20 years of Exchange 2000: Microsoft’s featuritis for the data center

Twenty years ago Windows set out to claim its share of the data center for itself: On November 29, 2000, Exchange 2000 appeared – the version that, in retrospect, developed into Microsoft’s milestone for server use.

It was not so much the software itself, but its combination with the likewise new Windows 2000 Server and the LDAP-based Active Directory belonging to the latter that made the mail server so popular. Few of its other products linked Microsoft so closely with the directory service, despite its suitability as an information platform for the application zoo.

In addition: Exchange 2000 was designed for use in large IT environments, but could also be used in small companies. The data center package posed a considerable hurdle for many IT departments: After all, it was not just a mail server that had to be introduced, but also a new operating system and the AD.

Easier said than done: The installation started with one click, and an incorrect configuration deleted entire user databases.

And whoever, as an existing customer, misconfigured the necessary Active Directory connector when upgrading to Exchange 2000, deleted entire user databases. At the turn of the millennium, Microsoft liked to incorporate new functions into its software in no time at all – instant messaging, video conferencing and (early) mobile technologies made their debut as part of this featuritis at Exchange, only to develop a life of their own as Lync in the following years.

The web storage system should be the particularly big hit. Exchange technology, including many new attributes, interfaces and protocols, should replace conventional data storage. A virtual drive named M: appeared in Explorer and IT should even set up SMB shares with it.

Exchange 2000 made its database available as a virtual drive, but the database was not suitable for subsequent accesses.

In the months that followed, customer complaints about data loss caused by scans by client anti-virus programs increased. Microsoft hid the drive again with Exchange 2003 before it disappeared completely in the 2007 version – just one example of the back and forth during the development of the mail server.

Nonetheless, the customers not only forgave the technical quality problems, but on the other hand, Exchange developed into a commercial success story for the group. But after two decades, there seems to be more and more signs of a successor: If Microsoft has its way, customers should now opt for the 365 cloud.

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