Microsoft sheds more light on Office 14

Microsoft has begun to share information on what it calls the “waves” of Office 14 products set to hit the market this year and next. Most of the information at this point is on Microsoft Exchange 2010, which has entered public beta. General availability is expected in the second half of this year.

There’s also some info for SharePoint, though little detail. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 will go into technical preview in Q3 2009 and be generally available in the first half of 2010.  Beyond that, we still don’t know what will and won’t be in (though we don’t have to call it that anymore).

The part of the Exchange 2010 announcement that caught my attention is the reference to an integrated e-mail archive.  Did Microsoft just enter the email archiving market?  That would certainly be noteworthy, given that much of the hot email archiving market involves archiving Exchange email.  Since Microsoft hasn’t had a horse in this race, this has been the realm of third-party providers like Symantec and Mimosa Systems to date.

On the analyst telebriefing held today by Microsoft on this announcement, I asked about this and the role for Microsoft’s email archiving partners going forward.  Michael Atalla, Group Product Manager for Exchange at Microft told me that Microsoft is out to meet the needs of the 80% of its customers that don’t yet have any email archiving technology and that existing email archiving products serve a “niche” of the market at the high end for customers that have to meet regulatory requirements for email archiving.

While I agree there is still a lot of opportunity in the email archiving space, describing existing adoption as limited to those in regulated industries isn’t exactly accurate.

I’ve tried to dig deeper into what this integrated archive includes.  Not easy, as there is no mention of archiving at all in the TechNet docs on Exchange 2010 (though there’s quite a bit of interesting detail on records and retention management).

Best I can tell, Exchange 2010 lets you create individual or “personal archives.”  This page from Microsoft explains that a personal archive is:

an additional mailbox associated with a user’s primary mailbox.  It appears alongside the primary mailbox folders in Outlook. In this way, the user has direct access to e-mail within the archive just as they would their primary mailbox. Users can drag and drop PST files into the Personal Archive, for easier online access – and more efficient discovery by the organization. Mail items from the primary archive can also be offloaded to the Personal Archive automatically, using Retention Polices…

So it moves the PST file from the desktop to the server, which makes it more available for online searching and discovery purposes.  But is that really email archiving?  I can see how that would be attractive to end users that want an easier way to access archived emails, but it seems like it would increase the load on the mail server and not handle things like de-duping, which archiving is generally meant to address.

I’m not an expert on email archiving though.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has comments.

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