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Hosted Application provider GroupSpark is making Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 available to its partners today, hoping to capitalize on the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of customers who waited for the Service Pack’s release to upgrade.

Ravi Agarwal, CEO of Burlington, Mass.-based GroupSpark and a Microsoft Gold partner, said his company’s channel partners were demanding the Exchange SP1 almost as soon as it was released on November 29. “We had a lot of partners telling us that their customers were not upgrading until they could upgrade with SP1,’” Agarwal said.

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Russ Sprunger, vice president of sales and marketing at Easy Street, a hosted service provider and ISP based in Beaverton, Ore., is one of the partners that pressured GroupSpark for SP1. Sprunger said none of his 70 customers has upgraded to Exchange 2007 yet and that they’ve been waiting for SP1. “I even have a couple prospective customers who said, ‘I’m not going to use your service at all until you get SP1’, so we’ve been asking GroupSpark for it,” he said.

Agarwal said GroupSpark currently serves about 400 partners who have between 4,500 and 5,000 customers, of which only 10 to 15 percent are currently running Exchange Server 2007. He said he hoped that the release of SP1 would finally convince customers still running older versions of Exchange to upgrade.

“Customers running versions as old as Exchange 5.5, Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 are the low-hanging fruit for Exchange 2007 adoption,” Agarwal said, since they are most likely to see the most benefits from Exchange 2007’s new features.

Sprunger said his customers are looking at the security features and are hearing buzzwords such as “high availability” and “mirroring” and are asking for products and services that deliver those capabilities. He added that the updated Outlook Web Access capability will be a big improvement for his customers.

Agarwal said other partners also felt that their customers would benefit most from the improved Outlook Web Access performance and the ability to view HTML e-mail on Windows Mobile smart phones.

Earlier this year, GroupSpark offered partners a $15 cash bonus for each customer migrated to Exchange Server 2007, Agarwal said. The company plans to offer a similar incentive in January 2008 for SP1, he said.