Migrating Exchange at the moment? 2007 or 2010?

Microsoft, and in fact Mimecast, are desperate to get you all off the old versions of Exchange, away from those Exchange 2000 or 2003 boxes that are still out there, but for so many the upgrade path stops at Exchange 2007. I began to wonder why this is, and after a quick unofficial straw poll I found a pattern emerging.

Mimecast recently commissioned Loudhouse, an independent research consultancy to take a look at the Exchange Migration situation. The research tells us that there is a mass migration of Microsoft Exchange Servers going on right now. At Mimecast we call this 'The Great Email Migration' and some interesting facts and figures have been discovered.

Microsoft Exchange Migration

Underneath the headline research figures there is a lot going on that struck me as interesting if not perplexing and clearly frustrating; I'm often talking to CIOs and IT Managers about their email infrastructure and recently their plans to migrate to the next version of Microsoft Exchange Server; I'm always assuming they're planning to upgrade and migrate to Exchange 2010 or Office 365, but I'm hearing more and more choosing to stay a version behind on Exchange 2007, but not for want of trying.

Firstly I noticed that upgrade plans for Exchange have been in the pipeline for quite a long time. Many people tell me they were planning to upgrade from 2000/2003 versions to Exchange to 2007 pretty much as soon as they heard about the new release. But given the scale of the upgrade the project took them longer to budget and plan for, most blame their own internal and overly complex procurement process; whereby a non-technical procurement employee veto's or delays the project for trivial reasons.

Secondly, I've heard quite a few mentions of a "patch-and-pray" mentality to upgrades. Let me be clear, there is only so long this kind of support process lasts before your Exchange Admin is facing a late night and lost weekend due to some sort of failure, and that's the last thing we want. At some point the CIO has to admit the business and the users have outgrown their email environment and it's time to look elsewhere; but this overly cautious approach, akin to the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" method, means you'll never be close to the latest version. Fear of change, hesitation and caution are the enemy of new technology.

All of this frustrating behavior adds up to significant delays; delays that leave your IT project plans looking like the airport departures board during a heavy snow storm. You know you'll get there in the end, but the wait is agonizing and you would do almost anything just to "get on with it."

A permanent cycle of delays means your Exchange environment could always be stuck a version behind. Given that Microsoft plan to release a new version of Exchange every three years, I'm always concerned when I hear of project life-cycles that are even longer; how can you possibly take longer to deploy the platform, than it took the vendor to write the software in the first place? Don't answer that I already know how; project scope, evaluation, planning, more planning, more evaluation, procurement, re-scoping, procurement, deployment planning, re-scoping, procurement, and so on. Initial project evaluation to final deployment for Exchange 2007 could have taken so long, that Microsoft have released Exchange 2010 in the meantime. And so the cycle continues.

Breaking the upgrade cycle is something I've written about before; now is the time. Seriously, Exchange 2010 is worth the effort, especially if you're still floundering about with old versions like 2000 and 2003.