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Farewell Exchange 2003

Today is the day that support for Windows XP ends, but it is also the end of another product that was much loved in its day and even now is still in widespread use, and that is Exchange 2003.

 

Exchange 2003 was where I really got heavily involved with the Exchange product. I had played around a bit with Exchange 5.5 and 2000 at previous employers, but it was around the time of Exchange 2003 SP1 release that I really started to spend time with it.

 

I was thrown in to a migration from Exchange 2000 to 2003 within weeks of starting a new job, and having built my first server, interest in the product grew very quickly. It was working on Exchange 2003 problems within the community that first got me recognition from Microsoft via their MVP programme - which I have just been received for the ninth year.

 

Getting RPC over HTTPS to work was my first major achievement, and it became one of the most popular articles on my web site. Documentation wasn't great and it required manual registry changes to work correctly.

 

I remember the joy of having the 16gb database limit increased to 18gb initially, up to 75gb with a registry change that was introduced with one of the service packs.

 

By the time we got to service pack 2, Exchange 2003 was a pretty rock solid product. Reliable, with plenty of third party support. The introduction of ActiveSync over HTTP was particularly important, as just a short time later the iPhone was released which took advantage of it. Until that point, mobile sync support was limited to Windows Mobile devices or Blackberry.
There was a version of ActiveSync at RTM, but until the HTTP version came out, it only really worked for users in the USA, who had free email to text services.

 

Looking at it now, Exchange 2003 is a fairly basic email application, but for many companies it does all that they need. However it is starting to show its age. There are problems with some modern ActiveSync devices and OWA does not like the modern browsers and unless you are using Internet Explorer, the OWA experience is pretty painful. The limitation of 75gb on a database in standard edition is very limiting for all but the smallest of companies.

 

It was also the last version of Exchange that was administrated purely through a GUI. However with email platforms becoming bigger all the time, a GUI only approach quickly showed its weaknesses and the move to a modern scripting language like PowerShell was overdue.

 

 

As with many things, it was good for its time, but the more modern versions of Exchange, particularly Exchange 2010 are simply much better, more feature rich and a lot more suitable for the demands of a modern IT infrastructure. 

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