Exchange Will Not Switch Storage to SQL Server

While Microsoft has said the next version of its Exchange e-mail server will be incorporating a number of improvements, one change won’t be the use of SQL Server as its storage engine.

Instead, when Exchange ships as part of the Office 2010 lineup, it will continue to use its existing Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) database — even though SQL Server has been tried and works just fine in that role.

“It was ultimately determined that the best way to ensure we could drive compelling innovation into Exchange for 2010 and beyond was to remain committed to ESE,” Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Exchange team said in a blog post.

There has been talk of moving Exchange’s storage engine over to SQL Server since at least Exchange 2003, so it’s not really a surprise that the topic should rise again, with Exchange 2010 due out before the end of the year. Exchange 2010 began beta testing in April.

Microsoft also began an “invitation-only” beta test of Office 2010 this week at the company’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans. Office 2010 is also due out by the end of 2009.

Despite sticking with ESE, Microsoft’s development team went at least as far as getting Exchange up and running on SQL Server.

“Did the team consider using SQL Server for the next version of Exchange? Absolutely! Did it work and perform well? Yes!” the post said.

Certainly, Microsoft has a lot of time and money invested in ESE. Among the upgrades done to the engine this time around, the team cited “significant performance benefits, high-availability benefits, and [it] provided customers with further opportunities to lower their storage costs.”

Comments regarding the post were overwhelmingly positive on the Microsoft-hosted blog.

“No offense, but Exchange can already be an expensive investment for small- to midsize businesses, so requiring SQL licensing would push it out of the cost-effective park for many administrators,” using commenter “GoodThings2Life”.

Yet Microsoft isn’t necessarily completely closing the door on swapping out ESE in the future, either.

“After much debate about both the benefits and challenges in moving to SQL Server, the decision was made to stay on ESE at this time,” the team said. “We continue to evaluate technology options at every step of our development process to deliver the best product and service to you and invite your comments.”

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