Exchange Connections Wrapup

I spent the first part of this week at the spring Microsoft Exchange Connections 2006 show in Orlando, and it was a blast! Connections is a small show compared with Microsoft's gargantuan TechEd, and that gives it a special feel, even though there are still too many sessions for one person to take in. For those who couldn't go, or those who did but couldn't see everything they wanted, I thought I'd write up a few highlights of the trip.

First, if you've never stayed at Disney's Swan or Dolphin hotels, I recommend checking them out for your next visit to Orlando; the service and facilities were superb. Temperatures in the breakout rooms were reasonable, the food was great, and the staff was friendly.

Second, there was a great mix of content for both Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange 12. Microsoft provided several speakers (including Scott Schnoll and Jill Frank) who spoke in detail about some new Exchange 12 features. Scott's session on disaster recovery and high-availability features in Exchange 12 was one of the highlights of the show, as was Tony Redmond's keynote. Because I expect TechEd to focus mostly on Exchange 12 content, it's good to see Exchange 2003 material because many customers will be using it for a few years to come.

I presented three sessions (the slides for which are available at http://www.e2ksecurity.com ). All generated some thought-provoking questions, including: - Is it OK to install Monad beta 3 on your production Exchange 2003 server? Answer: It probably won't hurt anything, but you can get just as much Exchange 2003 functionality by installing Monad on a workstation with Exchange System Manager (ESM) installed so that you can use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). - Which is better--storage- or host-based replication? Answer: It depends; storage replication is more transparent to Exchange, but it requires expensive hardware and lots of it. - What's the file extension for Monad scripts? Answer: .msh, which you might want to think about in the context of attachment blocking to keep people from sending scripts in through your gateway. - What's your favorite Exchange 12 feature? Answer: As of right now, it's a three-way tie between Monad, the new unified messaging suite, and the ability to do antivirus scans on messages at the transport layer instead of after they're delivered.

Interestingly, in the three sessions I presented (with a total attendance of 400+), no one was still running Exchange Server 5.5. This is a sharp change from the fall 2005 event, which had a fair percentage of attendees still running Exchange 5.5. This bodes well for Microsoft's efforts to get people onto Exchange 2003 to benefit from its improvements and to prepare for migration to Exchange 12.

Finally, a big fat raspberry (not a BlackBerry) for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates the Orlando airport. It has adopted the Clear "registered traveler" system, which promises to speed frequent travelers through security lines for a yearly fee. Unfortunately, the airport hasn't used the revenue from Clear (if any) to speed up the security operations for anyone else, with the result that the Orlando airport is a nightmare to navigate.

Now I'm getting ready for Exchange Connections Europe. If you're based in Europe and haven't registered yet, don't forget the special two-for-one discount available (making your cost Eur650). To get the offer, register at http://www.devconnectionseurope.com/?refer=PAULEX and enter the code PAULEX. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

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