What we know about Exchange Server 2016

The few clues suggest improvements to the back end, document collaboration, and search

Microsoft Exchange tools

Microsoft has promised a new release of Exchange for on-premises admins. But numerous admins have questioned if it would really happen, given Microsoft's push to move customers to the cloud-hosted Exchange via Exchange Online and Office 365, especially since some Exchange features -- notably, Office Graph and Delve -- would be release only in the cloud version.

But a new Exchange for on-premises deployment is coming, as Microsoft has confirmed. It will be known as Exchange Server 2016.

We don't know much about what will be in Exchange Server 2016 -- Microsoft has provided very few details. It has said that the new features in the on-premises Exchange were "birthed" in Exchange Online, so Exchange Server 2016 will be a subset of the service.

Microsoft did say back-end improvements to "Exchange architecture, high availability, and storage" are part of the Exchange Server 2016 mix. So too is enhanced document collaboration (perhaps involving SharePoint 2016 or OneDrive for Business) with a "new approach to document collaboration that makes it easy to send links and collaborate without versioning issues of attachments."

Personally, I can't get the hang of Microsoft's current document collaboration approach when working in Office 365 or OWA, so I usually send the full attachment instead of a link to my OneDrive document.

Tony Redmond, an Exchange MVP, suspects the new document collaboration approach might still feel unnatural: "This is a laudable goal, but one that might run into the fact that it is terribly hard for users to break the habit of a lifetime and stop including full attachments with messages." I'm one of those users, apparently.

Microsoft also promises search-related improvements in Exchange Server 2016, such as for e-discovery search performance and reliability. It appears they'll be based on the improvements already made for search in Office 365 or the search improvements promised for Outlook 2016 based on the integration of the Fast search technology Microsoft acquired some years ago and already uses in Exchange and SharePoint.

I'm excited to see which features will make it on-premises and which ones will be kept only in the cloud. We should get the full details at the Microsoft Ignite conference in a couple of weeks.

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