At Long Last: IMF and Exchange Server 2003 SP1

I'm writing this column from the "Meet the Technologist" area at Microsoft TechEd; things have finally slowed down enough for me to share some of the cool news from the event. The big news today is that two new Exchange add-ons--Microsoft Exchange Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) and Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) are finally out the door.

In a gratifying about-face, Microsoft announced yesterday that IMF will be available to all Exchange 2003 customers, not just those who purchased a Software Assurance (SA) contract. This is great news for Exchange 2003 customers who don't currently use a third-party spam filter and makes Exchange 2003 a more compelling upgrade. For those who already have a spam filter, IMF offers additional protection and will probably undergo future enhancements driven by Microsoft's extensive experience handling spam in MSN Hotmail. (For more information about IMF, see "Exchange Gets Filtered" at )

Even bigger news is the release of Exchange 2003 SP1, which adds some extremely cool new features and technologies to Exchange. Sure, I know: Microsoft isn't supposed to put features in a service pack. Regardless, SP1's features are pretty slick and well worth a look.

Exchange administrators dread -1018 errors because these errors indicate that something's wrong with the physical structure of the Exchange database. Microsoft spent a good bit of time studying the nature of these errors at customer sites and found that about 40 percent of the errors were caused by single-bit errors. Fortunately, computer scientists have known for some time how to use redundant encoding of checksums to fix single-bit errors (that's how Error-Correcting Code--ECC--memory works). SP1 introduces a new database page format that uses two 32-bit checksums, instead of the existing one checksum, to catch and fix single-bit errors that would otherwise result in a -1018.

- Recovery Storage Groups (which I discuss in "Recovery Storage Groups Explained" at ) offer much faster disaster recovery under certain conditions but have had one limitation: After you mount a database in a Recovery Storage Group, you still have to move mailboxes back to the production database. No more: SP1 adds a wizard that performs this task automatically. Product Manager Ed Wu brought down the house when he demonstrated this improvement during Corporate Vice President David Thompson's keynote on Tuesday. (There's one caveat: You can move the database only between servers running the same version of Exchange.)

- Setting up remote procedure call (RPC) over HTTP Secure (HTTPS) is now trivially easy, thanks to a property page that lets you pick the server configuration you want to use. This feature might be the one that I've heard the most conversation about; many administrators have had some degree of difficulty properly configuring RPC over HTTPS on their own.

- SP1 includes some extremely powerful new tools for site and server consolidation, including (drum roll, please) a way to move mailboxes between administrative groups and sites in a mixed Exchange 2003/Exchange 2000 Server/Exchange Server 5.5 organization. This much-requested feature will surely help spur migrations.

One very important thing you need to know about Exchange 2003 SP1: You can't uninstall it! Microsoft recommends making an online backup before and after installing the service pack. That's always good advice, but even more so in this case.

There's a lot of other exciting stuff happening here at TechEd, and next week I'll report about more of the interesting products and technologies. Until then, check out the SP1 release notes ( ) and online Help ( ) to determine how SP1 might function in your environment.

One last thing: If you haven't heard about the Exchange Server Seminar Series, take a moment to visit and find out more about this free 10-city event. Speakers will include Kevin Laahs, Donald Livengood, and Kieran McCorry.

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