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Microsoft Expands Windows Support for Exchange Server 2007

In response to complaints from users, Microsoft announced plans on Wednesday to support Exchange Server 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Support for Exchange Server 2007 on Microsoft's newest Windows server version, which was released to manufacturing in July, was not part of Microsoft's original plans. However, Microsoft switched course after customer grumblings, according to the Exchange team blog.

The earlier decision not to support Exchange Server 2007 had been based on scheduling issues for Microsoft's development staff. In a post from September, Microsoft's Exchange team explained that it was more important to ensure that Exchange 2010, Microsoft's newest e-mail server, would support the new features in Windows Server 2008 R2 than it was to ensure compatibility with Exchange Server 2007.

Customers complained, however, and their messages got through to Microsoft.

"We heard from many customers that this [R2 support for Exchange Server 2007] was important for streamlining their operations and reducing administrative challenges, so we have changed course and will add R2 support," wrote Kevin Allison, general manager of Exchange customer experience, in the Exchange team blog. "We are still working through the specifics and will let you know once we have more to share on the timing of this update."

The team plans to release an update to Exchange Server 2007 enabling the capability. The update could arrive some time "in the coming calendar year," according to the blog. 

Microsoft released the latest version of Exchange Server 2007, Service Pack 2, in August. The SP2 version runs on Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2, but it currently does not run on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Microsoft's release notes for Exchange Server 2007 SP2 described complex installation scenarios on Windows Server users. For instance, users can face problems directly upgrading to Windows Server 2008 after installing SP2 for Exchange Server 2007, among other mind-boggling details.

Microsoft didn't specify what tipped its hand toward making Exchange Server 2007 compatible with Windows Server 2008 R2. After all, the R2 version is typically described by Microsoft as an "incremental" or less important release. However, some of the early customer comments advocating R2 compatibility provide some clues.

A reader of Microsoft's September blog post named Malcolm commented then that lack of support for Exchange Server 2007 meant that R2 users would be compelled to use Exchange 2010.

"Those companies choosing to migrate to WS2008R2 are forced to use Ex2010 as their messaging solution," Malcolm wrote. "Since this is not yet released, it cannot be completely evaluated, plus it has the added 'stigma' (be it right or wrong) of being a SP0 level product, which still scares some companies."

Microsoft subsequently released Exchange Server 2010 to manufacturing in October.

A reader named Simon noted that he was planning to use Windows 2008 R2, but now has to consider two builds: "one for the R2 services and a separate set for the Exchange servers based on 2008 -- not what I was expecting to do."

Reader Frank T. offered perhaps the most biting critique, suggesting that Microsoft's annuities revenues from software licensing were on the line.

"Good thing we canceled SA [Software Assurance] and decided to settle on 2008 (no R2) for a few years including for our upcoming Exchange 2007 deployment," he wrote.

Microsoft plans to publicly release Exchange 2010 around the time of its Tech-Ed Europe 2009 event, which starts on Nov. 9. In the meantime, the 120-day release candidate test version of Exchange 2010 is still available and can be accessed here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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