Yesterday at Microsoft TechEd 2011 in Atlanta, attendees were able to attend a session entitled "What's New in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 SP2: Featuring GAL Segmentation." This session marks the first public unveiling of many of the features that will be introduced in this second service pack to Exchange 2010, which is expected to be released "in the second half of calendar year 2011." The session speaker, senior program manager Greg Taylor, pointed out that service packs bring both bug fixes and new features, contrary to the old definition that focused only on bug fixes. And he unveiled some new features worthy of excitement.
So, with that in mind, let's take a quick look at what you can expect to see in Exchange 2010 SP1. A couple of features are somewhat architectural. First, SP2 adds Cross-Site Silent Redirection for Outlook Web App (OWA). Essentially this means you can have a true single sign-on (SSO) experience even when logging into OWA through an Active Directory (AD) site that doesn't host the user's mailbox. SP2 also adds a Hybrid Configuration Wizard so that organizations can easily configure hybrid Exchange organizations, partially on premises and partially in Exchange Online or Office 365. Naturally, I wonder if this wizard will work, or can be made to work, with hosted offerings other than Microsoft's homegrown services.
The next new SP2 feature is OWA Mini (and you can keep your Austin Powers jokes to yourself). This feature is a stripped down version, or view, of OWA, designed specifically for browser-based mobile phones—which is to say, non-smartphones (i.e., "feature phones")—or smartphones that otherwise don't take advantage of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). This low-bandwidth version of OWA still includes Outlook features such as Tasks, GAL look up, Calendar, Contacts—basically, the whole thing. However, it's important to note that this version is outside of EAS control should you choose to enable it. In the TechEd Session, Taylor noted that this feature, which is similar to Exchange 2003's Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) though from completely new code, was added to facilitate OWA connections in regions of the world, such as Japan, where people still largely employ browser-based email on their mobile devices.
The final new feature, and probably the biggest of the lot, is the GAL Segmentation promised in the session title. This feature actually made its debut on the Exchange Team Blog back in January, although the TechEd presentation showed it in a much more fleshed-out form. GAL Segmentation lets you divide your GAL into logical units—say, by office location or job function—such that end users will have permission to view only that segment of the GAL to which they are assigned. You'll use Address Book Policies (ABPs) to set appropriate permissions. This feature is certainly one that many organizations have been waiting for; let's hope it's easy to implement and manage in the final release. Also, keep in mind that there are limitations on when ABPs apply, such as they work only when connecting through an Exchange 2010 SP2 Client Access server.
In addition to these new features, SP2 also includes the standard host of bug fixes, including all the fixes previously released for Exchange 2010 SP1 through rollup and so forth. We can probably expect some changes in how the final features appear when Exchange 2010 SP2 gets released, and questions remain—such as whether SP2 will get a public beta period. Also, note that this update will require schema changes, so get ready for all the fun that entails.
For all those Exchange admins out there who couldn't attend this year's TechEd to view this session live—great news! Microsoft has made the entire session video available for viewing; you watch it at Microsoft's Channel 9 website. Also, stay tuned here as well as to the Exchange Team Blog for any new information that becomes available.
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