Exchange 2003: What's taking you so long, upgrade already!

I think that this buildup of point solutions in the email management environment has created a mountain of technology that sits at the heart of the concern our CIOs have today. Upgrading any core application of service inside a business is going to require some careful planning and consideration, and there are clear benefits of upgrade Exchange to the latest version. Many IT departments are passing on those benefits to the staff right now, but I think what slows down the process is all of this peripheral complexity. Finding a way not to fear that complexity, or even better doing away with it all together, is going to make this Exchange upgrade, and the next few that are coming down the pipe, a lot more palatable. Don't hold back, give your users what they want and modernize - if this means stripping out some of those bits of tin in the network, then now is as good a time as any.

In some ways, I'm quite surprised to hear IT managers and CIOs tell me they're still running Exchange 2003.  But perhaps I shouldn't be.  After all, more than a third of the Exchange customer base is flying this old bird. Exchange 2000 and 2003 were big steps up from Exchange 5.5.  For most the upgrade meant new hardware, OS licenses and OS server version. Around that time I was involved in many infrastructure projects and noticed a definite buzz around the IT departments, like an excitement to be getting Exchange upgraded at last. The leap from Exchange 2003, to Exchange 2007 or even 2010 is similarly exciting; but I'm also seeing a degree of caution this time too. Maybe it's because the addition of 64bit hardware means another infrastructure upgrade, or maybe it's something else? I'm talking to CIOs almost daily, and the large percentage that have active Exchange migration projects generally say the same thing. The story usually goes like this:

Years ago when I had our first Microsoft Mail server and a windows 95 network - NT if I was lucky - everything was simple, relatively speaking. The mail server was attached to a modem which used to dial-up to the ISP and we'd send and receive our email in big batches. When ISDN arrived we really thought we were living in the space age. Our early mail server, even up to Exchange 5.5, simply dialed up to the Internet and downloaded our email, the only problems being usually related to large attachments. Life was good, users didn't complain, most of them didn't really know much about this new email tool, let alone the Internet. My biggest headache was running out of paper rolls for the fax machine. Somewhere in the middle of the 90's I remember things getting a little more complicated. My staff started to complain that they were being sent emails about degree qualifications or heraldic titles, things they hadn't asked for. Not long after that the first mass-mailing email worms made an appearance. Of course then my server room then started to fill up; a firewall and an anti-spam solution here, and anti-virus solution there, ISDN turned into an always on broadband connection. The millennium bug kept me awake for months. The addition of those point solutions continued, and still continues today. I've added an email encryption box, an archive with a load of disk space attached, a DLP solution, a footer and disclaimer box, a RAS box (remember those?) which is now a VPN box, a BES server and now I'm being told I need to make all of this resilient to the same extent as dial tone. And now you want me to strip out and upgrade the one platform all of this sprawling technology supports? Phew!!