Tell us what you think: Silverlight for Exchange management UI?


The Exchange UI team is investigating possible technologies we could use in future releases of management tools. One potential technology we could use is Silverlight. This would provide the ability to offer rich management features in a web-based interface, but would require that Silverlight be installed on PCs that were used to run those web-based tools.

We'd like to get your feedback on whether you think this would be a good idea or not. Also please note it is only an idea at this point.

If you have a few minutes, we'd appreciate it if you could go to the following link to complete a brief survey in order to provide your opinions on this.

Link to survey

Thanks!

- Karl Bystrom

Comments (30)
  1. GoodThings2Life says:

    I think this would be a brilliant feature, if the tools are at least as complete as the admin console is currently.

    Silverlight is certainly a lot easier (and already largely present) install on a system than the existing toolset is, so accessing them as an OWA extension would be fantastic.

  2. Jon Davis says:

    I’m going to take a non-end-experience approach to commeting on this.

    I’m not enthusiastic about Silverlight as it doesn’t have, for example, real windowing. I would say that using Silverlight as the interface is a great idea if it means greater development productivity for the MS Dev and MS QA teams to produce the same (or more/better) UI. If DHTML/AJAX is more productive and quality-testable for the same basic tasks, stick with it.

    I come from a mindset where I believe that a product is only as good as the developers’ experience was, because the end product its their fruit. For example, a *good* DHTML/AJAX developer not hampered by the oil+water scenario of ASP.NET Web Forms + custom Javascript can get much done very fast and produce a very high quality product. Silverlight’s developers are new to productive development workflow because Silverlight itself is still relatively new.

  3. Wayne Hoggett says:

    I was under the impression that the GUI was just that, a GUI for Powershell running in the backend. Would silverlight still function in the same way?

  4. A Silverlight version of the EMC would be fantastic.  Would definitely make it easy for field engineers to show up onsite and just launch a web admin panel for their customer’s Exchange org.

    Maybe something that could also be published via ISA etc.

  5. james says:

    I agree with Jon.  Granted I spend much of my time in EMS and mainly use the Gui for basic things and for that "feel good" value of seeing things set correctly.  As long as you don’t do the same thing that was done with Exchange 2007 pre-SP1 and release a Gui that is very limited in showing what can be done/configured in Exchange then I guess it doesn’t realy matter.

  6. John B. says:

    Just took the survey.

    How about putting EMS in Silverlight?  I, like James, rarely open the EMC unless it’s quicker to find the info there vs. the EMS.

    I would love to be able to hit a web browser and execute saved scripts, cmds, etc.

  7. Bring It says:

    Great! Though I’d even take JAVA on Ubuntu if it gets more configuration tasks out of Powershell. : )

  8. Ian-7890 says:

    I vote for Silverlight within EX 2010 management UI!

  9. Stive says:

    Silverlight as new OWA GUI thats fantastic. But Silverlight as a new Management GUI i think this is the breakup. The Management GUI in a Webbased Technologie rewriting is a bad idea. We have seen this be the change from a Standard GUI to a Web Java GUI on a populate Antivirus Product. It was no longer useful for us. It had so many bugs and problems only from the GUI and not from Product him self. I now that Silverlight is not a Web GUI but it coms from this World and it is on the moment a Child from the Technologie. And finaly all Other Microsoft Application GUIs ar NOT in Silverlight. Keep it consistent with all Other Product.

  10. AndrewM says:

    It’s an interesting idea; my concerns would be:

    * People need to admin their servers locally, and it’s preferable not to install things like java, flash and silverlight onto servers.  These tools are for browsers and internet surfing, they get vulnerabilities, they need patching.  I’m a firm believer that the less there is installed on a server, the less there is to go wrong.  You might argue that you shouldn’t admin locally, but *never* admin locally?  

    * The MMC was supposed to be the unifying admin interface, and the concept is sound.  I’d be wary of having different products administered in different ways.  

    But I’d say something needs to be done, development of the management UI has fallen behind and it’s no longer fully functional.  Powershell has great potential, but it’s not strong on "rummage around until you find what you need".  Everything that’s in Powershell should be in the UI, whatever that might be.

  11. Richard Sobey says:

    I would have no problem with that at all, provided that I don’t have to wait all day for the EMC to load as it does currently. It’s very slow!

  12. CharlesL says:

    The EMC takes forever to load today.  If you could speed that up somehow…

  13. pete says:

    All things considered it may work out well especially considering that all future administration is planned to be done through the MS Surface UI and not from the local Exchange server.

    :)
    http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2009/04/01/450956.aspx

  14. John says:

    Silverlight or no – I got no strong feelings either way but…

    +100 on the terrible performance of current UI. It is TERRIBLE. I am blown away this is acceptable to the Exchange team and that it is being shipped! As someone who used Exchange for many years, as soon as we hit MMC 3.0 + managed code for the UI, things went south in a hurry and it is only getting worse?

  15. Michael Dragone says:

    Doesn’t sound too bad. Would be awesome for managing the Microsoft Online version of Exchange.

  16. polycarpbyers says:

    I’m a firm believer in management tools that are cross platform.  I want to be able to do my basic administrative tasks from whatever platform I happen to be on – Windows, Linux or MacOS.

  17. Bob Hyatt says:

    While I appreciate there needs to be something for managing Live@Edu/Exchange Online/etc remotely that dont work well with MMC, could you not just work with the relevant dev team to make MMC 3 work over HTTPS? I hate the way the "next best mangement thing" keeps coming along so often!

    Also, what’s wrong with AJAX anyway if you want cross platform? Remeber Linux has to wait for Moonlight to catchup and there are other platforms that have no Silverlight plugin.

    Putting so much effort into a Silverlight interface, when there are plenty of more important issues with Exchange, seems like a waste of resource to me. How about improving IMAP performance, features and reliability, speeding up MMC 3, improving linux support for OWA, helping the Entourage team with their Outlook for Mac project to get feature parity this time around, implementing a standards based calendar server model to remove issues with sync from mutlitple clients, having true -seamless- cluster failover, making DPM 2007 reliable for exchange. These would all be higher on my list if you want to impress IT admins on the front lines and get people raving about Exchange and trying to convert the uninitiated.

    Please consider working through the bug lists and architecture issues with extra resources before bolting on yet more new things.

    PS PowerShell underlying at the core of every GUI feature (or a decent management API) is critical, people have to be able to automate when you have 20k users! Without this we wouldnt be using Exchange.

  18. David Green says:

    Be sure to keep the powershell support as strong as it is now.  As already pointed out, large deployments need the ability to automate.

    Regarding the use of Silverlight, if it opens up the administration model where cross platform administration is allowed while still being very secure, it would be a win.

  19. Liam Dye says:

    I don’t care as long as they keep the current UI. However the current performance sucks. I normally have it open in a different RDC tab and check every 10 minutes to see if has loaded. This is ridiculous.

  20. Sebest says:

    I hate Web-Based tools for many reasons:(

    Performance, stability, compatibility problems, web desgin has less informations on the pages, and so on.

  21. pw says:

    I would rather see xhtml/ajax based service and not silverlight one because this is definitely *not* web based interface. if you insist on silverlight then consider winforms/wpf app on client side and user web services to get into server but please do not call silverlight app an web interface

  22. iamme says:

    Well, the performance of the current tools is just crap.   I think anything would be better at this point.

  23. adam says:

    Silverlight sounds like an Ivory Tower… Perfectly configurable, secure, transferrable, accessible, etc…

    I am more interested in Usable, available, and controllable(you cannot End Process a Web Console that is frozen).

    Any useful toolset is going to mature in the real world.

    How about an IExchangeAdmin? That would be +10 usefull.

  24. e-s says:

    AWESOME!! please do!

    It will save alot of troubles installing all the tools for the helpdesk

    wont need x64 workstations for them as well

  25. swb311 says:

    Silverlight is too obscure of a language to use for something as important as Exchange management.  Network admins don’t need to be locked into more proprietary languages that won’t last more than a few years.

    What about something standardized like PHP or Java?

  26. Phil Cockfield says:

    I’m very interested in how the comments and responses to your survey culminate in a decision to if/how you roll out administration UI in Silverlight.

    For my part I think it is the correct approach to take (for both sophistication of UI, plus reach of deployment via the browser).

    Anyhow, will you be posting more on this subject after the survey is in?  Thanks.

  27. MrEBE says:

    Silverlight for ADmin tool ?? please.

    How long before some security issues ? Patchs etc..

    Aren’t we looking for smaller surface area, less patch, CORE-able things, etc ?

    Keep the web for web stuff, IT stuff for IT..

    beside, thank you for all the job on Exchange 2010, seems very promising.

  28. fern says:

    i have not been able to install any rollups from my last 5.  i get the owa blank page when i install rool up 9, yes ive checked and ensured .net, logon.apx files, etc… are not custom, etc…

    could there be something wrong with 1-5 rollups that is causeing 9 to fail? thanks fern

  29. Matt says:

    For the slow Management Console that people are experiencing, I find that this is do to the the store service not releasing memory in a timely fashion.  The server is essentially starved for RAM for all other processes.  This fix for me was to manually configure a limit on the amount of memory that can be consumed by the store service.  The happy point for me seemed to be around 1GB of free RAM on the server.  

    This makes RDP and EMC very fast as there is always free RAM available.  Maybe would be a fix for those with a slow EMC.

    As for silverlight in EMC?  Please do NOT do this.  I also vote for having ALL powershell functionality in the EMC.  The 2007 EMC seems like an afterthought that was thrown together at the last moment.  I STILL need to use Exchange System Manager to get a quick summary of mailboxes, their number of items and storage size.  I know there is a powershell command for this somewhere, but when you have to wear 10 hats in a smaller company it is just not practical to go looking for the correct powershell command.

  30. Business says:

    Making a web page that works requires a lot of sensitivity to the various forces at work.

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