New Exchange Server Gets New CAL

Exchange Server 2007 will offer features to help VARs implement regulation- compliant mail systems and will come in two client access license options.

The base CAL is analogous to the current Exchange 2003 CAL and will cost the same. An "additive" Enterprise CAL, which will cost more, will add Antigen anti-spam/antivirus, Exchange hosted filtering, and voice-access to email, Microsoft executives said this week.

They did not disclose pricing on the new CAL, but said the incremental cost of the extra functions will be about 50 percent less expensive than if they were purchased separately.

The voice features would let users retrieve voice synthesized versions of their messages from phones or other devices using either their keypad or voice commands.

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Microsoft Speech Server, which provides a lot of this voice work, is in the same group as Exchange.

David Thompson, the corporate vice president who heads up the Exchange effort said the company has made inroads moving entrenched customers off aged Exchange versions. In January 2005, 40 percent of the Exchange installed base was on the old 5.5 release and by last fall that percentage had dropped to 16 percent, he said. Support on Exchange 5.5 was discontinued last year. Exchange 2007 is due to volume license customers by year's end.

Thompson also said new management and administrative features would enable IT personnel or solution providers to set up and enforce e-mail rules mandated by regulations.

For example, they could, via a point-and-click procedure, prevent e-mail from an investment bank's researchers to flow to its brokers. The admin could block all mail, or just mail meeting certain criteria and the sender could be alerted with a bounce-back message, or not, as the admin saw fit.

A lot of this added functionality is already available from third parties, and by adding more features and functions to its base product Microsoft will undoubtedly affect these providers and the VARs who do the integration, observers said.

"We already do a lot of voice integration work with Shortel and Exchange," said George Hammerschmidt, COO of Nortec, a Washington, D.C.-based solution provider.

Matt Cain, vice president and lead e-mail analyst for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, said Microsoft has a billion dollar Exchange business but needs to grow it while the overall e-mail market is only growing ten percent a year.

"So, how to increase revenue growth? You look at areas now handled by third parties. They're adding hygiene, voice mail and compliance stuff and want to monetize that and therefore are moving to a two-tiered CAL model," Cain said.

Some in the channel think with the new CALs Microsoft is adding complexity to an already-complex license structure. "It's like Rube Goldberg has moved into their licensing department," moaned one mid-atlantic partner.

Thompson said he and his group will participate in Microsoft's planned "Unified Communications" event in San Francisco late this month. That event will be hosted by Microsoft Business Division president Jeff Raikes, as well as Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of the Unified Communications Group, and Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president, RTC Product Group.

This story was updated Friday with information on Microsoft's Unified Communications event.