A Few TechEd Highlights

Microsoft's annual TechEd conference is always a lot of fun. Most of the attendees seem genuinely excited to be there, and Microsoft usually has some interesting announcements to make (though sometimes the most interesting announcements are the ones that don't get made). This year, my TechEd visit was unusually short because I had just returned from two weeks on the road in Europe for the Windows IT Pro Get Ready for Exchange and Office 2007 Roadshow. I have a few weeks with no travel, and then I get to make my inaugural visit to South Africa--a place I never thought I'd get to see. For now, though, it's time to talk about some of the "good stuff" from TechEd.

As expected, the big news is the Exchange Team's commitment to ship a public beta (Beta 2) of Exchange Server 2007 this summer. Chris Capossela, corporate vice president in charge of the Information Worker Product Management Group at Microsoft, made the announcement in his keynote address Sunday night. Beta 2, to be available by the end of July, is a feature-complete build of Exchange 2007, unlike the earlier Beta 1 build that was made available to a select group of Microsoft customers, partners, and Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), then later to TechNet and MSDN subscribers. When Beta 2 comes out, you'll be able to experiment with the Exchange Management Shell (the Exchange-specific version of PowerShell), the new infrastructure for defining message transport rules, the new Outlook Web Access (OWA) interface (which I think provides a vastly improved experience over OWA 2003 on Microsoft Internet Explorer--IE--and other browsers), and a host of other new features.

Microsoft also launched ISA Server 2006, which adds a simple set of tools for publishing Exchange and SharePoint servers, as well as other Web-based applications. Perhaps more important (after all, you usually have to publish servers only once), ISA Server 2006 supports new authentication methods, including one-time passwords and LDAP-based authentication. ISA Server 2006 also supports cookie-based load balancing, meaning that the tricks necessary to get load balancing to work properly with OWA 2003 are a thing of the past. ISA Server 2006 adds a session-state cookie to the outbound traffic, and the browser returns the cookie, enabling ISA Server to correctly direct traffic to the appropriate server.

Microsoft Antigen also got some time in the spotlight. Both Antigen and ISA Server are part of the newly launched Microsoft Forefront brand. Forefront is an umbrella brand that includes several Microsoft security products, including the product formerly known as Windows Defender. Microsoft showed off Antigen builds that support antivirus scanning for SharePoint and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 and announced that a beta version of Antigen that's compatible with Exchange 2007 will be available around the same time as Exchange 2007 itself.

There were tons of other Exchange-related announcements, too. I think my favorites were the new features announced for mobile device support in Exchange 2007, including the ability to let users remotely wipe their own devices when necessary, support for flagging items on the mobile device, and full mailbox search (powered by the much-improved server-side full-text indexing component of Exchange 2007).

In related news, DataViz announced that it's building a version of its RoadSync product, which provides Exchange ActiveSync functionality, for Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. The new version will allow Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition users to enjoy many of the benefits of Windows Mobile 5.0's Messaging and Security Feature Pack. This update helps take the sting out of a situation companies commonly find themselves in: Because it's difficult to get software upgrades from mobile telephone service providers, many companies find that there’s no supported way to update their Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition devices to Windows Mobile 5.0.

With my TechEd presentations done, I can now get back to working on other things, such as setting the session schedule for the fall Exchange Connections conference.

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