Microsoft reverses support plan for Exchange 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2

Microsoft really does listen to its customers – especially when they are mad. The company changed course on its Exchange Server 2007 support policy this week.

Angry users put enough pressure on Microsoft over the past four months to make the software giant cave -- the company will offer full support for Exchange Server 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Microsoft Corp. reported in July that Exchange Server 2007 would not be supported on Windows Server 2008 R2 because the company's resources were focused on Exchange Server 2010, which is due out next week.

That meant IT administrators on Exchange Server 2007 upgrading to Windows Server 2008 R2 would need to do a simultaneous upgrade to Exchange Server 2010, which is not a desirable scenario.

Richard Luckett, an Exchange Server VAR and president of SYSTMS of NY, Inc., said the decision to cut support for Exchange Server 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2 appeared disingenuous.

"A lot of our customers have been ordering [Windows Server 2008] R2 without realizing Exchange Server 2007 would not be supported," Luckett said.

"It was a contrived, forced upgrade to Exchange Server 2010; if you wanted to have the new OS, you had to upgrade Exchange. And people want to move to [Windows Server 2008] R2 for a lot of reasons, but they might not want to make the big investment in a simultaneous 2010 upgrade."

On the flip side, those upgrading to Exchange Server 2010 can stay on Windows Server 2008.

Jared Sahleen, senior technology manager at Clearfield, Utah-based manufacturer Lifetime Products, is already upgrading to Exchange Server 2010 but he won't upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 at the same time. "There are far too many unknowns to upgrade both at the same time. We'll stay on Windows Server 2008 and roll out Windows Server 2008 R2 on a few servers once we get it under our belts," he said.

Microsoft relented this week due to pressure from customers and partners who were angry over the decision to cut support for Exchange Server 2007.

"Earlier this year, we made a decision in one direction, and due to the feedback we have received on this blog and elsewhere, we have reconsidered," a Microsoft representative blogged.

In the coming calendar year, Microsoft will issue an update for Exchange 2007 that enables full support of Windows Server 2008 R2, according to the company.

Gartner Inc. analyst Matt Cain said "Microsoft's intention was to spend as little as possible on Exchange Server 2007 from an engineering standpoint, so to save money and add an incentive to move to 2010 they tried not supporting it," he said. "Suggesting it wouldn't support it was a trail balloon but the outcry from its installed base was such that it had to support it."

Microsoft was getting ahead of itself; a number of enterprises are only now upgrading to Exchange Server 2007 and aren't ready for Exchange Server 2010, or they are still on Exchange Server 2003 and will leapfrog version 2007 straight to Exchange Server 2010, Cain said.

More on Exchange Server:
Upgrading from Exchange Server 2007 to 2010

Virtualize Exchange Server 2007 – without losing your job

Luckett said Microsoft has made a good decision by continuing support for Exchange 2007, especially in a competitive space.

"People are struggling with Microsoft licensing and there is competition in the Exchange world," Luckett said. "Customers ask us about other options, like Google Apps, for their enterprise mail. We are opposed to using that, but Microsoft is going to face continued pressure over pricing. "

Other products, such as Office Communication Server 2007 R2, aren't supported on Windows Server 2008 R2, but there has been no indication that the company will change its policy there.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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