This week, I have some good news, and I have some bad news.
The good news: Exchange Server 2007 has been released to manufacturing, marking the end of its development process and meeting Microsoft's goal of having the product finished by year's end.
The bad news: We still have to wait for it to be available.
The release to manufacturing (RTM), which had originally been scheduled for December 8, happened a day early, on December 7. For major products such as Exchange, Microsoft typically ties the RTM date to certain milestones or accomplishments, such as running in Microsoft's production environment for a certain duration with a specified level of uptime. That's why Microsoft rarely, if ever, commits to specific dates for software releases; "when it's ready" has become the stock answer to questions about whether product X will ship on date Y. Sure, the company maintains internal goals, but the final decision on the release date is based on whether the product does what it's supposed to. (That helps explain the delays in the RTM of Windows Vista; the Windows team clearly felt it needed additional time to polish its code.)
However, as veterans of the RTM process know, just because the code's been released to manufacturing doesn't mean that you can actually get your hands on the software yet. Even at Microsoft, the latest Exchange 2007 build isn't yet widely available. Furthermore, retail builds of Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange 2000 Server were available to volume license and Microsoft Software Assurance (SA) customers before the boxed retail copies hit the shelves, and I don't expect that to change with Exchange 2007.
Speaking of builds: Microsoft hasn't publicly said how it will make the 32-bit test and evaluation version available. I expect to see it on the retail product DVD (remember, Exchange 2007 ships only on DVD), and it should eventually hit Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and TechNet for downloading as well.
The official RTM also provided some answers to licensing questions. You probably know that Exchange requires both server licenses and CALs; along with the RTM, Microsoft announced pricing information for the Standard and Enterprise CALs. Microsoft had heretofore been silent about the cost difference between the two, saying only that the Enterprise CAL would license some of Exchange 2007's advanced features (including unified messaging, messaging records management, the new Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server antivirus product, and Microsoft Exchange Hosted Filtering). Microsoft had also said that the Standard CAL price would remain the same as for Exchange 2003. Sure enough, it did—which I applaud. Interestingly, the retail price of the server licenses stayed the same, too.
The retail cost of the Exchange 2007 Enterprise CAL is $36 per seat (although you'll probably pay less, depending on how good you are at negotiating with Microsoft or your distributor). That price includes SA; if you buy the CALs without SA, you don't get Forefront or Exchange Hosted Filtering, and the retail price difference is only $2 per CAL.
Perhaps the most interesting change—one that I think is going to generate quite an uproar—is that Exchange CALs no longer automatically include a Microsoft Office Outlook CAL. If you were an active SA customer as of November 30, 2006, your Exchange CALs include Office Outlook 2007 CALs. However, if you're not on SA, your CALs won't include the right to run Outlook 2007. I haven't fully analyzed Microsoft's licensing Web site, but the wording is fairly clear: "Unlike prior versions, Exchange Server 2007 Standard or Enterprise does not include the right to install Outlook on devices for which CALs are obtained. However, for each Exchange Server CAL, Core CAL Suite or Enterprise CAL Suite with active Software Assurance coverage as of November 30, 2006, customers will be granted one Office Outlook 2007 license" (http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com/userights/ProductPage.aspx?pid=111).
Now, I'm no licensing expert, but this licensing policy clearly seems like a downgrade to me. I don't know what percentage of Exchange customers are on SA, but it seems plausible that there are more customers who license Outlook than who are on SA. However, I'd also be willing to bet that most Exchange customers get their Outlook licenses from buying Microsoft Office, so this change might not actually affect that many people. I'd love to hear your feedback on what this change means to you—drop me a line!