A while back, we asked you what you thought about having Exchange 12 ship on DVD. We also did some market and customer research outside of the blog and carefully weighed all of the feedback together to make our decision: Exchange 12 will ship on a single DVD.
I wanted to let you know how important your feedback was to us making this decision as well as address some of the concerns that were raised on the anti-DVD side. Another plus of this experience was it was a great proof of concept as to how useful this blog is in gathering diverse customer feedback, so thanks for all the comments and please keep them coming. Even when we don't explicitly ask for feedback, the comments are still useful, any time you tell us what you think about something, positive or negative, we appreciate it.
First, I should explain what would be taking up this much space. The main feature is unified messaging, which is a core feature in E12 that we're very excited about bringing to the masses (and trust me on this one, there are some amazing features in UM). The largest part of this feature are the text-to-speech engines that are needed for each language. These engines allow you to call up your server on your phone and have it read your email and appointments over the phone to you. We estimate that the final size of each language of these engines (using a non-lossy compression) will be around a couple hundred megs and we are working on including as many languages as we can.
I should also mention that it's a natural progression we're making towards DVD -- as several commenters said, "it's only a matter of time." Exchange will likely be one of the first products to make the switch to only DVD, but we aren't doing this without good reason and without carefully weighing the pros and cons (and if we didn't need the space, we wouldn't make this move). We are announcing this change over a year in advance in order to give our customers enough time to plan for their Exchange 12 deployments to ensure that they have a DVD drive available for copying E12 to a network share or for installing E12.
Some customers asked us why we don't do both, release both CD and DVD, or release a DVD with ISO images of the CD on it. The answer to both of these is that one of the main reasons we were considering moving to DVD was to gain efficiency and simplicity not just for the customer experience (since having to sit in front of the machine and swapping a bunch of CDs back and forth is, I think most will agree with me, a pain in the butt) but also to gain efficiency and simplicity on the development and testing side. By putting all the bits on a single disc, we save the development and testing time that would be needed to handle & verify that that swapping process works as expected across all server SKUs and languages - and now we can spend that saved time on adding more features that you have been asking for. We run a lot of automation to grind through basic scenarios, but unfortunately don't have the capability of automating disc swapping at the moment.
One concern that was raised was that of hardware availability. For customers who must install directly from the media and don't have any DVD drives in their servers and don't have any network shares they could copy the bits to, yes it's true that they would need to purchase a DVD drive in order to install Exchange 12. But external DVD drives are quite cheap these days (I saw some for $65 in a quick search) and prices are only going to drop. Another concern that was raised was the concept of a 'crash cart' for emergencies, and the cart has all of the media install points to get a server back up and running from ground zero. Having an external DVD drive around with the media should address this concern as well.
A lot of customers told us through this blog and through our other research channels that they rarely install from media, we heard time and time again that a common practice is to copy the data from the media onto a network share from a desktop machine, and install each of the servers over the network. In our research, even today it's very difficult to find an organization without a single DVD drive on a machine hooked up to the network that could perform this one-time operation, and we expect that to become even more rare over the next 12-18 months. Many customers also told us that although the OEMs aren't offering DVDs as standard in servers these days, the customers specifically add them to their server orders, so that's all good news. And if you weren't already planning on getting DVD drives for your next server hardware purchase, please consider it - after all, it's only a matter of time until more products (and not just those from Microsoft) start shipping this way.
We're committed to making as many customers as happy as possible. Given the sum total of the feedback we received, and the issues at play, we believe that moving to DVD-only is the right decision. We're announcing it this far in advance to help ensure that customers who plan on deploying Exchange 12 are prepared.
Thank you for helping us build Exchange 12.
- KC Lemson