Fellow MVP and all-around ace Michael B. Smith just published an article accurately titled “Exchange Server 2013 Gotchas.” Rather than editorialize, I’ll just ask that you read the article and consider the list of issues he’s found.
I don’t agree that all the things he lists as faults are actually faults; for example, I have no problem with Outlook 2003 no longer being supported, and it doesn’t matter to me that installation is slow. Many of the other items he lists have fairly low impact, such as the absence of the Edge Transport role (which very few of my customers use) or the fact that there is no longer a separate UM role– very few organizations have enough concurrent calls to warrant investing in a dedicated UM server. No one likes to see functionality disappear, such as the loss of S/MIME support in OWA, but at the same time we’ve gotten a ton of new functionality (including offline mode and touch mode in OWA, to name two possible reasons why S/MIME was deprioritized.)
Having said that, there are a number of his points that I agree with wholeheartedly. The documentation is clearly not finished; there are many missing pieces, and this is compounded by Microsoft’s still-unresolved decision to change the way TechNet URLs work. The Exchange 2013 message hygiene functionality is useful but limited, and the fact that there is still no way to deploy Exchange 2013 into an existing Exchange 2007/2010 organization is difficult to swallow– Microsoft must know that this is a huge bottleneck for deployments, so there must be some very good reason why the needed coexistence patches have not yet been released.
I don’t think I’d agree with his opinion that “Exchange 2013 is not ready for prime time,” though. Shipping is a feature in itself, and while that’s no excuse to rush a poorly designed or unstable product out the door, I think that Microsoft generally does a good job of balancing market demand for releases against the engineering and support effort required to prepare those releases. With Kevin Allison’s many public statements about getting to a more stable, predictable release cadence for Exchange (both as an on-premises product and a service), I think the new normal is going to be seeing more frequent, more incremental releases. Exchange 2010 RTM, of course, lacked a number of features (such as the ability to manage public folders) that were added in SP1, so the idea of shipping what’s ready to hit a schedule and fleshing it out in an incremental release is nothing new.
Michael’s larger point is well taken: before you deploy Exchange 2013, you should be very sure that you understand how it differs from previous versions and how those differences may affect your messaging operations. As Tony and I work on Exchange 2013 Inside Out, we are taking careful note of the kinds of issues Michael points out, as well as how Microsoft responds to them; we’ll keep doing so throughout the release of Exchange 2010 SP3 and, eventually, Exchange 2013 SP1, to make sure that the book reflects the best available knowledge when it’s released later this year.
In possibly related news, if you’re interested in software engineering and release management issues, I suspect Steven Sinofsky’s new blog, Learning by Shipping, might be of interest to you.
Now, back to the unified messaging chapter… and go Seahawks!