Companies still using Exchange Server 5.5 will get one more year of support as they continue their conversions to the next version of Microsoft's messaging platform.
Microsoft said this week that it will waive fees for the first year of extended support for Exchange 5.5, from Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2004. Customers can buy an additional year of extended support, which would end Dec. 31, 2005.
The extension will be welcome because, even though customers are moving to Active Directory and Exchange 2000, there are a large number of customers whose migrations are still in progress.
"This news affects us positively," said Ibrahim Abdul-Karim, exchange administrator for Delaware Investments, Philadelphia. "It gives us more time to test."
There are many customers like Delaware Investments that are in the process of planning their migrations but haven't yet begun them. IT departments are in three different camps, Abdul-Karim said. There is one group that buys the latest and greatest software and puts its trust in the software. A second group doesn't care. And a third group does research and requires stability before an upgrade takes place.
"The premise is if it's not broke, don't fix it, and if you've got a lot invested in the current release, and the next release won't give you that much advantage, you don't rush to change," he said.
PHH Arval, a division of Cendant Corp., Baltimore, is planning a move to Exchange 2003, but right now, 17 of its corporate locations are still on Exchange 5.5. "The support extension for Exchange 5.5 is a big deal for us, as it lessens the pressure to upgrade," said Paul Edwards, Windows administrator at PHH Arval. "Our schedule probably won't change all that much, but we can relax a bit more."
According to Forrester Research, about half of Microsoft's enterprise customers have already migrated to Active Directory, but only about 15% to 20% of Exchange customers have moved from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000. "It makes good sense for Microsoft to extend support for one more year," said Jonathan Penn, an analyst at Forrester, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm. "People are moving, but it takes time to move to Active Directory and then plan the Exchange topology."
Other analysts agree. "There are still a substantial number of people on Exchange 5.5," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, Kirkland, Wash. "It's a big enough number, and Microsoft wants to give these people some comfort level, not put pressure on them."
In October 2002, Microsoft released product life cycle guidelines so customers can plan their upgrades and have up-front knowledge about when mainstream support for their software will expire. Products are given five years of free support from their date of release and then two additional years of support for a fee.
Previously, Microsoft had said it would extend support for another year for its widely used NT 4.0 server product. Customers are able to get security fixes and patches until the end of 2004.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Best Web Links: Exchange and other groupware
Expert Advice: Migrating mailboxes from Exchange 5.5. to Exchange 2000
Expert advice: Submit an Exchange migration question