The server connects corporate email accounts to BlackBerry devices. The latest version, code-named "Argon", has been in running internally at RIM for two years, and with selected business customers for a year.
Details of BES 5.0 first leaked out to BlackBerry user forums in December, but the developer has now confirmed key functions for the release. Primarily, new functions are aimed at improving the scalability, usability and resilience of BlackBerry deployments, according to RIM.
Key improvements include an entirely web-based administration application for BlackBerry devices, removing the need for companies to deploy either administration servers or put software on support staffs' desktops.
RIM also said that it has automated a large number of routine administration tasks, and changed policies so that BlackBerry devices can be updated and their operating system upgraded over the net, either over a cellular or a WiFi connection.
"The only reason you now need to connect a cable to a BlackBerry is to charge it," said Alan Panezic, vice president for product management at Research in Motion.
With BES 5.0, IT administrators can for example set a BlackBerry to update its OS at any time within a two-week window, with the user allowing the update at a time that suits them. However, if the update does not happen within the window, the BES will take over and force the update. BES 5.0 also allows companies to distribute applications to the BlackBerry over the air.
Other improvements are aimed at improving the availability of large BlackBerry installations. IT departments can now manually "fail over" to a backup server, for example for upgrades and maintenance, or to deal with short-term spikes in usage.
High availability features are achieved in software, according to Panezic, without the need for any expensive hardware features or upgrades to the BES installation. Users should not notice if the system fails over during day to day operations, he said. The upgrade, he added, should be easier than any previous updates to BES.
"The focus is on a system that lets customers grow with confidence, rather than sexy new features for the end user," said Panezic. "We now have enterprises approaching 100,000 users and they depend on BlackBerry for mission-critical collaboration and for their business needs."
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