Exchange 2013 is finally ready for production use

Microsoft's late-2012 general release of Exchange was a beta in all but name, but now the meat of the update has arrived

Yes, I realize Exchange 2013 went GA ("general availability," meaning released for sale) in November 2012. But when people asked me about how to deploy it in their existing environments, I had to tell them to view Exchange 2013 as "beta" until Microsoft delivered all the pieces for an appropriate deployment.

As an Exchange MVP, I love Exchange 2013. But this latest iteration of Exchange has caused more than a little angst due to its significant changes (such as its new Web-based administration center, a new managed store that cut the number of mounted databases to 50, a new server role architecture, and so forth). But the greatest cause for stress was the inability to deploy it in any environment other than a greenfield. That's right: You couldn't deploy Exchange 2013 if you had any previous versions of Exchange in use.

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Initially, Microsoft told us the migration incompatibility with Exchange 2007 and 2010 would be fixed with a rollup update for Exchange 2007 and with Service Pack 3 for Exchange 2010 -- so we waited. Finally on Feb. 12, 2013, Exchange 2010 SP3 arrived, letting Exchange 2010 coexist with Exchange 2013 and enabling the installation of Exchange 2010 on Windows Server 2012. Update Rollup 10 for Exchange Server 2007 SP3 was also released. Awesome! But you still couldn't install Exchange 2013 into an Exchange 2010 environment.

Which is why, as far as I was concerned, Exchange 2013 remained a beta product.

Well, I'm happy to report that last week Microsoft released Cumulative Update 1 for Exchange 2013. With the update in place, you can finally deploy Exchange 2013 in an Exchange 2007 or 2010 environment. (If you're using Exchange 2003, you'll first need to upgrade to Exchange 2007 or 2010. Alternatively, you'll have to wait for other software companies to develop direct 2003-to-2013 migration software.)

The CU1 update requires prep work in your Exchange 2007 or 2010 environment, so be sure to read Microsoft's documentation. You'll also find new capabilities in Exchange 2013 after installing CU1, including the ability to access public folder favorites through Outlook Web Access, an address book policy routing agent, the ability for groups to manage groups, and enhancements to Exchange Admin Center (EAC), high availability, and monitoring.

Microsoft says it will deliver a cumulative update for Exchange 2013 every three months. I hope it won't take that long for Microsoft to fill in the remaining Exchange 2013-related gaps, such as the lack of upgrade capabilities for the Exchange 2013 deployment assistant and the missing Exchange 2013 Mailbox Server Role Requirements Calculator. Exchange admins have relied heavily on that calculator for years to ensure proper sizing for performance on their Exchange servers, and with so many changes to the architecture of 2013 they need the latest version of the calculator.

I don't understand why Microsoft didn't release all the related updates simultaneously so that Exchange admins could move forward immediately. Enough of the delays!

This story, "Exchange 2013 is finally ready for production use," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blogand follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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