In which area does the customer feel more pain? if you ask this question to most of the systems integrators or solutions providers there will be one answer for sure; the response to this question would be "Managing and running the messaging environment!"
Every customer has a unique story to tell about its Messaging infrastructure, starting from design, installation, technology refresh, maintenance, so on and so forth. On top of this, worrying about uptime if not equipped with a costly high available mechanism. On the other side, the messaging managers have a hard time convincing the top management of its organization for engaging and retaining the expertise & costly workforce to manage this complex environment in Microsoft Exchange. Unfortunately, this cost is one of the most expensive in the Information Technology labor pool.
If you have observed the recent upgrades of Microsoft Exchange and its related suites of products (e.g. Office Communications Server 2007), the cost of implementation and maintenance has gone up exorbitantly. Also, it's become more complex and existing expensive experts in your organization have new challenges to catch up to this technology before implementation in a production environment.
There are many solutions outside Microsoft which can provide a stable environment for Microsoft Exchange. The first option could be implementing a proven solution based on an appliance. For example, f5 provides a great appliance if you deploy Exchange 2007 in a CCR environment as it can substantially reduce the amount of time it takes to ship the logs and sync the changes in the DB. Also, it provides another appliance solution for high availability, off loading some of the application processes in OCS 2007, e.g. offloading TLS traffic, concurrent open connection from OCS client to its appliance etc...there is some nice documentation here on this topic
The second solution is letting a third party manage it remotely. There are many tools available in the industry. Eventually, these kinds of tools will enable the outside expertise to manage your messaging environment remotely. This type of solution becomes handy when the IT department in your organization hesitates to hand over the exchange boxes completely to outside.
Outsourcing your messaging infrastructure could be the third option to explore. More and more Hosting providers are coming to the market, one visible benefit is keeping away the vendor from the customer.
In summary, it's getting clearer that the Hosting industry is heating up because of the cost and complexity to manage. The good thing is that customers understand this challenge and willing to keep their options open for all type of options we mentioned above. Everyone agrees that email is becoming a mission critical application, and it's even more critical as companies start integrating other unified communications component such as presence, VoIP, web conferencing, etc, into their existing scenario - its a broader convergence step. The bottom line is the complexity around Microsoft Exchange is not going to be reduced in the near future. As more versions and additions are being released it's time to think of how we can simplify things for ourselves.