What started as simple messaging system back in 1993 has grown into a really cutting-edge messaging, productivity and collaboration software.Â In this article we will take a look at the evolution of Microsoft Exchange.
It all started when Microsoft migrated from an internal legacy messaging system built for XENIX, a version of the UNIX operating system, licensed by Microsoft from AT and T in the late seventies, to exchange server environment in April 1993.
There were roughly 500 users running on Exchange Server Beta 1 in January 1995 and the number ballooned to 32,000 by April 1996. And these were just the customers which were being migrated to the Beta Version. The next version introduced Exchange Server to the market.
Exchange Server 4.0
Version 4.0 of Microsoft Exchange was released on June 11, 1996 and was the first version of Microsoft Exchange which was sold to public. This version was meant to be an upgrade to Microsoft Mail 3.5.
The major improvement which Exchange Server introduced over Microsoft Mail was the use of X-400 based client-server mail system with a single database store which also provided support for X.500 directory services.
Exchange Server 5.0
The next version – Version 5.0, released on May 23, 1997 – of Microsoft Exchange Server introduced Exchange Administrator Console and integrated access to SMTP-based networks. Version 5.0 had the capability, using an add-on called Internet Mail Connector, to communicate directly with servers using internet mail standard. Another milestone of this version was the introduction of a new Web-based email interface, which, in a later service pack, was rebranded as Outlook Web Access.
Exchange Server 5.5
Introduced in November 1997, version 5.5 of Microsoft Exchange Server came in two flavors – Standard and Enterprise. The difference between both versions was in terms of database storage limit, mail transport connectors and clustering capabilities.
The storage limit of the standard version remained unchanged from the earlier versions – at 16 Gigabytes of database size. However, the new enterprise edition boasted the capability of supporting up to 16 Terabytes of database size.
Standard version of Microsoft Exchange 5.5 included Site Connector, MS Mail Connector, Internet Mail Service and Internet News Service. The Enterprise Edition introduced two-node clustering capability and a X.400 Connector.
Exchange Server 2000
Microsoft Exchange 2000 Edition or Version 6 was released to public on November 29, 2000 and was had major improvements in the limitations imposed by the previous versions. This version increased the support for number of servers in a cluster from two to four and an increase in the supported database size. Support for instant-messaging was also introduced. However, this version required full Microsoft Active Directory infrastructure to be in place – as, unlike the previous versions, this version did not have any inbuilt directory service. This factor acted as deterrence for many customers to upgrade to this version.
Exchange Server 2003
Exchange Server 2003 or Version 6.5 was released on September 28. 2003. This version had the capability to run on Windows 2000 Server and 32-bit Windows Server 2003 – and had many compatibility modes to allow customers to slowly migrate to the new system. This facility was particularly useful for larger companies using Exchange Server in distributed environment and cannot afford the downtime and full-migration costs.
One of the highlighted features of this version was the enhanced disaster recovery feature which allowed administrators to bring the server online quickly by allowing the server to send and receive mail while the message stores are being recovered from backup. Exchange Server 2003 also introduced improved anti-virus and anti-spam features.
This version was also available in two variants – standard and enterprise. As of Service Pack 2, standard version allows maximum database size of 75 GB and Enterprise edition allows 16 TB and supports up to 4 storage groups with 5 databases per storage group for a total of 20 databases per server.
This version of Microsoft Exchange Server is compatible with 32-bit versions only and will not install on 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003.
Exchange Server 2007
The latest version – Version 8 or 2007 Edition – of Microsoft Exchange was introduced in late 2006 to business customers as part of Microsoftâ€™s rollout of new products.
A milestone – or a limitation – of this version is that it runs on 64-bit x86-64 versions of Windows Servers only – reasoning behind this is substantial improvement to product performance.
However, a 32-bit version is available for trial and testing but is not recommended for production use.
This version introduces voice-mail integration, improved search, better filtering options, support for web-services and a new interface for Outlook Web Access. As you can see from the history of the transition of Microsoft Exchange Server from a simple messaging system to a complete productivity and collaboration suite, Microsoft has evolved the software to the growing demands of the market. And yes, there is no reason you cannot expect Microsoft to keep delivering what customers want in future, as well.