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Microsoft's support tweaks leave some email admins out in the cold

Pulls Exchange 2007 SP2 rug from under Windows Server 2008 R2

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Microsoft’s wonky Exchange Server roadmap has claimed a high-class victim in Redmond’s 22 October OS launch assault, as its recently released Exchange Server 2007 SP2 won’t support Windows Server 2008 R2.

The software giant quietly revealed the decision in a backwater blog post on Monday.

"Two primary technical points drove our decision to not support Windows Server 2008 R2,” said Microsoft’s Nino Bilic on 21 September.

“First, Windows Server 2008 R2, while an incremental OS upgrade, creates significant testing requirements for Exchange 2007. Because the Exchange 2007 SP2 engineering preceded the Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM, Exchange 2007 SP2 would have had to be delayed significantly to align testing schedules.”

He added that because upgrading the server OS underneath an existing Exchange server wasn’t supported, MS has made the painful decision to ditch Exchange 2007 SP2 support and focus instead on the existing Exchange 2007 deployment on Windows Server 2008 R2 domain controllers.

David Lowe, Microsoft’s Windows Server group product manager, said at a demo of Windows Server 2008 R2 today at the firm's London office that the decision was the right one. This was because IT departments were “more likely to do a joint upgrade of Win Server 08 R2 and Exchange Server 2010.”

Customers still using Exchange Server 2007 would probably stay put with either Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008, he said.

All very well, you might agree. But where does it leave customers who want to upgrade to Windows Server 08 R2 when it arrives late next month, and apply the latest service pack for Microsoft’s current mail server that was, perhaps in hindsight, hastily rushed out in August this year? Effectively stuck between a rock and a hard place.

And, to add insult to injury, sys admins who plan to deploy Exchange Server 2010 when it arrives next year will first be required to upgrade their mail servers to, wait for it, Exchange Server 2007 SP2.

No wonder then, that Microsoft didn’t make a big song-and-dance about the decision.

Helpfully though, the company has created a website and “a wizard that’s really enjoyable to use” for IT managers to wade through and find out what the upcoming Windows Server 2008 R2 release will and won’t support.

For example, if you want the following configuration - Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 on Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64) Guest OS - then tough cos Redmond simply doesn’t support it.

All of which might leave Microsoft open to criticism it is probably all too familiar with. IT departments might complain that such a decision was simply an attempt by Redmond to swiftly shunt Server 2008 R2 customers over to Exchange 2010.

“We felt that thoroughly validating the combination of Exchange 2010 on Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed us to focus on delivering great solutions which would be fully tested and would support the features of Windows Server 2008 R2,” said Bilic.

He also acknowledged that the move meant there would be "some downstream impacts" relating to admin-only installs.

"This is a hard trade-off to make, but we believe it is the right one and a good balance between serving existing customers and driving innovation. Hope that this sheds some light on the subject!" ®

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