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A Brief History of Microsoft Exchange Server

written by: Mojave Media Group•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 7/13/2012

Microsoft Exchange Server is a premier corporate messaging server solution. It has evolved with the needs and demands of Microsoft customers.

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    Exchange's Evolution Since 1996

    Microsoft Exchange Server is the premier enterprise messaging server solution in the market. Exchange was added to Microsoft’s product line in April 1996 with the release of Exchange Server 4.0. Exchange Server really was a convergence point for the migration of Microsoft’s internal messaging system and their retail PC Messaging product.

    Internally, Microsoft was using a legacy Xenix system for their e-mail; however, with Microsoft growing and really a need to move to a homegrown solution, Microsoft developed what became Exchange Server. Concurrently, Microsoft had a commercial product by the name of MSMail, which evolved from the purchase of a product called Network Courier from a Vancouver company. When sufficient bugs were worked out and scalability issues somewhat addressed, Exchange Server 4.0 was released. Work on improving the product has not stopped since then as shown in the Exchange Server Release table shown as Table 1.

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    Release Version with Release Date & KB Article

    • Exchange 4.0 RTM, Apr-96 -
    • Exchange 4.0a RTM, Aug-96 -
    • Exchange 4.0 SP1, May-96 -
    • Exchange 4.0 SP2, Aug-96 -
    • Exchange 4.0 SP3, Nov-96 -
    • Exchange 4.0 SP4, Apr-97 -
    • Exchange 4.0 SP5, May-98 -
    • Exchange 5.0 RTM, Mar-97 -
    • Exchange 5.0 SP1, Jun-97 -
    • Exchange 5.0 SP2, Feb-98 -
    • Exchange 5.0 SP2 RU, Jan-04, KB834130
    • Exchange 5.5 RTM, Nov-97 -
    • Exchange 5.5 SP1, Jul-98 -
    • Exchange 5.5 SP2, Dec-98 -
    • Exchange 5.5 SP3, Sep-99 -
    • Exchange 5.5 SP4, Nov-00 -
    • Exchange 5.5 SP4 RU, Nov-04, KB841765
    • Exchange 2000 RTM, Oct-00 -
    • Exchange 2000a RTM, Jan-01 -
    • Exchange 2000 SP1, Jul-01 -
    • Exchange 2000 SP2, Dec-01 -
    • Exchange 2000 SP3, Aug-02 -
    • Exchange 2000 SP3 RU, Mar-03, KB815452
    • Exchange 2000 SP3 RU, Sep-03, KB824282
    • Exchange 2000 SP3 RU, Apr-04, KB836488
    • Exchange 2000 SP3 RU, Aug-04, KB870540
    • Exchange 2003 RTM, Oct-03 -
    • Exchange 2003 SP1, May-04, KB843363
    • Exchange 2003 SP2,19-Oct-05, KB906669
    • Exchange 2007 RTM, 8-Dec-06 -
    • Exchange 2007 RU1,18-Apr-07, KB930809
    • Exchange 2007 RU2, 9-May-07, KB935490
    • Exchange 2007 RU3, 29-Jun-07, KB935999
    • Exchange 2007 RU4, Aug-07, KB940006
    • Exchange 2007 RU5, 26-Oct-07, KB941421
    • Exchange 2007 RU6, 22-Feb-08, KB942846
    • Exchange 2007 SP1, 29-Nov-07, KB946138
    • Exchange 2007 SP1 RU1, 28-Feb-08, KB945684
    • Exchange 2007 SP1 RU2, 8-May-08, KB948016
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    Features in Exchange 5.0, 2000, 2003, and 2007

    Exchange 5.0 introduced the first version of Outlook Web Access (OWA), which initially was more appropriately named Exchange Web Access. It also added formal SMTP and LDAPv2 to the product. Exchange 5.5 maintained the same style administrative interface and updated LDAP to v3 and added NNTP.

    For the next version, (v6.0) naming changed to incorporate the calendar year and Exchange 2000 underwent a major facelift. Directory service functionality was now being served by the new Windows Active Directory. SMTP was handed off to Internet Information Services (IIS) with Exchange extensions. Exchange 2000 Instant Messaging was also introduced as an IIS application for corporate IM.

    Exchange 2003 (v6.5) improved upon many features of Exchange 2000, including a richer AJAX OWA client and a recovery storage group for restores. Client access features evolved as well with ActiveSync and Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) for mobile device users and RCP/HTTPS and Exchange Cached Mode for Outlook 2003 users. Instant Messaging was removed to serve in a separate application, Live Communication Server, now expanded to Office Communication Server.

    Exchange Server 2007 (v7.0) again introduces big changes throughout the application from architecture to appearance. Exchange 2007 is role-based allowing administrators to install only the roles that are required for that server. This is also the first Microsoft application to take advantage of Microsoft’s new extensible scripting language, PowerShell (nee Monad). Unified Messaging is also a significant feature addition, integrating with Office Communication Server and PBX/VoIP systems.

    Microsoft now releases cumulative updates in between service pack releases for Exchange Server. These updates are called Update Rollups. They are numbered releases expected every six to eight weeks and apply to specific service pack levels for Exchange Server. The current release is Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 with Update Rollup 2.