On Tuesday, I had an interesting call with Matt Gervais of TechTarget to discuss my views on what will happen for the Exchange market in 2011. Matt is busy talking to some other folks and will share his best assessment of the distilled wisdom of the oracles in an article soon. In the meantime, I thought that I’d make some public predictions, so here are my four top thoughts on what will be important for the Exchange market in 2011.
First, I think that 2011 will be “the year of migration”. The majority of the Exchange installed base still runs Exchange 2003 and extended support of this version terminates in April 2014, which isn’t a long time away when you start to consider all of the work necessary to move users from one platform to another. This fact will cause companies who run Exchange 2003 today to figure out their go-forward plan and begin to make preparations for migration. I doubt that many of these companies will migrate to Exchange 2007 as it doesn’t make sense to move to a now-ageing version when Exchange 2010 SP1 is available.
I think the choice is binary. They can either migrate to Exchange 2010 or move online to Office 365. The first option will be taken by companies that run complex Exchange environments or have specific reasons to maintain an on-premise deployment. Companies that simply run email are natural candidates to move to Office 365 and let Microsoft do the heavy lifting. I suspect that many small-to-medium companies will select this option as their go-forward plan, especially after Microsoft deploys Office 365 into full production.
Second, I think that 2011 will be a year of refresh. Migrations always provoke some refreshes but Exchange 2010 will provoke more than previous versions. Why? I think refreshes are due for:
- Servers – any of the older servers running Exchange 2003 are due to be replaced. Brand new servers running Windows 2008 R2 will take up the load and they’ll be equipped with lots of memory to allow Exchange 2010 cache more data than ever before.
- Storage – the Exchange 2010 I/O profile makes more storage solutions than ever before feasible candidates to support Exchange. Anything from low-end SATA-based storage to high-end SAN will be used to support Exchange 2010.
- Desktop – Windows 7 is one reason, but Office 2010 is the more pressing influence on Exchange 2010 because you simply don’t get access to all of Exchange 2010′s functionality unless you use Outlook 2010.
- Third-party products – some will be replaced by functionality in Exchange, others will need to have new versions installed to be compatible with Exchange 2010. I don’t think that many companies who run third-party compliance products such as Symantec Enterprise Vault or HP Integrated Archive will migrate to Exchange 2010′s compliance features for too many reasons to go into here, so that’s one area of third-party action where I suspect to see upgrade action. On the other hand, I suspect that there’ll be quite a few new third-party products appearing to support the new ability of Exchange 2010 SP1 to ingest data from PSTs without using Outlook and allow companies to begin the slow march to eliminate PSTs (the most woeful file structure known to email).
Third, I think that 2011 will be the year when virtualized Exchange becomes mainstream. Virtualized Exchange is not new and both VMware and Hyper-V do a good job of supporting Exchange 2010. The point now is that Microsoft now supports virtualized Exchange and doesn’t treat it as a dirty little secret.
Last, I think 2011 is the year of the Database Availability Group (DAG). Part of all the Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2007 migration projects will be the question of high availability and how to replace all the single copy clusters (SCC) and CCR/SCR deployments that are currently in place. The great thing about the DAG is that it’s native to Exchange and hides the vast majority of the underlying Windows Failover Clustering technology on which it depends. Even better, solutions like the HP E5000 and the inevitable competing offerings that Dell and other server vendors will ship will make it much easier and faster to deploy DAGs through automated deployment assistants and packaged server/storage configurations.
Of course, I have been known to be wrong in the past and I suspect that I will be wrong in the future… but these four predictions are backed up by various collections of tea leaves that I’ve seen after recent cups of tea so I am pretty confident in them.