Like many others in IT out there, I deploy and manage Microsoft Exchange Server infrastructures on a daily basis. I also happen to run my own Exchange Servers that host my own personal email.
Now, Exchange itself is a great product and does exactly what I expect a mail server application to do, along with some nicely added benefits along the way such as calendering, contacts, and the ability to use all premium features of the Microsoft Outlook client.
My biggest gripe with the product is not the functionality itself, possibly not even the manageability aspect (to some extent) none of that. The biggest issue I have with Exchange Server is the way in which the product has been recently developed and released.
Let’s cast our minds back to Exchange 2007, the product went RTM in December of 2006 and was a complete redesign from what was present in 2000 and 2003 which greatly improved the system as a whole. At the same time many organisations consisted of Exchange 2003 infrastructures, and probably had been since product release.
For those wanting to be on the latest product, or those migrating over you could install Exchange 2007 in a 2003 organisation and use what is known as coexistence where we essentially have two instances of the product running side by side.
With that being said, Exchange 2007 lacked support for Windows Vista RTM and Server 2008 Beta/RC releases which proved to be an annoyance to testers of those OS versions as Exchange 2007 could not be test deployed on Windows Server 2008 pre-release. The Exchange management tools also lacked support for Windows Vista RTM too, at the time
Eventually after almost a year later since initial release, Service Pack 1 was released in late 2007 to eventually support Server 2008 RTM and Windows Vista along with other improvements.
Exchange 2010 was slightly smoother in this respect as the product was developed alongside Windows Server 2008 R2 which had hit RTM previously.
However, as of recently delivery of coexistence and Windows Server OS support with Exchange hasn’t been so smooth, starting with Exchange 2013 the latest, and supposedly greatest.
When Exchange 2013 hit RTM hit RTM in November of 2012, like its predecessor support for the current Server OS (Server 2012) and Server 2008 R2 was all there and in check. Great right? Not really…
Exchange 2013 at RTM had no coexistence support with Exchange 2010 and its management tools (although fairly limited this time) also did not support Windows 8. What the hell was going on here and how the hell did that manage to happen?
Well some might say that the product may have been rushed out of the door this time around, and although that could be entirely true, we’ll perhaps never know the real reason.
Not only was this frustrating to those wanting to plan migration projects, but the product also lacked a number of features that were all included in the last few releases such as Public Folders support and the Edge Transport role.
To make matters worse on the coexistence side, Microsoft had mentioned that SP3 for Exchange 2010 would enable coexistence between the two versions, this was promptly changed again with a later announcement stating that there would be a post RTM update for Exchange 2013 which would finally allow this to happen.
Nearly a whole 3 months past since and we finally get CU1 for Exchange 2013 with coexistence support, better late than never eh?…
Again, a similar lack of support has occurred recently between Server 2012 R2 and Exchange 2013, 4 months after the OS hits RTM Exchange then finally supports it, not forgetting the many ocustomers out there who had previously already upgraded to Server 2012 R2 Domain Controllers only to be told that Exchange 2013 was not supported on this setup until SP1. Really?
In my honest option the entire lack of feature completion and support from the Exchange team this time around has been very frustrating and completely unacceptable, especially for the thousands of Microsoft customers who pay good money for these products.
My recommendation for the team going forward would be to please ensure a product is feature complete and ready for your customers prior to signing off its gold code. If something ins’t quite there yet then simply refrain from shipping it until it is, and has been fully tested within your internal environment.
Don’t leave your entire customer base waiting months before deploying products and PLEASE communicate more broadly in future with regards to feature sets and future updates. Don’t give out tiny pieces of information here and there, it just doesn’t work, nor does it cut it for anybody wanting your support.
Hopefully going forward the Exchange Team have learned their lessons from the mishaps in Exchange 2013, and won’t let another product fall flat at release just like this one did.