Overview of E12 Features (Part 2)

If you missed the first part of this series please read Overview of E12 Features




One of the things that made Windows a slow, heavy and somewhat vulnerable operating system was its backward compatibility. Of course this was required because you couldn’t expect people to simply re-write their applications every five years. With Exchange, backward compatibility meant architecture problems with lots of unwanted leftovers from NT and Exchange 5.5 making their way into the builds.


In a bold move, Microsoft decided to make E12 a 64-Bit only product. While this might seem like a big surprise, it is actually consistent with the way Microsoft behaved in the past, as it dropped unwanted platforms as the effort required for maintaining billion lines of codes across various platforms is not an easy task, even with the advantages of the .NET platform.


64-Bit code means better use of new 64-bit hardware which is readily available today, which also means that you wouldn’t be able to install Exchange on hardware that you purchased before 2005, limiting migrations to new hardware.


E12’s use of databases will be optimized for 64-bit use which entails a few changes. Log files size will grow from 4MB to 6MB and you will get better throughput making Exchange faster in serving clients.


You will be able to host more users per server and make better use of server memory. Anyone who has installed Exchange with 1GB or more knows about tinkering with boot.ini switches to enable better use of large memory capacities which are now pretty standard.  This will of course not be the case with the use of 64-bit that has a larger memory table. Those of you who noticed that Exchange doesn’t really get much faster when you add memory above 1GB are in for a good surprise with E12. Of course, with some of the new features more available memory will be required.


In order to migrate to E12 you should prepare a temporary Exchange 2003 to move the mailboxes to, if you don’t intend to buy a brand new server. Also, you should check with your vendor that Windows 2003 64-Bit Edition is supported on your hardware. You should also find out whether your backup and anti-virus vendors support E-12. Since Microsoft is slowly inching towards its own backup and anti-virus solutions, I guess those will be ready before the rest.


More Database Improvements


While Exchange, as mentioned in previous articles, is not exactly an SQL grade database, it will improve with E12.


Thankfully, there will be no more STM files. One might wonder what genius programmer thought that juggling data from one file to another was a good idea. STM files have been known to suddenly inflate and produce all kind of problems, sometimes as a result of antivirus misconfigurations. Exchange will have a different mechanism for providing web content which will also mean that not all Exchange servers will have to provide Outlook Web Access.


You will be able to host 50 databases on a single server with the Enterprise edition of E12 and use up to 2 billion log files. This might seem like a strictly theoretical limit, especially if you backup your server every day, but Microsoft wants to push its products to the data center arena and beyond where the so called “PC” computing was never an alternative. Even Microsoft itself does not host Hotmail on Exchange servers (though, interestingly enough in my tiny country, it does).  Microsoft wants Exchange as a viable hosting platform and this will become a much better option with E12 being able to support more users per server.


Database improvements along with the move to 64-bit architecture means that Exchange will load and unload faster. The slow shutdown issues of Exchange servers that are also domain controllers, for example, will disappear completely. Also, defargmenation and database integrity checks will be faster and better.


Outlook Voice Access


This seems to be the coolest feature of them all, but of course it requires you to own an expensive state-of-the-art PBX system to implement it. Your PBX system will have to support TCP/IP to open a connection to the Outlook Voice Access module.


Knowing Microsoft, they will probably have a list of certified vendors by the end of 2006.


Outlook Voice Access is the product of years of development at Microsoft of voice recognition technologies. It sounds like something out of a science fiction TV series. It is designed to sound like a real female secretary, mimicking real life voice interaction.


You call your mailbox, can listen to your e-mail and the list of daily appointments and even perform rescheduling. Due to the infinite use of human languages Outlook Voice Access will never be 100% accurate but I’m certain it will improve through time after a few cycles with the general pubic.


I wonder how far this technology will go. Will we have the option to pick the voice we want? Will there be support for every localized Exchange version?  Time will tell.




Microsoft seems to leave no feature of Exchange unturned. E12 will be a major upgrade for Exchange if there ever was one. Some parts are rewritten and some provide totally new features. It will definitely be worth the upgrade but you need to have the right hardware to install it and make use of some of its advantages.


If you missed the first part of this series please read Overview of E12 Features

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