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At its TechEd Europe event in Berlin today, Microsoft officially released Exchange Server 2010, touting it as the first server in the Redmond portfolio developed from the ground up for both traditional on-premise and cloud-computing use cases.

In his keynote, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop, who oversees Exchange as well as information worker technologies and unified communications, said that studies have found the new features of Exchange Server 2010 are driving cost-savings of up to 70 percent in organizations and an increase in employee productivity by up to 75 minutes per week, per user.

“IT pros and email users say this is the best release ever,” said Elop.

Exchange Server 2010 sports a number of enhancements meant to lower IT costs, boost end-user productivity and help organizations manage risk, he said. Among them they include:

•    Integrated data replication to reduce number of back-up systems needed and eliminate need for third-party disaster recovery
•    Roles-based admin delegation so end users can take care of certain tasks themselves without having to involve the help desk
•    Ability to run on lower-cost storage
•    Unified thread for all similar emails no matter what device the user is using
•    Mail Tips: A feature that safeguards users against sending emails to the wrong recipient and otherwise provides advice
•    Customizable rules that automatically encrypt certain emails
•    PST email discovery has own server now so automatic and much faster to meet compliance demands

Elop underscored that Exchange Server 2010 can be deployed as either an on-premise solution or as a service – either hosted or in the cloud. Clearly revealing the delicate position Microsoft is in as the industry momentum shifts to the cloud, he emphasized that both types of solutions are going to be necessary for the foreseeable future and beyond.

“There is a debate over cloud computing. The debate is over how soon companies should move mission critical capabilities to the cloud,” he said. “I believe the cloud can’t be all things to all businesses. It’s not a technology ultimatum. We think a mixed approach of software plus services is what we will see.”

Elop said that Microsoft will host cloud services itself, as well as its partners. But it is obvious Microsoft wants to seed some doubts about shifting completely to the cloud. Starting Nov. 10, Elop said The Economist magazine will be hosting an online debate over the future of cloud computing between himself and cloud pioneer and founder Marc Benioff.

"Log on and participate in this cloud debate," Elop urged the 7,200 TechEd attendees and countless virtual folks watching online.