IT/Dev Connections 2015 App

IMG_0608A quick note that if you are attending IT/Dev Connections this year, you can now build your schedule using a mobile app. The app allows you to browse and pick from 190 sessions, view speaker bios, etc.

The app is available for:

For other devices, you can use the generic mobile website here.

Note: You can still register for the event. New registrations can use SPKRSOC15 when registering for a $400 off!

Ignite 2015, Takeaways

ignite ButtonDespite not being present, the information presented at Microsoft Ignite can be followed by monitoring certain sources on social media. Twitter still seems to be the platform of choice, but you may need to narrow down your stream of tweets using filters or only monitor a selected group of people. For example, the stream of tweets during the keynote using the hashtag #MSIgnite was overwhelming.

This post is an overview of things announced at Microsoft Ignite 2015 related to Exchange. Note that information presented at Ignite regarding Exchange 2016 was all subject to change as Exchange 2016 is still a work in progress.

Rumor on day 1 was that Microsoft Ignite is going to be in Chicago for the next 4 years as well. That is at least true for next year, as Microsoft announced that Ignite 2016 will be held in Chicago from May 9th to May 13th, 2016.

Roadmap

  • Exchange 2016 Public beta announced for Summer 2015. RTM is expected Fall/Winter 2015.
  • Customers can join the Exchange 2016 TAP program at http://aka.ms/joinoffice.
  • Office 2016 is now in Public Review, and is available at here.
  • Office Graph and Delve will be able to digest on-premises information via Hybrid connector and SharePoint 2016.

Architecture

  • Exchange 2016 will only have the Preferred Architecture multi-role setup, so no more CAS or Mailbox server-only deployments. Visible in Setup UI as well as Unattended setup (roles parameter).
  • The Edge role will be available in RTM.
  • More emphasis on Preferred Architecture, which isn’t very different for Exchange 2016 from Exchange 2013:
    • DAG design with unbound symmetrical model.
    • Four database copies (2 in each DC), 3 database copies and one lagged copy (7 days).
    • FSW in Azure or 3rd data center (preferred).
    • Single NIC for client and replication traffic.
    • Use commodity hardware with 20-24 core/up to 196GB nodes, utilizing JBOD with large disks, multiple databases per volume, Autoreseed with hot spare and using ReFS formatted, BitLocked encrypted data volumes.
    • Office WebApp Server farm in each DC with bound namespace and affinity.
  • Exchange 2016 MAPI/CDO is death – use RestAPI’s or Exchange Web Services (EWS).
  • MAPI/HTTP will be the default client protocol for Outlook with Exchange 2016. MAPI/HTTP will be a per-user setting in Exchange 2016. For Exchange 2013, the per-user setting will be introduced with a future CU.
  • Office WebApp Server required to view or edit Office documents from OWA 2016.
  • When required, scale up by add another node rather than scale up by adding resources like CPU or memory.
  • DAGs spanning more than 2 data centers are not recommended.
  • Use public and private namespace for Exchange 2016 Outlook Anywhere to leverage Kerberos for internal authentication.
  • For Exchange 2016, claims-based authentication will require Windows 2016 ADFS (version 4?).
  • The Exchange team put up a blog post on Exchange 2016 architecture here.

image image

Deployment

  • Exchange 2016 can proxy traffic from Exchange 2013 (down-level proxy)  and vice-versa (up-level proxy). This means you don’t have to upgrade Exchange servers in your internet-facing site prior to upgrading other locations. Up-level proxy transition is preferred.
  • Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2016 transition path is same experience as Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2013. Regarding Kerberos authentication, check guidance here.
  • Exchange 2016 can co-exist with Exchange 2010 SP3 RU11+ or Exchange 2013 CU10+. Exchange 2013 + 2016 can share one single Alternate Service Account (ASA) for Kerberos authentication.
  • There is no co-existence possible with Exchange 2007, which means you will need to perform a double-hop migration if you want to transition from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2016.
  • Exchange 2016 will support installation on Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 10 (2016).
  • Exchange 2016 will require Windows Server 2008 R2 Forest and Domain Functional Levels or up, running at least on Windows Server 2008 R2 domain controllers.
  • Exchange 2016 will support at least Outlook 2010 SP2 with KB2956191 and KB2965295, Outlook 2013 SP1 with KB3020812, and Outlook 2016 desktop clients.
  • Exchange 2016 will require .NET Framework 4.5.2. Scalability improvements coming in .NET Framework 4.6 (release candidate in preview, don’t install yet).
  • Office WebApp Server can’t be installed on Exchange 2016 server, and requires web publishing through bound namespace (and thus possibly certificate implications) anywhere you want to work with attachments from OWA 2016. Don’t expose internal Office WebApp namespace externally. Use Set-OrganizationConfig -WACDiscoveryEndpoint and restart MSExchangeOWAAppPool to configure Office WebApp Server for OWA.
  • Certificate names required:
    • Exchange 2010 + 2016: Bound= 12, Unbound= 7
    • Exchange 2013 + 2016: Bound= 10, Unbound= 7
    • Exchange 2010 + 2013+ 2016: Bound= 10, Unbound= 7
    • Of course, internal MAPI endpoints do not require entry on certificate.
  • Use a dedicated Active Directory site to install and configure Exchange before moving them to a production site.
  • Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016 introduce new OAB, specify existing OAB on all mailbox databases before installing Exchange 2013/2016.
  • After introducing Exchange 2016 to your environment, move the SystemMailbox{e0dc1c29-89c3-4034-b678-e6c29d823ed9} system mailbox to Exchange 2016, or you won’t be able to export admin audit logs, perform In-Place discovery searches etc.
  • When dimensioning your Exchange deployment, use the calculator.
  • By disabling an Anti-Virus product for troubleshooting, you don’t remove their filter driver. Uninstall if you suspect AV product, or use fltmc to list or unload filter driver.
  • Recommended to set lagged copies to 7 days delay.
  • Exchange 2016 will allow adding mailbox database copies with ConfigurationOnly to postpone automatic seeding. Fast Database Reseeds allows for up to 10 parallel reseeds.
  • On the Exchange server configuration:
    • Use “High Performance” Power Plan.
    • Disable Hyperthreading in physical deployments.
    • Use battery-backed storage controller with 1:3 Read:Write ratio.
    • For RAID, use stripe sets of 1+ factors of 256KB
    • Use GPT partitions
    • Host Exchange binaries on NTFS with 64K cluster size.
    • Host Exchange data on ReFS volumes with Data Integrity Feats disabled.
    • Use BitLocker to secure Exchange volumes.
    • Use JetStress with BitLocker and Virus Scanner if you’re going to use those in production.
    • Do not disable entire IPv6 stack.
    • Do not disable Exchange services post installation.
    • Do not restrict the dynamic TCP port range, e.g. do not use ‘netsh int ipv4 set dynamicport tcp startport=X numberofports=Y‘.
    • Use Exchange Health Checker script to verify configuration, available here.

Exchange 2016 Client Connectivity rpcreq

Virtualization

  • Exchange 2013 deployments are now supported on Azure IaaS virtual machine for production environments when using Azure Premium Storage. Amazon AWS is not supported. Most cost-effective remains Exchange On-Premises on physical hardware (or Exchange Online). Official guidance has been updated to reflect this here.
  • When virtualizing Exhange:
    • Do not use memory overcommit.
    • Hyperthreading is OK, but size for physical cores.
    • Do not oversubscribe CPUs, causes queue growth, increased IOPS due to lower indexing throughput, RPC latency issues.
    • Size like physical deployment, but add overhead for CPU (10%).
  • Exchange 2013 now supports Dynamic VHDX (not VHD!) disks for Hyper-V deployments. Will apply to Exchange 2016 as well. JetStress tests showed only 2% additional writes penalty for VHDX (for VHD 20%).

Storage

  • Exchange 2016 will require 22% lower IOPS when compared to Exchange 2013 RTM. That means that since Exchange 2003 with 1 IOPS per mailbox, we are down to 0.04875 IOPS per mailbox.
  • Search index will use passive database copies for indexing, instead of copying indexes from the active copy.
  • Delayed LAG play down, depending on disk health (delayed if disk latency more than  20ms). Replay Lag Manager will be enabled by default, for automatic play down of lagged copies when insufficient copies remain available.
  • Usage of ReFS for Exchange data volumes should result in less corruption, thus less reseeds or rebuilds. Exchange 2016 can detect database corruption through DB Divergence Detection. Loose Truncation will make sure Log Files won’t fill up disk space after extended outages.
  • Exchange 2013 and later will report more accurately on mailbox sizes. Accommodate for 30% increase when moving mailboxes from Exchange 2010 or earlier.
  • Autoreseed in Exchange 2016 can fix a single database on a volume.
  • Exchange 2016 Workload Management (WLM) adds Disk Latency Monitor. Can throttle non-critical workloads based on measured disk latencies.
  • Exchange 2016 adds predictive controller or hard disk failure, based on disk read and write latency trends, bad block detection or disk failures.

Exchange IOPS

Availability

  • Database Availability Groups are now by default deployed without an cluster administrative access point or cluster name object (CNO). This reduces complexity and dependencies, but you may need to check with for example your backup vendor as many 3rd party products still access Exchange through this CNO.
  • Exchange 2016 database fail-overs will be 33% faster. Given that Exchange 2013 database fail-overs are about 10 seconds, that should mean they are down to 6-7 seconds.
  • Recommended load-balancing configuration for Exchange 2016 is single namespace, Layer 7 and no affinity. Use load balancer with per-service monitors and features like Slow Ramp (F5) or Least Connections with Slow Start Time (KEMP) to grant servers time to initialize and warm-up.
  • Office WebApp Server requires affinity on the load-balancer.
  • As Exchange 2016 can proxy traffic to Exchange 2013 and vice-versa, both versions can co-exist in the same load balancer server pool.
  • Get-MailboxServerRedundancy allows to prioritize repairs and upgrades by inspecting the DAG member servers, database copies and their state.

image.pngclientreq

Management

  • You can manage Exchange 2016 objects from Exchange 2013 Management Shell and Administrative Console and vice-versa. Limited for Exchange 2010, recommended to use Exchange 2010 management tools to manage Exchange 2010.
  • An Exchange 2013 Managed Availability tool was released (MATS) to assist in troubleshooting and diving in the Management Availability related events. The tool is available here.
  • ExMon, the Exchange Server User Monitor, will be back.
  • Exchange 2016 Workload Management introduces policies to limit or block mailbox moves during peak hours.

Exchange Limit Moves

Public Folders

  • Modern Public Folder migration scripts in $exscripts folder are likely to be outdated. Always use the latest Modern Public Folder migration scripts, which are available here.
  • It’s recommended to host Modern Public Folders in dedicated databases.
  • Modern Public Folders are here to stay, but emphasis will shift to Office 365 Groups. Groups are also expected to replace Distribution Lists. Distribution List naming policies will help enforcing naming policy on Groups. Tool named ‘Hummingbird’ to be made available to move from DL to Groups, or script conversion using new UnifiedGroup cmdlets.

Compliance

  • Exchange 2016 will allow you to put Public Folders on In-Place Hold.

Features

  • Modern attachments in Outlook 2016, Exchange 2016 and SharePoint 2016 allows on-premises customers to offload attachment storage to SharePoint, just sending a link and setting permissions through Outlook. Also, Outlook 2016 contains a convenient MRU list to select recently touched Office documents as attachment. Note that SharePoint is on the roadmap for 2016, which could imply that modern attachments will not be available when Exchange 2016 RTM’s.
  • OWA 2016 will contain a revised ribbon with additional buttons to triage e-mail more quickly, e.g. for archiving or sweep (similar to functionality currently found in outlook.com formerly known as Hotmail). It also contains an Undo button.
  • Outlook 2016 and Exchange 2016 will use always search online. Hopefully this will result in consistent search results between Outlook, OWA and ActiveSync devices.
  • Being able to restore items from the recoverable items with folder preservation is on Microsoft’s radar.

Exchange Hybrid

  • Hybrid Configuration Wizard is now downloadable app, similar to previous OAuth configuration step in HCW. It works with Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016 deployments, contains AADSync multi-forest support, and OAuth enhancements for MFA configuration. Allows team to introduce changes more quickly.
  • When configuring Hybrid, point your MX records to Exchange Online Protection (EOP) to prevent possible issues with SPF, DMARC or DKIM. This however requires EOP licenses at day 1.
  • 3rd party SMTP gateways sitting between Exchange On-Premises and EOP is not supported.
  • New Hybrid Migration troubleshooter can be found here.
  • Be advised that Exchange Hybrid is not compatible with Alternate Login ID or AlternateID for short. More information here.

Exchange Online / Office 365

  • Exchange Online runs 50.000+ servers hosting 1.2M database copies. Every month, 3.5M database fail-overs occur, 100’s server fail, while adding 1000’s of servers. Still, Exchange Online maintains an availability rate of 99.95%!
  • The Office 365 first release option, which will receive updates and new features first, will have the option to enable this option for the entire organization or per user.
  • Document Tracking now live in Office 365 and clients when using the Azure RMS connector. More information here.
  • Latest Azure Active Directory Sync has password write-back, so passwords changes in Office 365 are synced back to Active Directory on-premises. Get it here.
  • Currently in preview for Azure Active Directory Sync are user write-back (user created in Office 365 is synced back to Active Directory on-premises) and Groups write-back.
  • Office 365 to introduce dynamic Office 365 Groups, which will utilize recipient filters against Azure AD, and auto-expiring and other controls for Office 365 Groups housekeeping.

Note that you can download the Ignite session videos and slides for offline viewing as they become available. A script to accomplish this is available here.

Special thanks to Jeff Guillet, Dave Stork, Andy David, Tony Redmond, Bhargav Shukla John Barsodi, Nathan O’Bryan, John A Cook, Greg Tiber, Ingo Gegenwarth, Richard Hay, Jetze Mellema and Randall Vogsland for keeping us Exchange peeps updated from Ignite!

Ignite 2015 Session Download Script

ignite ButtonYesterday was the first day of Ignite, and Exchange fellow Tony Redmond put up a nice summary of the first day, keynoted included, here.

For those not attending Microsoft Ignite, attending different sessions or not able to enter a session because the room was full, Microsoft publishes Ignite sessions on Channel 9. Because you may want to watch sessions offline, some people created scripts to retrieve all session videos and slidedecks.

Here is a slightly modified script, originally from Claus Nielsen, to download all Microsoft Ignite 2015 videos and slidedecks as the become available on Channel9. You can select sessions based on category or speaker, which helps narrowing down the contents offered at Ignite to sessions you are interested in. The script also allows you to download other session videos and decks, for example from Build 2015 or last year’s TechEd NA.

You can download the script from the TechNet Gallery here.

Ignite 2015 Session Catalog is here!

ignite ButtonA short heads-up as the session catalog for Microsoft Ignite has been published. So, if you are still undecided or already want to pick ‘must see’ sessions for your schedule, you can check the session catalog here.

The session catalog contains 275 sessions, covering products like Exchange (49), Office 365 (85) and Skype for Business (26). It will be the first major Microsoft event where details will emerge on the next version of Exchange, Exchange v.Next.

The Exchange team published a blog on the Exchange-related Ignite sessions here. The blog contains a nice video featuring Greg Taylor and Jeff Mealiffe talking about what to expect at Ignite.

Also, on Febuary 3rd, the team behind Ignite as well as several speakers will be available on Twitter to answer any questions you may have on Ignite. Use the hashtag #IgniteJam to participate, or follow @MS_Ignite for any updates.

More information on Ignite, pre-day sessions, the session catalog and the #IgniteJam in the original post on Channel 9 here.

Ignite 2015: Call for Topics

ignite ButtonIn October, I reported on the new ‘mother of all Microsoft events’, Microsoft Ignite. This event is going to take place from May 4-8, 2015 in Chicago, US.

Contrary to how the agenda used to be determined for events like TechEd or the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC), Microsoft is now asking for your help by scoring contents and topics. By completing a short, anonymous Call for Topics survey here, you can let those in charge of assigning session slots know what you would like to see at Ignite.

If you have any questions on Ignite, Microsoft is also having some Twitter sessions for specific products. More on this in the original Call for Topics post here. The Exchange session takes place at Tuesday, December 2nd 9 am (Pacific Time) and use hashtag #ignitejam to participate.

So, if you went to MEC and would like to see a fair share of Exchange or Office 365 should you visit Ignite, be sure to complete the Call for Topics survey and plug your favorite product or platform.

Aaand we named it .. Microsoft Ignite!

Today Microsoft revealed the name of the event temporarily known as MUTEE, or Microsoft’s Unified Technology Event for Enterprises:

Microsoft Ignite 2015 Full

The Microsoft Ignite event, which replaces Microsoft Exchange Conference, LyncConf, Microsoft Management Summit, SharePoint Conference and TechEd North America, will be held from May 4-8, 2015 in Chicago at McCormick Place. On the Exchange Team blog, former  Microsoft Exchange Conference attendees are told this will be their ‘go to’ event for 2015 (apart from independent conferences, such as Exchange Connections 2015).

The Microsoft Ignite 2015 site is already up and you can even register, in case you are worried this event with a potential of 20k attendees will soon be sold out. Microsoft is asking potential attendees to provide input through a YamJam. For those unenlightened, a YamJam is a virtual event on Microsoft’s Enterprise Social platform called Yammer, meaning you have to register on the hosting Yammer network first.

The announcement on the Office blog has some additional information here, including information on Convergence and //Build 2015.

PS: It is likely that the adoption of this name has consequences for the events formerly known as Ignite, e.g. Office 365 Ignite. Those events were technical training to get IT Pros up to speed on new products. The faith of those training sessions has not been disclosed.

IT/Dev Connections 2014 Wrap-Up

Connections 2014 JerseyNote: For those that attended Jaap and my session on Thursday, PowerShell Tips & Tricks for Exchange, and are looking for the scripts used in the demonstrations, they are available here.

Today I returned from one of the largest, independent conference on Microsoft technologies, as it is not sponsored by Microsoft. Sessions were spread over a 3 day period on popular topics as SharePoint, SQL, developer and Windows, as well as out beloved Exchange. In addition, the conference offered pre and post-conference workshops. The conference was held in the city of Las Vegas, a place which I hadn’t seen after I left it around 1996 when leaving something called Comdex.  The estimated total of attendees was 1,400, of which around 100-200 attended Exchange sessions since people were free to switch between tracks.

With this being my first Exchange Connections, I must confess the community feeling and depth of contents were well-above expectation. Exchange sessions were not only presented by independent Exchange MVP’s and MCSM’s, but there were also sessions hosted by Tim McMichael and Wes Blalock of Microsoft. Greg Taylor, Exchange PM CXP, was also present, but unfortunately didn’t host any session.

The Exchange track was kicked off by an plenary session for those interested in everything Exchange or related topics such as Office 365. I am still waiting for the formal feedback and ratings on the PowerShell Tips & Tricks for Exchange session with Jaap I did on Thursday, but unofficial feedback was overall good which I am happy with since this was my first presentation in front of an international audience and I am somewhat self-critical. The week was closed with a Exchange panel session, wrapping up the week and answering audience questions. It was also when the winners were announced of the trivia contest offered by sponsor ENow. Prizes included an Xbox One and $500 in cash.

When connecting with the community, you get a sense on the current opinion on the product and future plans. It was learned that the majority of the attendees are still running Exchange on-premises and a vast majority still runs Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010. There were quite a few comments on product quality, mainly referring to the recent issues with Exchange 2013 Cumulative Updates resulting in Hybrid Configuration Wizard issues, issues with Exchange 2013/Exchange 2007 co-existence deployments, or more recently issues experienced when using Chrome with the Exchange Administrative Center.

Connections 2014 VegasI had a blast at Connections, despite a minor inconvenience as my luggage was delayed. There were lots of opportunities to meet up at the conference, receptions, many dinners and the excellent Scheduled Maintenance party. Outside of these formal events, people were also actively looking each other up to exchange musings over a pint. Having experienced my inaugural Exchange Connections this year, I must say I am really looking forward to next year’s event to stay in contact with the community, and catch up with my MVP and MCSM friends. The MVP Summit is next up on the agenda, so I won’t have to miss most of my MVP friends for long.

I was also very pleased with my Huawei E5372, a so-called MiFi device which functions as a mobile WiFi access point, routing traffic to a mobile data provider at a fraction of the roaming mobile data costs. In the end, the amount of mobile data used after this week was rather low, which mainly can be attributed to the excellent WiFi facilities in Aria, the conference hotel.

One final shout out to ENow for the personalized NFL jersey. People attempted pronouncing my last name, and most came up with “The Rouge” which is close enough for me.

Finally, here are some of the other Exchange Connections wrap-ups:

Austrian MVPs Martina Grom (Office 365) and Toni Pohl (Client Development) analysed Twitter data related to IT/Dev Connections 2014, and came up with some nice statistics where they present here. It seems I was a Top 10 Tweeter.

Ready for IT/Dev Connections 2014

imageIt’s almost time to head off to IT/Dev Connections. This year, the conference will take place from September 15-19 in the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, USA. IT/Dev connections is a widely recognized independent, multi-disciplinary conference with tracks for Development, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server and Windows related topics.

For the Exchange track, I will be co-hosting a session with long-time Exchange MVP and compatriot Jaap Wesselius, on PowerShell Tips & Tricks for Exchange. In 60 minutes we will show and demonstrate some Exchange-related PowerShell tricks, which are immediately usable in the daily life of Exchange admins.

PowerShell Tips and Tricks for Exchange
When: 9/18/2014, 1:00 PM- 2:15 PM
Room: Bluethorn 1/2

Note that Jaap also has a session earlier that day, Autodiscover – What’s the deal, which starts at 9:00 in Bluethorn 1/2 as well.

Other Exchange MVP fellows as well as members of the Product Group are lined up to provide some great content. Information on the sessions in the Exchange track can be found here. It appears you can still register for the event here, use SOCIAL14 for a $200 discount.

When you are attending IT/Dev Connections, do not hesitate to come up and say hi. 

I hope to see you there!

Microsoft announces Unified Technology Event for Enterprises

imageOne Event to rule them all, One Event to find them,
One Event to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Today, through Microsoft’s General Manager for Office, Julia White, Microsoft announced that there will be a Microsoft Unified Technology Event for Enterprises in Chicago next year, to be held in the week of May 4th. This new event is aiming at the current attendees of TechEd, Sharepoint Conference, Lync Conference, Project Conference (uh, what), the Microsoft Management Summit and our beloved Exchange Conference. It is also replacing those events starting next year, meaning RIP for events like MEC, SPC and TechEd. There is nothing mentioned regarding the faith of the related events held in non-NA regions, like TechEd Europe or TechEd Australia.

I consider myself lucky being able to attend the – what looks to be the last (again) – Microsoft Exchange Conference this year. Looking back at that event, thinking about setting, identity and depth, one can only hope for the best with this new monstrous event. After all, looking at recent attendance numbers and assuming there are some attendees visiting multiple of these events, adding recent numbers of TechEd North America (10k+), SPC (12k+), MMS (5k+), MEC (2,5k), LyncConf (0,5k) show the estimated attendance could easily go in the direction of 20,000+ attendees. That estimate is without representation from the related product groups and exhibitors. That is one big event.

With the next release of Exchange being announced for 2015, one could assume there are more products lined up for a common launch next year, similar to the Wave15 launch end of 2012 when Exchange 2013 was released together with Lync 2013, Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013. Though, I do not know the exact timelines of the non-Exchange products, so I could be wrong here.

An event of this scale event poses some serious challenges. That could be as elementary as transport or where to put that many people in the near surroundings of the convention center. Also, what sessions will be scheduled and at what level, given the mixed crowds of the generalistic TechEd and the more product-oriented deep-dive events like MEC. Companies sending delegations of their IT staff to these events may need to have drawings on who needs to stay back at home to keep IT running.

For people worried about the new unified event, Julia White tries to reassure people that the new format will be as ‘magical’ and ‘enjoyable’ as the individual events and it will even exceed them regarding ‘awesomeness’ and value. Meanwhile, Exchange fellows Tony Redmond and Paul Robichaux written up their own views on this change, I suggest you check them out as well.

Note that this site mentions McCormick Place as the event venue (thanks Mike Rigsby). It also mentions the event takes place from Monday until Friday:

Event Name Venue Start Date End Date Attendees
Microsoft Commercial Event 2015
Lakeside Center at McCormick Place

Map It

05/04/2015 05/09/2015 20000

The official announcements can be found here and here. More details will be made available around September.

Clutter in the Gutter?

At the Microsoft Exchange Conference earlier this year, the Office team introduced us to some nice features which were under development at that time. These features are part of Office Graph, a machine learning feature set meant to make the end user experience more personal and contextual as part of the Enterprise Social initiative.

imageIn the keynote, during a “Geek out with Perry”, Perry (Corporate VP for Microsoft Exchange) mentioned that the “Cloud First” approach allowed Microsoft to implement features step by step, with the option of reverting not-so-good changes. In the end, this should also result in a better product for the on-premises customer when releasing new Exchange builds, and ultimately Exchange v.Next (the next version), as they would not receive the not-so-good changes. It was mentioned several times, also in individual sessions on Office Graph features like Clutter and Groups as well, that these features would be “cloud-first” but there was “no ETA yet” for Exchange on-premises. At that time, most of us leaving MEC did that with the impression that all these features, at some point, would make it to Exchange or Exchange v.Next.

Apparently we got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Last week this article appeared on Network World, where in an interview with Julia White (GM Office Marketing) she mentioned that Clutter would not make it to “Office Server”, which seems to be the term for the on-premises deployments of the Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync Server triplet. This was a bit surprising, given the information received at MEC. The reason given in the article for this deviation was that Office Graph is too “compute intensive” to include on a Office Server. I assume to preempt any sounds on being forced to the service, Julia states that, “It’s not capricious favoritism toward Office 365 customers.” This is more or less in line with Microsoft’s earlier statements, on not having plans to stop delivering on-premises releases of Exchange (v.Next). In the discussion that followed on Twitter, Julia confirmed that “Clutter won’t make ExServer v.Next unfortunately.”

File:Classic shot of the ENIAC.jpgThe scale of Office 365 is incomparable to the average business running Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync on-premises and the amount of information that needs to be processed for Office Graph. And I can’t help it, but looking at the ‘compute intensive’ argument brings back memories of computer rooms where big monolithic systems offered computing powered easily surpassed by today’s tablet. With Clutter being expected for later this year and vNext next year, that is a considerable window. Some claim that Moore’s Law is obsolete and we also can’t expect to be running Skynet from home next year but still, computing power increases and I know of some customers who would just get the additional hardware onboard to facilitate those extra features. In addition, Clutter can be enabled on a per-user basis anyway.

In a more or less opposite statement, Julia is quoted saying, “Our philosophy is anything we technically can ship in servers, we will. We want our server customers and our cloud customers to have as much as we can ship to them. If it’s possible technically and it’s feasible then we’ll put it in the servers.” I think the reason for not adding Clutter should be sought in the hints Julia provided in the 2nd part of the article. With on-premises customer not following or even delaying upgrading to current versions of Microsoft’s products, Exchange, Sharepoint, Lync and clients, makes it hard to ship and support product transcending features, especially if this requires the latest (and greatest) version.

Think Site Mailboxes, more or less the predecessor of the announced Groups feature of Office Graph. Implementing Site Mailboxes requires Exchange 2013, Sharepoint 2013 and Outlook 2013 and additional configuration to integrate the Exchange and Sharepoint products. In the field, I see very low adoption of Site Mailboxes. Many customers are running older product levels (blocking implementation) or it’s a more elementary reason like not having deployed Sharepoint. But then, for those that are running Site Mailboxes, it adds value. Isn’t that what this is all about? Note that for the compliance discovery feature to work, proper configuration of Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync is required as well, but compliance is perhaps is a better selling point than clutter or one of the other Office Graph features could ever be.

“Assumption is ..” are the first words of a well-known saying. For the future, don’t expect anything you see announced for Office 365 to be ported to the on-premises Exchange releases, even though that product stems from the same code. Then again, features might get dropped, for reasons provided above or just because they were not ready. That’s nothing new and we got accustomed to a little disappointment now and then. In the case of Clutter, it’s a shame because it looked like a neat feature to work more efficiently through e-mail without configuring tons of rules. In the case of Groups, it is confirmed for v.Next, but you never know for sure until it is released. Meanwhile, Microsoft should maybe try to prevent confusion by demonstrating Clutter a.o. in sessions called “What’s new in Exchange“.

If you got an opinion on these changes in course or feature drops, please share them in the comments.