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Microsoft U-turns on Exchange Server 2007 support

Money walking on server death march?

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Microsoft's reversed its decision not to support Exchange Server 2007 on its latest Windows Server, potentially forcing users to upgrade to Exchange Server 2010 released today.

The three-year-old edition of Microsoft's email and collaboration server will now run on Windows Server 2008 R2, released last month. Microsoft cited feedback from customers interested in "streamlining their operations and reducing administrative challenges."

In September this year Microsoft had ruled out Exchange Server 2007 running on Windows Server 2008 R2 in a somewhat twisty and turny justification posted by the Exchange team here. Apparently, it came down to a clash of "schedules".

The schedules in question were the fact Microsoft was about to release Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 so close together as to be coming out in parallel.

Microsoft today actually delivered Exchange Server 2010 at its TechEd conference in Berlin, Germany. The launch came packaged with Microsoft's standard claims of cost savings and improved productivity.

The thrust of Microsoft Business division president Stephen Elop's argument was customers should deploy the latest Exchange Server with Windows Server 2008 R2.

The company claimed Exchange Server 2010 users can get up to 70 per cent "cost savings" using the server's simplified high-availability model and support for lower-cost storage. There were also the generally hard to disprove claims of improved productivity - 20 per cent this time, thanks to Exchange Server 2010's universal inbox.

Microsoft's also paid Forrester to prove that upgrading to Exchange Server 2010 or Windows Server 2010 will mean customers see payback in less than six months.

It was a similar story three years ago, with the release of Exchange Server 2007, Office 2007 and Windows Vista.

For customers on the sharp-end of buying and installing software, though, the real return on investment for Exchange Servers comes when you can keep using what you've only just purchased, and when you're not forced by Microsoft on to the next version of its software.

On hearing the news the Exchange team didn't have the time to put Exchange Server 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2, blog commentor Alexander said Microsoft should change its policy for customers who don't want to upgrade to Exchange 2010.

"You don't need to support all the features of R2 with Exchange 2007, just make it work similar to R1 once Exchange 2010 is out," Alexander wrote.

The decision not only left a bad taste in the mouth for some, it also meant the prospect of lost revenue for Microsoft.

A customer called Derek said his company had been poised to drop "12 million" - the currency is not clear - on unspecified, new server operating system licenses - presumably Windows Server 2008 R2 - and hardware to run Exchange Server 2007.

"Since this has come to our attention, a lot of our upper management, who are mostly technically inclined, are quite upset about this. Upset to the point that they are now rethinking their decision on using Exchange 2007 and staying with the current solution," Derek wrote.

"If we cannot meet our mandate of using the same OS for all servers and a standard collaborative mail server architecture from Microsoft, then we will have to look at other offerings." ®

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