Exchange 2013: The Real Journey Starts Now

By Tony Redmond, WindowsITPro [Published on 12 October 2012]

Great excitement echoed through the halls of Building 34 in Redmond on October 11 when the Exchange development chiefs met to decide whether Exchange 2013 met the bar necessary to commit the code to RTM, or "Release to Manufacturing." The vote was positive and the software (build 15.00.0516.32) has moved on to the next stage in its lifecycle, the preparation for general availability.

Given that Exchange is developed by a very large corporation that is beset by its own internal politics, the decision to release a product or hold it back is not always straightforward. In this case, I imagine that a fair amount of pressure arose from the fact that Exchange 2013 is just one part of Microsoft's "Office Wave 15", intended to be a coordinated release of major Office server applications such as Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync alongside client applications like Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint. In some respects, it would be inconceivable for Exchange to say "no" if all the other Office groups said "yes".

Discounting internal politics (yes, please, but not always possible), the bug count is another major influence on whether a product is ready to be released. Bugs are not created equal and one person's terribly important bug might be placed in another person's easy-to-ignore category. It all depends on whether a bug is obvious, stops major functionality working, can easily be reproduced, and so on. Product groups use a triage process to figure out whether a bug must be fixed before a product can proceed or can be addressed in the future, for example by inclusion in a service pack or roll-up update. At the end of the day, negotiation between the various interested parties (development, testing, product management, program management, and group management) concludes whether the code is of sufficient quality to proceed.

Customers have a say too. Microsoft runs a very committed Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for Exchange that allows customers to have early access to beta code that they can install and use (including for production, in limited circumstances agreed with the development group). The information flowing back from the TAP is invaluable to Microsoft because it represents real-life experience to complement their own testing. The TAP customers are asked to vote whether software is ready for release and their views carry a certain weight when Microsoft makes the final decision.

To read the full article, go to: WindowsITPro

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