At the end of last year I made some predictions for the world of Exchange in 2014. As is the way of the world, some I got right and some I got wrong. But everyone loves to argue as to what will happen with technology and it’s time that I made some forecasts for 2015. Before that, here’s a summary of the year gone by in the form of some
Most helpful development: Office 365 Roadmap (now we have some idea what’s coming down the line)
Most interesting technical advance: Clutter (which did a great job of keeping my Inbox clean of all those special offers that come in at this time of year)
Most useful new on-premises feature: The simplified DAG
Most disappointing failure: Modern public folders
Most thought-provoking new feature: Modern groups (and what they mean for standard distribution groups and Yammer), closely followed by Office Delve. Groups might come to on-premises Exchange but the signs are that Delve might not.
It's also worth noting that Exchange 2010 transitions from mainstream support to extended support on 13 January 2015, a state it will remain in until 2020. Exchange 2007 is already in extended support and will exit that on 11 April 2017.
Now to my 2015 predictions:
Exchange 2016 arrives: We know that the next major version of on-premises Exchange will arrive in late 2015 as part of Microsoft’s “Gemini” Office server and desktop product refreshes. Given previous history, Exchange 2016 is likely to show up sometime in the October-November timeframe. Expect lots of information about the new version to be given out at Microsoft’s Ignite mega-event in Chicago next May. One specific topic I will be interested in is just what technology will make its way from Exchange Online to Exchange 2016.
Also, we can expect several updates for Exchange 2013 to arrive during 2015. Based on the December delivery of Exchange 2013 CU7 (so far proving to be solid, BTW), we might see:
- Exchange 2013 CU8 – March 2015
- Exchange 2013 CU9 – June 2015
- Exchange 2013 CU10 – September 2015
- Exchange 2013 CU11 – December 2015
Of course, this assumes that Microsoft maintains the current release cadence. At this point in the lifecycle of Exchange 2013, there’s a case to be made that the cadence should be extended as the focus moves to Exchange 2016, so a different schedule might apply. One of the 2015 updates might be labelled Exchange 2013 SP2 to make those who like service packs happy. But it will just be a label.
Ignite will disappoint the MEC crowd: MEC 2014 in Austin was great. There were many reasons for this – a manageable crowd, great content, mingling with engineers, partners, real industry experts, and lots of companies who use Exchange – and a few bars and other stuff like that. You can make a case that the same will happen with Ignite but I fear not. The event is too big and I believe that it will be dominated by two big marketing initiatives. The first is Microsoft’s continuing “cloud first, mobile first” mantra, which means lots of “all in the cloud” type content allied to information about just how great the Office apps are on different platforms. The second is Office Wave 16. That at least will have some interesting stuff to discuss around Exchange 16, but I think new features might be scarce on the ground and overshadowed by what’s happening in the service, all of which will mean that the on-premises community will be unhappy. Also, I don’t think that a mega-event like Ignite can recreate the closeness of MEC. Finally, I don’t think that the same breadth of Exchange and Office 365 content will be delivered at Ignite: the pressure will be on to dedicate sessions to new stuff and the corporate mantras and sessions focusing on the practical aspects of deployment and management, especially those delivered by independent experts, might be left in the dust. Fortunately, the MEC crowd can come to IT/DEV Connections in Las Vegas in September, by which time we should have a really good handle on what is actually in Exchange 2016.
Office 365 will hit a $5 billion annual run rate: I said last year that Office 365 would hit a $3 billion run rate and I think I was right. Microsoft reported a $2.5 billion run rate in mid-year, which I figured netted out at around some 60 paid and “free” million mailboxes, or 9.53% of the total Exchange installed base. But as I pointed out, Office 365 is on a substantial upward trajectory and that annual run rate will have exceeded $3 billion by the end of 2014. I feel pretty confident that the run rate will reach or exceed $5 billion by the end of 2015.
Office 365 will offer 100GB standard mailboxes: I really thought that Exchange Online would offer 100GB mailboxes by the end of 2014 but we’re still “stuck” with just 50GB. But the economic price point enabled by the sheer volume of storage Microsoft buys means that the price per gigabyte is dropping fast. Microsoft also knows that it is much easier to support users when all of their data is online and never removed as no one can ever complain that they’ve lost mail. I figure that the 100GB mailboxes are on the horizon and will arrive soon.
Someone will complete a large migration of legacy public folders: The advent of modern public folders in Exchange 2013 promised so much and so far has delivered so little. Microsoft spent most of 2014 explaining why the new design had run into horrible performance and scalability problems that meant that migrations were limited to organizations that had less than 10,000 folders to move. Fortunately, Exchange 2013 CU6 and CU7 have pushed the boundary out but a certain suspicion still exists that scalability is not where it should be. The migration process continues to be intensely manual, boring, tiresome, and prone to error. But nevertheless, I believe that will accomplish a large migration (more than 50,000 public folders) in 2015. 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.
Google and Microsoft will continue to frustrate (each other and customers): Possibly the most disappointing development of 2014 was the way that two of the most important software companies failed to co-operate in a manner that would serve their joint customers. Google shipped Chrome 37 in September and deprecated the showModalDialog method which is used extensively in OWA, EAC, and Dynamics CRM. To their credit, Google provided a registry hack that keeps showModalDialog alive, but only until May 1, 2015. Originally slow to know what was happening in Chrome and then to respond, Microsoft has been updating OWA in Office 365 to avoid the use of showModalDialog but OWA in Exchange 2013 has not been updated. Meantime, Google and Lync don’t get on so well together any more. It’s just frustrating for customers who have been told that Chrome is one of the supported browsers for Office applications. Almost enough to make you want to use IE again, which is what I now do.
Site mailboxes will disappear: I used to like site mailboxes, but as I said last year, 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. And it seems like they are right because Microsoft appears to have made its mind up that site mailboxes were no more than an interesting experiment in linking SharePoint and Exchange together but that they’d really like if everyone would use Office 365 Groups instead. And to be fair, the new modern groups are better than site mailboxes, even if they don’t currently support Outlook. But that support might well appear in Outlook 2016 in late 2015. Of course, Microsoft also has to port modern groups to Exchange 2016 to allow site mailboxes to disappear and we don’t yet know if that will happen. I bet that it will. I also think that migration from one to the other will be intensely manual. You have been warned.
MVPs will continue to be grumpy: Yes, we’re still grumpy because we have lots to complain about. We’ll try and be more optimistic and cheerful in 2015. At least, I will. I can’t speak for the other GOMs.
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