Resource scheduling in Exchange 2007 (checking availability of a conference room)

Heard of the term "calendar concierge"? Look up http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2006/07/24/428390.aspx.
In this blog post I am going to talk about what happened to Auto Accept
Agent in Exchange Server 2007 and how you can define, schedule and
manage resources easily and reliably.

Booking resources (e.g. conference room) in conjunction with a
meeting frequently leads to multiple meeting updates, general confusion
and lost productivity for both organizers and attendees. The system
should enable organizers to reliably find and book an available
resource in one attempt and later confirm the reservation while
minimizing attendee confusion. This is accomplished in Exchange Server
2007.

  1. Exchange Server 2007 helps the Information Worker quickly find a room at the right time and schedule it.
  2. It helps minimize the effort that resource managers must undertake to manage a resource schedule.
  3. Help resource administrators control who can schedule resources.

Existing Infrastructure

In Exchange 2003 there are two ways for customers to automate
resource booking using Outlook and Exchange: Exchange 2003 Auto Accept
Agent and Outlook direct booking.

The Auto Accept Agent (AAA) is a server-side store event sink
available in the Exchange 2003 SP1 timeframe. It provides automatic
server-side processing of meeting requests sent to resource mailboxes
that have been registered with the agent. The Agent handles both
requests and cancellations and sends responses to the meeting
organizer. AAA uses EXOLEDB and CDOEX for notification of incoming
messages and calendar item processing, respectively.

Direct booking is an Outlook-specific feature that uses the
organizer’s Outlook client (Outlook 2000 or later) to book an
appointment directly into a resource mailbox schedule. The Outlook
client of the person organizing the meeting performs all the necessary
tasks, such as conflict checking and placing the reservation on the
resource calendar. The resource mailbox must be manually configured
with Outlook to support direct booking. It can be set up to allow
automatically accept non-conflicting meeting requests and to allow/deny
recurring bookings.

What is incorporated in Exchange Server 2007 Resource Booking?

Resource management in Exchange 2007 provides a reliable
resource management solution that maps to information worker goals and
increases organizational productivity. Exchange Server 2007 introduces
changes to the resource booking architecture that address many of the
concerns.

Resource management improvements have been made in the following areas.

  • Booking and search services
    • Up-to-date Free/busy
    • Integration with Office Outlook 2007 meeting request process
  • Schedule management services
    • Ability to delegate management of resource policy to users using Outlook Web Access
    • Policies and rules to control who can schedule and when they can schedule
    • Support for both manual and automatic approval
  • Enterprise-wide resource management services
    • Ability to create and manage resource schema
  • Resource Booking Attendant

    Exchange 2007 identifies meeting resources as either a room or
    equipment and includes special attributes for each of these types of
    resources. For example, a room resource includes a capacity attribute.
    Custom attributes, such as audio-visual capabilities can also be
    defined. The Resource Booking attendant provides the following
    features:

    • Enforces maximum meeting duration
    • Schedules meetings only during working hours
    • Forwards out-of-policy requests to delegates for approval
    • Provides conflict information for declined meetings

    Feature Comparison

    The below Table shows a comparison of the features available for
    direct booking in Outlook, using the Auto Accept Agent, and resource
    scheduling in Exchange Server 2007.

    Feature

    Outlook Direct Booking

    Auto Accept Agent

    Resource Scheduling

    Booking Process

     

     

     

    Directly books without sending mail

    x

     

     

    Resource can be designated as any type of attendee

     

    x

    x

    Does not require permissions to calendar folder of resource

     

    x

    x

    Resource schema

     

     

     

    Distinguish between user and resource mailboxes in GAL/OAB

     

     

    x

    Find resources based on resource criteria (location, custom property)

     

     

    x

    Add additional, custom resource properties

     

     

    x

    Resource administration

     

     

     

    Integration with Exchange Management Console and Shell

     

     

    x

    Scheduling Logic

     

     

     

    Return information on conflicts in recurring meetings

     

    x

    x

    Prevent double booking

    x

    x

    x

    Partially book recurring meeting

     

    x

    x

    Strips sensitive information from request, calendar item

     

    x

    x

    Scheduling Policy

     

     

     

    Define list of users who can book directly

    x

     

    x

    Control how far requests are booked in the future

     

    x

    x

    Define list of users who can book with approval, book outside policy

     

     

    x

    Set available hours, max duration

     

     

    x

    Custom meeting response text*

     

    x

    x

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