Exchange 2019: Should you update now or wait a little longer?

Exchange 2019 was released earlier this year with all the usual hype about this being the newest and greatest version, but there still seems to be a lot of skepticism. While many want to get their hands on Exchange 2019, many cannot simply download it and install it. Why, you may ask? Here are some answers:

  • You need access to MSDN to download it.
  • Exchange 2019 will not install in an environment that has Exchange 2010.
  • Memory/CPU requirements are much higher than previous versions.
  • CU2 is the latest version. Still buggy or not?
  • No support for legacy Office clients.
  • Necessary Active Directory updates and forest level updates.

Many customers have yet to take that big leap and move to a newer version of Exchange like Exchange 2016 because versions like Exchange 2010 just work and clients are happy.

End of life for Exchange 2010

The problem comes now that Microsoft is ending support for Exchange 2010 in January along with Office 2010. This means they will probably release updates for a while but will then stop as they did for Exchange 2007. This means you will be running an unsupported version of Exchange and will need to upgrade to a newer version or move to Office 365, which is essentially Exchange 2019 in the cloud.

Looking at the points highlighted above, option 2 is a big factor. Some customers will need to do a double hop if they want to move to Exchange 2019. They would first need to install Exchange 2016 and then migrate all mailboxes to Exchange 2016 from Exchange 2010 and then decommission Exchange 2010 cleanly —and by cleanly I mean going to Programs and Features/Add or remove programs and uninstalling Exchange 2010 and not just shutting down the server and hoping all works.

exchange 2019

Exchange 2019 won’t install if it detects an Exchange 2010 server. If you are a small organization that has 200-500 users, then it will be a pretty easy task to migrate users. But if you are in an organization that has 10,000 users or more, double migrations will take quite a while and also lead to end-user frustration. Not only that, Outlook clients will need to be updated not only to work with Exchange 2016 but also the latest version being Exchange 2019.

The next thing to take into consideration is the actual memory and CPU requirements needed to run Exchange 2019. If you want to install the mailbox role, Microsoft recommends a minimum of 128GB of ram and the Edge Transport role is 64GB. Wow! Compared to earlier versions, that is a big jump and means many companies will need to either go and purchase new hardware or upgrade their existing ones to meet the RAM requirements.

The next thing to take note of is that you can only install Exchange 2019 on Windows Server 2019. Yep, you heard it right. Microsoft has really upped the game here with this version. The newer operating system means more cost and you need client access licenses as well. Yes, Exchange licensing for the new versions as well as CALs.

On the topic of supported versions, Office 2010 is not supported at all with Exchange 2019 and mailboxes won’t connect. Outlook 2013 is the oldest version you can run and you can go all the way to Office 2019.

Now onto Active Directory. You need to upgrade your forest level to 2012 R2 as a minimum or higher for Exchange to work in your environment. Think carefully, some vendor applications only work on a certain level and upgrading it can cause issues. You don’t want your IT guy or gal to pull a cowboy stunt and just go and update everything so they can install Exchange 2019.

Test first!

A word of advice! Replicate your environment in a lab. With that said, you will be able to test Exchange 2019 and any changes that you need to make without affecting production servers and causing potential downtime for users.

exchange 2019

In one of the points, I mentioned CU2 for Exchange 2019 as “buggy or not?” In my lab, I have been testing Exchange 2019 and 2016 coexistence and cannot say I have come across any issues that would cause downtime or affect clients. What I did notice is that you still have the menu option for Unified Messaging and when you click on this you get an error but it was removed in Exchange 2019. This is another thing to think about if you rely heavily on Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams — you will need to upgrade those systems as well to CU10 for Lync Server and CU7 for Skype for Business server.

There are a lot of moving parts to take into consideration if you want to upgrade to Exchange Server 2019. Here are just a few:

  • Outlook client upgrades.
  • Skype for Business server upgrades.
  • Lync Server upgrades.
  • Double hop migrations.
  • Licensing costs.

Not enough information yet?

You need to test and make sure everything works before you make the jump. The big question is — should you upgrade now or wait until all the facts are in? This is not an article to scare you but to make you aware of what needs to happen for you to move to the latest version of Exchange Server.

The last thing that I would like to touch on —and I listed it as point 1 above — is the fact that there is no public download of Exchange Server 2019. You need to be a subscriber to MSDN to be able to download it. This is another cost to take into consideration. Some big corporations have it already as they probably have SQL and Skype for Business, and Dynamics or a volume license.

The final piece is that you could consider using a third-party product like Code 2 or other vendors like MigrationWiz that act as a middleman and let you migrate across versions without having to install one version to move to the next version and so on. Take note that Microsoft doesn’t support this, but it’s your choice at the end of the day what you want to do from a cost perspective.

Featured image: Shutterstock / TechGenix Illustration

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6 thoughts on “Exchange 2019: Should you update now or wait a little longer?”

  1. I’m beginning to wonder if the hardware requirements are artificially inflated, so as to “encourage” people to move to the cloud. I cannot imagine what does MS do with RAM for a mail server to need 128 GB as minimum. If you had lots of mailboxes, well, that’s reasonable, but 128 GB as minimum requirement???

  2. The hardware requirements are recommendations and they’re totally inflated. Our servers are 32 GB and using only about 50% of ram. I guess it depends on how many users.

    1. @Rodney, yes if you have a handful of users then that should work. If you manage 500k mailboxes like I do then you need “monster” machines.

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