Exchange 4.0 shipped on March 13, 1996.
Someone asked me the other day if I was going to start blogging again. I thought I had never stopped, but I saw my last entry was in October, so I guess I did…
The funniest thing I see up on my last entry is I promise to have a new entry sooner than the 5 month increment of the last post. Here I am 5 months & 1 week after & I am finally getting around to it. I wonder how these addicted bloggers keep on top of it. Weird. I am editing this in Word on Vista build 5338 (that’s an internal only one) which I did as a clean install – I amazes me still that office 11 didn’t have the word blogger in its dictionary. A bigger bother to me is there is no way for the silly little things like the words I have added to the dictionary to be moved to a new install. Group policy works great for a bunch of stuff, but some of these things just exist to piss people off…
Anyway, that’s not what I had in mind to rant about. Today, March 13 2006, is 10 years since we shipped the first version of Exchange Server (oddly called version 4.0 due to the numerical dyslexia of the marketing organization that put out Exchange Server). Over 50% of the original team are still at Microsoft & I sent them piece of mail last week (ok I was organizing a trip to the pub). I said in that mail “Even though I’ve worked on a few larger things since then, Exchange 4.0 is still defining release for me. I think 10 years later we should be pretty proud of what Exchange became & the fact it is the standard messaging system for nearly all corporates worldwide. I am now out of Exchange longer than I was in it, but no matter what I do, I still have the taint of being an “Exchange guy”. Usually preceded with “random”.”
For the first version of Exchange I worked on the connectivity bits to MS Mail (prior to this, I had worked on the last version of that – 3.5 – which was really just me & another guy– not what you would call a load of help. Of course I engaged in sneaky tricks to get that done, but that is not a story I tell…). We finished the gateway pieces (Goalline) & the directory bits (called dxa – not sure if there was ever a codename) in mid 1995 – the team then were spread out across the org to finish other bits. Normally this would go against Brooks law but because the people were consumers of what they ended up working on they didn’t fall into the holes that could have come up. Interesting, one of the proposals we looked was keeping the team together & putting them on a Fax gateway – no one could justify the expense for the business. Now there are people working on new things for Vista. Weird how the tail of something like Fax is super long.
With the team being spread to the winds, I became the dev team person to work with the Microsoft IT group to roll out exchange internally. Or more to the point, I was the whipping boy. We had the aim of rolling Microsoft fully onto it before RTM. This was not an easy task. Having been a PSS Escalation Engineer, having been involved in rolling out big MS Mail sites & having nothing better to do they rolled me into that role – I was also being the Program Manager for the admin tool at the same time. Jonathan Kauffman had been doing the ITG role before me – a weird use of a really great guys talents. Anyway, I got the role & for 8 months I was wandering around with a cell phone, 2 pagers, a big phone list & not much sleep. The best 2 stories were how we cut Australia off for 2 weeks (made me real popular in my homeland…). The other is legendary - a certain person (I wouldn’t mention anyone named Behrooz…) hit a bug in the Admin UI – he was in raw mode (ie he was super admin) & thought he was deleting the Key management Server. In fact he deleted the configuration container for North America. I was sitting in my office & also in the admin tool when I got a call from one of the ITG folks – who said all mail had stopped. I looked at the tool & hit refresh – where there had been 120 server, there was now 30. I hit update again & there were 20. That night the directory was restored as an authoritative restore – that was the first time an authoritative restore was ever done. That’s why that feature exists…
One of the best “other” stories of Exchange 4.0 is Brian Deen & a couple of others were at a bar one night (there may be a theme here about Exchange 4.0…) & someone asked him what group he was in – he replied “we’re in the most feared & loathed group at Microsoft” without skipping a beat the person said, “Oh, Exchange” - not as a question, just a statement. We took that as a mantra & over the years shirts, bumper stickers & number plate surrounds were made with that rallying cry.
The first Exchange team was a wild group & we had a pretty fun ship day. I won’t deny I had a little to do with the furniture shot put event that started up later in the day. But I never chundered. That day. I just also thought of the group who turned up in full drag – sort of thing that makes you snicker. Or smoking a big stogie on the stairs in building 16 – these days I would be run out of town. Of course, there are many years of stories I have of later versions – jello tug of wars, hot tubs in the foyer, fire alarms being set off by vps, rebuttals, etc. But now is not the time.
The funny thing that is never really grokked by a lot of people is that team was the most customer focused & motivated team I think I have ever seen here. It was the soul & culture to do the right thing for our customers. I think that really came from brianv. I know other teams thought we were random, unscientific & out of control – but I believe they just didn’t get how we knew what we were going to do & how we were going to get it right. & we were focused on doing that for customers - not some other group at MS.
Final thing – I admitted it last week but I will do it to the world. When the name was originally unveiled, I put an “S” in front of exchange on a big sign in building 16 on campus. Which led to the underground shirt – “MSexchange, its not just male thing.”
So, congratulations to all those who were on Exchange 4.0, those who were our friends out in the field & at other companies who jumped on it. Thanks.
As an aside, while typing this, I was listening to Laura Veirs Year of Meteors cd – it’s a super great sounding cd if you wanna check it out.