I think it is fair to say that the biggest criticisms of Exchange Server 2013 to date have been about product quality.
When Exchange 2013 RTM shipped, coinciding with the “Wave 15” release of Office servers and applications, Exchange MVP Michael B Smith posted this list of “gotchas” with the product and stated his personal opinion that “Exchange 2013 RTM is not ready for prime time”.
(By the way, the fact that Michael spent the time to discover and collate all of those points is a shining example of the value that MVPs deliver to Microsoft, their customers, and the IT pro community at large.)
And so the new servicing model kicked into gear and Microsoft shipped CU1 and CU2 to customers with a few ups and downs, culminating in the unfortunate recall of CU2 due to a public folder permissions issue, and the problematic MS13-061 security update which broke search services.
With customer feedback ringing loudly in their ears Microsoft took the situation seriously, and committed extra time to the development of CU3 to ensure that a quality build was delivered, as Tony Redmond covered in his article:
“…we have recently made the decision to delay the release of Exchange 2013 RTM CU3 by several weeks to ensure that we have enough run time testing within our dogfood environment.”
Let's give Microsoft the credit they deserve. Exchange Server 2013 CU3 is a quality release that, judging by the comments on the EHLO blog post, has not resulted in the sort of widespread problems that previous releases have caused.
Which is not to say it is a perfect product at this stage. All software has bugs, and having reset the bar from “it broke everything” to “I've got <some relatively minor problem>” Microsoft now has to continue to develop new features and fix more bugs for the release of Service Pack 1 (scheduled for early 2014).
And there are still plenty of bugs, such as:
- Issues with OWA and IE8 on Windows XP (let's be honest, there is still a lot of Windows XP out there)
- ActiveSync ExternalURL being removed by the upgrade
- Health probes sent from “email@example.com” (a domain that Microsoft doesn't even own, similar to the “firstname.lastname@example.org” issue)
For a much longer list check out Jason Sherry's blog post where he is tracking issues as he encounters them in the field.
So with product quality on the mend Microsoft now has to continue that focus and repair the relationship with their customers. As it stands right now they can't even publish a blog post about the future of Exchange on-premises without copping flack in return, so this will be no easy task. Clearly they need to deliver a top quality Exchange 2013 Service Pack 1 both in terms of stability and features, which I am confident they will.