Microsoft today released Service Pack 2 for its Exchange mail, calendaring, and contacts server. In addition to the usual bug fixes and stability improvements, the service pack introduces new support for “hybrid deployments”: Exchange 2010 installations that are partially on-premises, partially in the cloud.
Hybrid deployments were first introduced with the RTM release of Exchange 2010. They allow companies to migrate from on-premises Exchange installations to cloud-based ones in a piecemeal fashion. In a hybrid deployment, mailboxes, calendars, and contacts can reside locally or in the cloud; Exchange will ensure that messages are routed appropriately and shared data is available to users of both systems.
Service Pack 2 introduces a new configuration wizard to ease the configuration and creation of these hybrid deployments. The wizard enables the relevant hybrid features, such as mailbox migration between cloud and on-premises installation, and performs the necessary configuration to connect the local Exchange to the cloud one.
Such features are all part of a broader Microsoft strategy to get customers migrated into the cloud. As ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported last month, Microsoft is building the tools to help customers both build private clouds, with improved virtualization and management facilities, and migrate from private installations to public clouds.
These developments are in turn making sense of Steve Ballmer’s oft-repeated claim that Microsoft is “all-in” on the cloud. Cloud offerings such as Office 365 and Azure are not some mere afterthought: they’re central parts of Microsoft’s platform offering, and it wants to make it as easy as possible for customers to migrate to them.