There comes a point in the lifecycle of every product when it becomes boring. I fear that's the point now reached by Exchange 2013.
We've been through the joy of the first deployments, the disappointments of the first bugs, the insanity of the first cumulative updates and the new problems introduced by the updates, the relief of Service Pack 1, and the realization that Managed Availability is really quite good when treated with respect. And now, with the appearance of the eighth cumulative update, Exchange 2013 is on the cusp of boring administrators because it just works.
Perhaps my attention is being distracted by the promise of Exchange 2016 and the commencement of a new cycle of joy, bugs, and frustration. Perhaps it's that Exchange Online has gotten under my skin to a point where I dislike the need to install software on capricious servers. Or maybe it's just because after over twenty years of following Exchange product cycles, I've become a little boring myself.
So here's the news. Microsoft has released Exchange 2013 CU8 (build 1076.009), now available for download along with Exchange 2010 SP3 RU9. CU8 installs like any other cumulative update and it looks, behaves, and reacts like Exchange 2013 CU7, CU5, or CU5. Or SP1 for that matter.
Sure, each new update makes the software more reliable because bugs are being quashed. Each update brings its own little ray of sunlight in the form of more functional software and CU8 does its best, really, to inspire with the news that Outlook Web App now deigns to acknowledge that customers have been using public folders to host shared calendars and contacts since Exchange left its diapers behind.
But because Outlook Web App is a mail client, it won't let you create these folders or assign permissions to them. Or deal with public folders that hold shared tasks. All of that kind of boring but really essential stuff is left to Outlook to handle. And desktop Outlook rather than any of the other stuff that's been labeled with Outlook in the recent past.
A further blast of excitement comes from the news that public folder migrations can now use parallel threads. One for each target public folder mailbox to be precise. Yes, I know it's hard to restrain your excitement when you realize just how much more quickly migrations will proceed. But do try, because this is actually an important change that will reduce the timescale required for public folder migrations quite dramatically.
I did get a little twinge of excitement when I discovered a reference to the Office Graph in the performance counters installed by a beta version of CU8. Had Microsoft decided to deliver an on-premises version of the graph database that underpins features like Office Delve, now that Delve can deal with Exchange attachments? But no, it's nothing like that. It's just some internal stuff. Or so I am told.
I'm certain that the folks at Microsoft who push out the cumulative updates are very relieved to be boring. Every time that a cumulative update runs into problems, like the ActiveSync and co-existence issues experienced with Exchange 2013 CU6, it causes a whole heap of heartache as developers struggle to figure out why problems appear after testing and what should be done to fix the bugs so that a patch can be made available. Exchange 2013 CU7 (December 9, 2014) proved to be pretty solid since it appeared, but Exchange 2010 SP3 RU8 had to be withdrawn and reissued due to a MAPI RPC bug, all of which made life "interesting" for the developers.
Generally speaking, you can't attain perfection in software engineering. Glitches will continue to happen (like XML configuration files being inexplicitly munged during updates), but Exchange 2013 updates now project an attitude of calm reliability. I know that I'm tempting fate here and that the potential exists for CU8 to explode with several new and horrible bugs immediately this post appears. But I'm so bored that I think I'll take the risk and proclaim Exchange 2013 CU8 boring.
There's been some heat in the TwitterSphere about the effect of KB3002657 on Outlook connections to Exchange. It's true that the patch causes problems for Windows 2003 domain controllers that use NTLM authentication. The workaround is to remove the patch from these servers - and maybe think about upgrading your Active Directory infrastructure to something more modern.
Even boring software can bite hard. Don't let this happen to you and make sure to test Exchange 2013 CU8 before you introduce it into production. There's really no reason to make Exchange 2013 exciting again.
Follow Tony @12Knocksinna