2013 seemed to go by in a flash as I was busy most of the year. Well, busy in my context, which means that I ended up doing stuff that I like to do, such as writing this blog. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what I think will happen during 2014:
BYOD will continue to be a challenge: Good ‘old Bring Your Own Disaster gathered pace during 2013 and I can’t see that pace declining in 2014 as users demand to be able to connect the latest and greatest Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. New versions of mobile operating systems will appear to add their own quirks to the mix too and cause administrators to fret about the horrible things that email clients attempt to inflict on Exchange servers through ActiveSync. The only good news is for companies like BoxTone and Citrix Zenmobile, who will fill the gap in mobile device management left by the missing management features in Exchange.
New versions of Exchange 2013 will appear: We will have Exchange 2013 SP1 in the first quarter (supporting Windows 2012 R2), or so the wise women of the west say, followed by more cumulative updates. If all goes well, we will be at Exchange 2013 CU7 by the end of 2014 and everyone will be exhausted at all the work they have to update servers. The good news is that we can expect better product quality as Microsoft reacts to all the beating up they have received for the shoddy code in RTM, CU1, and CU2. Exchange 2013 CU3 has been pretty good, unless you use Windows XP, but that’s a dead operating system – isn’t it?
Exchange 2013 performance must improve: The advent of the Managed Store, the shared Search Foundation (noderunner), and the all-powerful Managed Availability (the code that must be obeyed), are substantial engineering achievements in Exchange 2013, but the combination of the three elements requires more CPU and memory. This makes hardware salespeople very happy and CIOs quiver and something has to be done to make Exchange 2013 less demanding. The Exchange developers are very inventive and I anticipate that they’ll do something to ease what now seems to be an insatiable demand for resources. If they don’t, it’s just another reason why people might look at Exchange Online where Microsoft pays all those nasty hardware bills.
Exchange 16 comes into focus: You might not think about Exchange 16 as you grapple with the latest roll-up update for Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the developers are going to be writing code furiously during 2014 to prepare the way for the next major version of Exchange so that they can meet the stated goal of “… the next on-premises version to be released according to our traditional release cadence (2-3 years after the previous version).” Given that Exchange 2013 RTM appeared in October 2012, the date for Exchange 16 is anytime between October 2014 and October 2015. So we will have beta builds during 2014 and the participants in the much-vaunted and valuable Technology Adoption Program (TAP) will do their best to identify as many bugs as they can before RTM. Of course, sometimes bad releases do appear, but maybe Exchange 16 will set a new benchmark of delivering RTM code that can actually be deployed in production without substantial caveats.
The Microsoft Exchange Conference will be a hoot: I hate that MEC is in Austin. Not because Austin is not a nice city, but because it’s an expensive pain to travel there, especially from Europe. Once in Austin, I expect that MEC will be a compelling mixture of new technical information from the product group, real-world presentations, and some interesting attempts by vendors to make themselves stand out from the crowd. ENow Software ran a nice competition in 2012 that challenged attendees to collect signatures from well-known people in the Exchange community; I imagine that they’ll have another interesting challenge for 2014. We’ll see what the other trade show participants can do. I can’t imagine that Microsoft will match their 2012 attendee party when they hired Universal Studios in Orlando to let people experience the joys of the Harry Potter rides and butter beer, but Navin Chand’s mind is awfully devious (in the nicest possible way) and I look forward to seeing what results.
Office 365 will hit a $3 billion annual run rate: Well, it was at $1.5 billion in September 2013 and Microsoft has fifteen months to convince even more of the installed base that cloud is in their future. There’s no doubt that Office 365 is the best solution for many companies, including my own, but force-feeding the mantra that “everyone’s doing it (the cloud)” is getting tiresome and the Microsoft field and marketing people might be better served with a more measured approach that emphasizes their ability to deliver the right service on the right platform to customers of all shapes and sizes. I definitely don’t think on-premises Exchange is dead or even slightly dying. But Office 365 is a bit of a tsunami…
Office 365 will offer 100GB standard mailboxes: No one needs a 100GB mailbox unless you are the perfect definition of a human packrat, but we’re en route to being given these monsters whether we like them or not. Exchange Online will complete the roll-out of 50GB standard mailboxes in the first quarter of 2014 and no doubt their friends in Mountain View will up the ante with Gmail and Microsoft will be forced to respond. At least the engineering work has been done in Exchange and Outlook to support mega-mailboxes, even if they might be the worst nightmare for on-premises administrators as the day of “one mailbox one database” comes into sight.
Someone will complete a large migration of legacy public folders: There was much chanting of hosanna and similar terms when Microsoft announced that the cockroaches of Exchange would be modernized in Exchange 2013 with the advent of modern public folders. The joy was even more when Microsoft provided a procedure and scripts to migrate all the rubbish that had accumulated in public folders to public folder mailboxes. Then the harsh realization sank in that the procedure is intensely manual, boring, tiresome, and prone to error. But don’t worry, someone will accomplish a large migration (more than 10,000 public folders) in 2014. And shortly afterwards they will check themselves into a nice safe institution for a complete rest and to allow their mind to recover from the trauma of CSV file manipulation.
Someone will figure out a use for site mailboxes: I like site mailboxes, but I am peculiar. Most people to whom I have attempted to explain how site mailboxes work have experienced a sensation of numbness followed by sinking into a deep sleep. The technology is in its early days and requires some jumping through hoops to make Exchange and SharePoint work together. Outlook 2013 is not too sure about dealing with site mailboxes either, so some persistence is required to deploy, implement, and use this new method of collaboration. And then you think that maybe sending messages and attachments around via email is easier and fills up those 100GB mailboxes quite nicely. Cue numbness.
MVPs will continue to be grumpy: It might be my perception but it seems like the Exchange MVPs are becoming a collection of grumpy old men who complain a lot. As such, I find the community smoothing and peaceful, but I can see how the likes of Michael B, Paul, and Ed could be construed to be less than cheerful at times. So for those of you who attend MEC, your challenge is to get a smile out of an Exchange MVP. They’ll appreciate it and won’t even bite off your head. Most of the time.
Have a great 2014 and have fun building your own list of predictions for the coming year. All we can guarantee is that change will happen… for that is the nature of technology.
Happy New Year!
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