Microsoft has made available a preview release of the upcoming Exchange Server 2016, the next version of its email server platform for businesses, promising improvements and enhancements based on the firm's experience in delivering Exchange as a cloud-based service.
Available to download now for testing, Exchange Server 2016 was first disclosed at Microsoft's Ignite conference in May, and is scheduled for full release sometime in the second half of this year.
The new release will introduce changes in the server architecture and will make it simpler for customers to migrate systems from earlier versions of Exchange Server. It also promises greater reliability, improved performance and a reduction in total cost of ownership.
"This version of Exchange is special because it was born in the cloud. From the depths of the mailbox store to the most visible parts of the Outlook web UI, the bits that make up Exchange 2016 are already in use across millions of mailboxes in Office 365," said Microsoft's Exchange Team in a blog post announcing the availability of the preview.
"For the past several months we've been working to package these capabilities and deliver them on-premise."
The simplified architecture sees the Client Access and Mailbox server roles combined, providing a standard block for building an Exchange environment, Microsoft said.
On the reliability side, the firm said that it is using the experience of operating the Office 365 service to ensure that failovers in Exchange 2016 are 33 percent faster than with the previous Exchange Server 2013, owing to changes such as the ability to read from the passive copy of the database.
Searching has also been significantly improved in Exchange 2016, and the Outlook client will also now benefit from the power of server-side search.
When an Outlook 2016 client is connected to Exchange using cached mode, it performs search queries using the speed and robust index of the server, delivering faster and more complete results than desktop search, Microsoft said.
Exchange Server 2016 is also extending the data loss prevention capabilities introduced in the previous version to help protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. This now has updated sensitive data definitions and the ability to protect content that has been flagged as sensitive by a third-party classification system.
The preview release of Exchange Server 2016 supports co-existence with Exchange Server 2010 SP3 RU10 and 2013 CU9, but Microsoft advises customers that it should not be operated in production environments.
Additional features, such as updates to auditing architecture and audit log search, are expected to be added between now and the final release.
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