Summarizing what's new and what's gone in Exchange 2013

It can be really difficult to understand the breadth and depth of change that occurs in a major release of a product like Exchange. TechEd featured some nice overview slides that are reproduced here for your reading pleasure. But remember, a bullet-point on a slide can lead to a mass of underlying detail, something that we might forget... In other news, an EHLO post by VP Perry Clarke simply tells us the same stuff as outlined in MEC 2012. On-premises Exchange is healthy, but Office 365 is where the action is.

TechEd North America happened so long ago and I meant to get to this topic earlier but other developments conspired to stop me. Here goes now.

Those of us who have worked with Exchange 2013 for a while tend to forget the exact details of the changes because time blurs the edges. Two of the more interesting slides I saw from a session delivered by Scott Schnoll listed “What’s new in Exchange 2013” and “What’s gone in Exchange 2013”. I reproduce these slides here because they are a useful way of summarizing the degree of change that has occurred between Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013.

Like any overview, the devil is in the detail. For example, the transition to the Managed Store and Search Foundation creates a very different sizing and performance context for Exchange 2013. The loss of support for Outlook 2003 clients creates some pain for those hanging on to these now-antiquated (but highly usable) clients. And the introduction of Managed Availability exerts an influence over many Exchange components and affects its interaction with SCOM.

Of course, it’s impossible to cover everything in two slides (such a presentation would be awesome, if it was possible for a product as complex as Exchange has become). Take the case of the reported need for the Office Filter Pack to be installed (a requirement also stated in TechNet). The requirement exists, but only if you need to index OneNote and Publisher files as the Search Foundation includes inbuilt filters to handle all of the other formats included in the Office Filter Pack and adds Adobe PDF for good measure.

Overal, the two slides provide a reasoable guide to the new features and capabilities in Exchange 2013 that you might need to acquire as you plan a deployment. As such, they are very welcome.

Returning to more recent matters, you might have seen the EHLO post ("Exchange Server: The Road Ahead") by Exchange VP Perry Clarke, who is basically in charge of engineering the mailbox server. Basically the post seeks to reassure customers that the future of on-premises Exchange is not as dank as some commentators have predicted. I've been down this path before with posts giving my view of the situation ("Why I don't think on-premises Exchange is dead") and looking at the business numbers driving Microsoft's rush to embrace cloud services ("Comparing Office 365 numbers to the Exchange installed base"), so it was nice to have my position vindicated by Perry.

In essence, nothing has changed since Perry gave the same message at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in Orlando in September 2012. My notes from his MEC talk emphasize:

  • Exchange 2013 and Exchange Online (Office 365) share a single code base. Office 365 always runs a later version because it is the platform that "proves" code. On-premises customers then get new code through cumulative updates released on a quarterly cadence.
  • The focus of the Exchange engineering group is on Office 365. Fewer on-premises "only" will appear in the future. (my view is that very few new on-premises features will appear)
  • New features for on-premises customers will evolve from those used in Office 365. Managed Availability is a great example of this in practice.

It seems to me that Microsoft has given a pretty consistent message for the last 15 months or so. It's a pity that some still don't quite get it.

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Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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