of view is the ability to keep the Exchange 2010 archive on separate storage.  When I hosted the Exchange Product group folks in NY in April of 2008 for an Exchange 2010 listening tour around Archiving, customers were elated with the archiving feature set, but overwhelming feedback from customers was the desire to have the Exchange archive hosted someplace other than on the same server/database where the user’s mailbox resided.  As proof that the Exchange team listens, this feature is indeed coming in SP1.  The ability to have one class of storage for the mailboxes and another class of storage for the Exchange Archive is coming (queue applause) as well as the expected feature set around that, like moving the mailbox separately from the archive and vice versa. 

Another great feature coming in Exchange 2010 SP1 is block level replication in the Database Availability Group or DAG.  I sat in a deep dive SP1 session yesterday at Microsoft TechEd 2010 and was excited to hear about this feature first hand.  Log shipping in both Exchange 2007 CCR/SCR as well as the log shipping that is part of an Exchange 2010 Database Availability Group or DAG is just that, file-based replication of a transaction log file between hosts with the database copies.  New in SP1 is block-level replication where once the database copies on the passive nodes are caught up with the initial database seed, Exchange 2010 SP1 switches to a block-level replication scenario where individual transactions committed to the primary node of the cluster are now individually sent to each of the passive databases where a cache of these transactions are kept.  Once the volume of the transactions on the passive nodes fills up the 1 MB transaction log file size, the passive node (and of course the primary node) creates the transaction log file locally and then goes through the usual automatic multi-step process to commit these transactions to the local copy of the database.  No file-level replication occurs again unless a node if out of sync and needs to catch up.  WOW, great stuff.

Outlook Web App is another area getting major work in SP1 and much of the work there is around speed and usability.  Optimizing a rich content website like Outlook Web App to perform well across multiple browser platforms is no small task.  Even with the major step forward of supporting not only later versions of IE, but also later versions of FireFox and Safari on both Linux and Mac in Exchange 2010, the Exchange team kept this as a priority and went to work on some of the basic usability features of Outlook Web App as well.  Making several of the oft-used settings like setting the Out-Of-Facility (commonly known as OOF) message is now only a single click from the Options menu, rather than being several clicks down the menu structure.  Shortening the header of the Outlook Web App window to optimize for smaller screens like netbooks is a wonderful thing if you ever hit OWA from one of those tiny screens.  Finally adding a navigation bar like in file manager where you can see your current navigation tree and then click on the folder one level above where you’ve currently navigated to is a nice feature indeed.

This is just a snippet of the stuff coming in Exchange 2010 SP1, so definitely check it out.