Exchange Announcements @ Ignite

Ex2013 LogoDuring Ignite 2018, details are announced to the public on Exchange Server 2019, Exchange Online, as well as Office 365 and related technologies. In this article I’ll try to summarize all the details in a readable format for your reference. The list is probably inconclusive; if you think anything is missing, let me know to I can update the article.

Exchange Server 2019

  • Distributed through Volume licensing only
  • Release planned for later this year
  • Windows Server 2019 required
    • Windows Server Core recommended (security, smaller attack surface and disk footprint)
    • Exchange supports in-place upgrading of underlying operating system per Windows Server 2019.
  • Support for co-existence with n-2
    • Exchange Server 2016 and Exchange Server 2013.
    • Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016, Outlook 2016/Max and Outlook for Mac for Office 365.
  • Forest Functionality Level 2012R2 or later
  • Support for up to 48 CPU cores (Exchange 2016: 24)
  • Recommended minimum memory for Mailbox server 128GB, and 64GB for Edge Transport. Maximum memory is 256GB (Exchange 2016: 192GB). The reason for 128GB recommendation is that the .NET scaling benefits (see below) only work from around 100GB and up.
  • Page file 25% of installed memory (Exchange 2016: Maximized at 32GB).
  • .NET Framework 4.7.2, Visual C++ Redistributable and UCMA (Mailbox only)
  • Uses Server GC instead of Workstation GC for some IIS application pools. Better .NET memory management and improves CPU/memory scaling.
  • Will only use TLS 1.2 (there’s a transition mode supporting lower TLS versions, but for that all existing Exchange versions need to support 1.2 as well)
  • No more UM, options:
    • Move all users and mailboxes to Office 365
    • Migrate to Skype for Business Server 2019
    • Remain on Exchange 2016 (EOL 2026)
    • 3rd party VoiceMail solution
  • MetaCache Database uses storage tiering
    • Leverages SSD’s
    • Use SSD to spinning disk ratio 1:3
    • Caches indexes, mailbox folder structures and small items
    • Improves UX: faster logons, searches and small items retrieval
    • Allows for higher mailbox density per server (+20%
    • Utilize larger disks
  • Client Access Rules
    • Restrict external access to EAC and PowerShell
    • Evaluated at server level, so external connections need to hit Exchange 2019.
  • Additional perks for administration and end users
    • Remove-CalendarEvents to remove meetings from a person (e.g. leaver)
    • Recurring meetings will receive a default end date
    • Meetings can be restricted to prevent forwarding
    • Setting Out of Office in OWA allows for blocking calendar for that period, as well as decline current meetings and future meeting invites during that period.
  • Calculator and additional guidance on its way
  • On the Roadmap
    • On-premises Modern Authentication
    • Extending Client Access Rules to other protocols
    • Mailbox Encryption using Customer Keys
    • Monitoring and Analytics tools
    • Blocking legacy authentication methods
    • Removal of RPC/HTTP support (Outlook Anywhere)
    • Simplified Calendar Sharing

The Exchange Server 2019 documentation went live here. Some additional details were included in this list.

On another note: Greg Taylor gave an interview to Phoummala Schmitt (aka @ExchangeGodess) for Channel 9 on Exchange 2019. That replay can be watched here. Also, Scott Schnoll and JeffMealiffe as well as Greg Taylor and Ross Smith were interviewed by TheCube; those recordings can be watched here and here respectively.

 

Support Lifecycle changes for Office ProPlus & 2016 (a.o.)

Outlook 2013 IconIn a surprise – but welcomed – move, Microsoft announced yesterday that the office support lifecycle for Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2016 are extended to January 2023 (EOL of Windows 8.1) and October 2025 respectively. In addition, Office 2016 connectivity support for Office 365 services will be extended to October 2023 (was 2020).

Other announced changes in product support lifecycles were extending Windows 10 Enterprise & Education support from 18 to 30 months. Also, for Windows 7 Professional & Enterprise, paid security updates (Extended Security Updates) will be offered, and those Windows 7 ESU devices will be supported through January 2023 – parallel to Windows 8.1 – with Office 365 ProPlus.

The intention of these changes is to provide customers more flexibility in adopting modern desktops on the client end (i.e. Windows 10) and upgrade their Office suite, preferably to the susbscription-based ProPlus. The release cadence of the cloud has significant impact on organizations, which were told in February to keep in line with product releases as a lot of product support lifecycles were going to end in 2020.

Extending those dates not only gives them more flexibility to plan and upgrade, but also might prevent organizations to do only to the minimum, which is likely the reason many organizations are still on Windows 7 and why it took many organizations a long time to get rid of Windows XP.

 

Upgrade Paths for CU’s & .NET

Ex2013 LogoUpdate 2/13/2018: Revised Microsoft upgrade guidance added.
Update 2/15/2018: Added missing CU14.
Update 6/25/2018: Added latest Exchange 2016 & 2013 CU info.

Microsoft keeps track of the current supported combinations of .NET Framework and Exchange Cumulative Updates at the Exchange Server Supportability Matrix. However, as time progresses, support information on older Cumulative Updates might be removed from the information presented, and you may need to resort to cached versions of this page or other sources to find this information.

This might be problematic for organizations that are not current, and need to find out which upgrade path they are required to follow to stay within the boundaries of supported Exchange deployment configurations. For example, you may need to upgrade to a specific Cumulative Update first, that is supported with a newer release of the .NET Framework, in order to be able to upgrade to a later Cumulative Update.

For these situations, the following tables contains the supportability matrix, enhanced with information regarding earlier Cumulative Updates and .NET Framework versions. These will provide you the supported upgrade paths for older versions of Exchange.

Exchange 2016

.NET

RTM-CU1

CU2

CU3-CU4

CU5-CU7

CU8

CU9

CU10

4.5

4.5.1

4.5.2

X

X

X

4.6.11

X

X

4.6.2

X

X

X

X

4.7.1

X

X

X

4.7.2

Exchange 2013

.NET

RTM-CU3

CU4(SP1)-CU12

CU13-CU14

CU15

CU16-CU18

CU19

CU20

CU21

4.5

X

X

X

4.5.1

X

X

X

4.5.2

X

X

X

4.6.11

X

X

4.6.2

X

X

X

X

4.7.1

X

X

X

4.7.2

Notes

  1. When possible, bypass .NET Framework 4.6.1, as it not only requires updating the CU level prior to updating the .NET Framework, but also requires an additional hotfix: kb3146715 (ws2012r2), kb3146714 (ws2012) or kb3146716 (ws2008r2).

Usage
Suppose your organization loves procrastinating, and you are running Exchange 2013 CU6. Luckily, you run it on .NET Framework 4.5.1, which was already a supported configuration back in 2014 – yes, it’s been that long. Looking at the table, to get current with a minimal number of updates in mind, you can derive the following path:

image

The upgrade path to CU19 would therefor be:

  1. Upgrade to Exchange 2013 Cumulative Update 15
  2. Upgrade .NET Framework to 4.6.2
  3. Upgrade to Exchange 2013 Cumulative Update 19
  4. Optionally, upgrade .NET Framework to 4.7.1

Note that in addition to information being refreshed on Microsoft pages, availability of older Cumulative Updates or .NET Framework updates might also change, so archive those files accordingly, if not for recovery of existing Exchange servers, then for this exact purpose.

Of course, you should stay current as possible from a support and security perspective, making the above a non-issue. Reality is, there are customers who have reasons, legitimate or not, to be trailing with updates in their environment, and at some point may need guidance on how to proceed in order to get current. I hope this information helps in those situations.

Thoughts and feedback is welcomed in the comments.

Update: Per February 13th, Microsoft updated upgrade guidance on the Exchange Supportability Matrix page, stating:

“When upgrading Exchange from an unsupported CU to the current CU and no intermediate CUs are available, you should upgrade to the latest version of .NET that’s supported by Exchange first and then immediately upgrade to the current CU. This method doesn’t replace the need to keep your Exchange servers up to date and on the latest, supported, CU. Microsoft makes no claim that an upgrade failure will not occur using this method, which may result in the need to contact Microsoft Support Services”.

This means you will be supported when upgrading in the revised upgrade path, but the risk is still there. In the example above, when going from Exchange 2013 CU6 with .NET 4.5.1 to CU19, the support statement indicates you can upgrade to .NET Framework  4.7.1, when install CU19. However, things might break and you may need to contact support to get back in a supported, working situation. Therefor, I repeat my recommendation to download and archive CU’s and .NET Framework files, even when you are not planning on installing them (yet).

Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator 8.3

Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role Sizing Calculator 16.4The Exchange team published an update for the Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator, the tool to aid you in properly sizing your Exchange Server 2013 or Exchange Server 2016 deployment.

The new version number is 8.3, and it contains two major enhancements compared to version 7.9:

  • Added ability for the calculator to automatically determine the number of Mailbox servers and DAGs that need to be deployed to meet the chosen input requirements
  • Added Read from Passive support for Exchange 2016 deployments which results in decreased bandwidth utilization for HA copies

You can download the calculator here. For more information, please consult the list of changes here or Read Me here.

Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator 7.9

Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role Sizing Calculator 16.4The Exchange team published an update for the Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator, the tool to aid you in properly sizing your Exchange Server 2013 or Exchange Server 2016 deployment. The new version number is 7.9, and it contains mainly bug fixes.

Functionality changes and bug fixes since version 7.8:

  • Added support for 1.8TB disk capacity
  • Added color formatting for when memory exceeds the maximum recommended value
  • Fixed calcNumDBCopyInSDC formula to take into account proper number of lagged copies
  • Fixed calcActDBPDCWorst formula to take into account non-HA deployments
  • Fixed an issue where ReplayLagManager calculated field did not take into account the user disabling JBOD
  • Fixed version mismatch and added Add-PartitionAccessPath in Diskpart.ps1 script
  • Fixed issue with export CreateDAG.ps1 script where it defined Alternate Witness in single datacenter deployments
  • Fixed diskpart.ps1 script to sleep 10s after creating partition but prior to formatting to minimize error condition
  • Fixed RetainDeletedItemsUntilBackup to be set to $false for NDP deployments

You can download the calculator here. For more information, please consult the list of changes here or Read Me here.

Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator 7.8

Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role Sizing Calculator 16.4The Exchange team today published an update for the Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator as well. The new version number is 7.8. This version incorporates sizing for Exchange 2016 as well and includes support for ReFS (default for Exchange 2016). The version number is also dropped from the calculator.

More or less complementary to the calculator is the updated sizing guidance for Exchange 2016, which was also published today here. No big changes here, apart from multi-role only option and a slight increase in CPU requirements to cover for unforeseen circumstances as the team is still learning from real-world behavior. This makes sense, looking at the speed in which the calculator was released compared to the one for Exchange 2013. Kudos to the Exchange team!

New and enhanced functionality since version 7.6:

  • Added support for Exchange 2016
  • Included CPU utilization guidance changes for Exchange 2016
  • Diskpart.ps1 and CreateDAG.ps1 now support ReFS
  • Moved DataMoveReplicationConstraint setting from CreateMBDatabases.ps1 to CreateMBDatabaseCopies.ps1
  • Revised all of the Distribution dialog controls to load their defaults from variables rather than use hard-coded values
  • The DAG name from the Input tab now flows through as the default on the Export DAG dialog
  • Updated Distribution tab dialog controls to persist the global catalog value during a session
  • Added conditional formatting for ReplayLagTime and SafetyNetThreshold
  • Removed 2013 from the name of the calculator

Fixes since version 7.6:

  • Fixed inaccuracies with “Number of Exchange Data Volumes per Server” input
  • Fixed calcActDBPDCWorst formula to take into account non-HA deployments
  • Fixed multiple dbs / volume calculation to take into account ReplayLagManager
  • Fixed calcNumDBCopyInSDC formula to take into account proper number of lagged copies
  • Fixed MaxPreferredActive not being displayed for A/A (Single DAG) site resilient solutions
  • Fixed an issue with Fail* buttons on Distribution tab when using some regional settings
  • Fixed an issue with volume path persistence on the Distribution tab Mount Points dialog

You can download the calculator here. For more information, please consult the list of changes here or Read Me here.

Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator 7.6

Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role Sizing Calculator 16.4The Exchange team published an update for the Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator as well. The new version number is 7.6.

Changes since version 6.6:

  • Added support for ReplayLagManager
  • Added support for PreferredMaximumActiveDatabases
  • Added new table that exposes theoretical CPU utilization for each mode (normal runtime, first server failure, second server failure, site failure, site failure + 1 failure)
  • Added Restore-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup scenario support in Distribution algorithm
  • Added warning about designs that include more than24 processor cores / server and 96GB of memory
  • Added support for DAGs without Administrative Access Point (default behavior is no administrative access point) in the CreateDAG script
  • Changed default for Deleted Item Retention in export file to be the highest profile value for Deleted Item Retention
  • Changed default for Circular Logging in export file to be true when using Exchange Native Protection
  • Added ability to save scripts and CSV files to OneDrive for Business
  • Fixed CreateDAG.ps1 script error for DAG creation without administrative IP address
  • Modified CreateMBDatabases.ps1 to ignore CircularLogging choice and modified CreateMBDatabaseCopies.ps1 to enforce CircularLogging choice
  • Fixed Export DAG list function to use the correct value for MaximumActiveDatabases
  • Added support for MaximumPreferredActiveDatabases and AutoDatabaseMountDial in Export DAG List function and createdag.ps1
  • Modified CreateMBDatabaseCopies.ps1 to remove sleep timer, improving copy creation significantly
  • Fixed createdag.ps1 to not generate an error when there is no alternate witness server provided

Fixes since version 6.6:

  • Fixed an issue that prevented the calculator from displaying results when site resilience was disabled while Active/Active (Single DAG) was selected
  • Changed Processor Cores/Server to not use a list drop down, thereby enabling customers to enter in configurations they are deploying.
  • Fixed bugs in Diskpart script with PrepareAutoReseedVolume switch and WhatIf processing
  • Fixed bug in Diskpart with escaping quotes in some languages
    Fixed bug with display of lag copies in single site design
  • Fixed multiple databases / volume calculation to take into account symmetric designs that utilize an odd number of servers in a single site
  • Fixed scenario to count number of servers in A/P scenario where the only copy deployed in DR is a lagged copy
  • Fixed #NAME error in Database Copy Configuration table for standalone configurations
  • Updated DC1 memory sizing to take into account site failure mode for A/A (Single DAG) designs involving a 2 copy architectures
  • Updated Distribution Tab error reporting and Lastrow calculation
  • Fixed copy count validation formula for site resilient scenarios to not allow more copies in the primary datacenter than the number of servers
  • Added support for 10TB and 12TB capacity disks
  • Fixed run-time error on distribution tab when disabling site resilience
  • Fixed distribution error when disabling cross-site failover
  • Fixed bug in Distribution tab ActiveServer formula when modeling Cross Site Failover behavior
  • Fixed an issue with the distribution tab throwing an error when two files were opened at the same time
  • Fixed distribution algorithm where lagged copies were not always represented correctly
  • Blocked unsupported A/A (Single DAG) scenario where copy count is not the same in both datacenters

You can download the calculator here. For more information, please consult the list of changes here or Read Me here.

Exchange data: NTFS vs. ReFS

chartFor Exchange, NTFS has been the file system of choice since time immemorial. In 2012, Windows Server 2012 introduced a new file system: Resilient File System or just ReFS. ReFS was designed to overcome some of the limitations of NTFS, in particular in the area of maintaining data integrity. More information on ReFS in comparison to NTFS can be found here.

At that time Windows Server 2012 went RTM, the latest version of Exchange, Exchange 2010, was not supported to run on ReFS. Present day, Exchange 2010 still doesn’t support ReFS. However, when Exchange 2013 entered the arena shortly after Windows Server 2012, it came with support for both NTFS and ReFS file systems. NTFS was still considered best practice, with ReFS being a supported option with the added recommendation to turn off ReFS’ integrity checking feature, and disabling it for Content Index-exclusive volume is optional. It may therefor come as no surprise that nearly all customers are deploying Exchange 2013 on NTFS volumes only.

That may change with Exchange 2016. As announced at Ignite 2015, for Exchange 2016 more emphasis will be put on following the Preferred Architecture design when deploying Exchange on-premises. The Exchange 2016 Preferred Architecture contains guidance to use ReFS formatted, BitLocker encrypted data volumes with Exchange 2016. The latter option is of course to protect organizations against theft of physical storage devices.

With some time to spare, I was interested to see what the impact would be on the storage performance when using NTFS or ReFS, and especially the performance penalty when enabling BitLocker on a volume. Similar to a comparison I did between Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 on different operating systems, I ran a JetStress 2013 test utilizing these 3 file systems to get a sense of what to expect.

The ESE engine files from Exchange 2013 CU8 were used for testing, along with the following parameters:

Mode Test Disk Subsystem Throughput
Thread Count 12 (fixed)
Min/Max DB Cache 32 MB / 256 MB
Ins / Del / Repl / Read % 40/20/5/35
Lazy Commits 70%
Run Background DB Maintenance True
Databases 1 x DB (186GB), 3 Copies
Running Time 2 Hours

Databases and logs were stored on a DAS SSD drive, and the volume was GPT partitioned with 64K allocation units. ReFS Integrity checking was disabled for the volume using:

Format-Volume –DriveLetter X -FileSystem ReFS -AllocationUnitSize 65536 -SetIntegrityStreams $false

The drive supported hardware encryption for BitLocker, which offloads encryption to the drive. You can verify that hardware encryption is used after enabling BitLocker on the volume by inspecting the BitLocker status using the manage-bde utility or Get-BitLockerVolume cmdlet:

image

As you can see from the EncryptionMethod property, this volume is protected using hardware-based BitLocker encryption. Perhaps needless to say, but the CPU performance penalty is substantial when using BitLocker with software encryption, and this mode is not to be used with I/O intensive applications like Exchange.

Note that if you deploy a Database Availability Group on ReFS formatted storage, and you want to use AutoReseed, you need to create or configure your DAG using the FileSystem parameter specifying ReFS, e.g.

New-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup -Name DAG1 -FileSystem ReFS

This makes sure that AutoReseed prepares volumes using the proper file system.

The results from the JetStress tests are show in the following table:

Test

NTFS

ReFS

ReFS+BitLocker

JetStress Version

15.0.658.4

ESE.DLL

15.0.1076.9

Operating System

6.2.9200.0

Overall Test Result

Passed

Passed

 

Passed

Achieved Transactional IOPS

1,613.13

1,407.55

-13%

1,379.98

-14%

Database Reads Average Latency (msec)

8.53

10.50

-23%

9.73

-14%

Database Writes Average Latency (msec)

12.80

20.80

-63%

19.98

-56%

Database Reads/sec

895.25

787.08

-12%

769.47

-14%

Database Writes/sec

726.48

628.55

-13%

618.65

-15%

Database Reads Average Bytes

35,220.22

35,375.26

0%

35,437.64

1%

Database Writes Average Bytes

34,389.82

34,510.95

0%

34,496.88

0%

Log Reads Average Latency (msec)

4.64

5.06

-9%

5.00

-8%

Log Writes Average Latency (msec)

5.16

7.22

-40%

6.73

-30%

Log Reads/sec

18.64

16.29

-13%

16.08

-14%

Log Writes/sec

87.25

72.81

-17%

73.82

-15%

Log Reads Average Bytes

232,562.72

232,562.01

0%

232,562.30

0%

Log Writes Average Bytes

25,005.97

26,210.03

5%

25,589.45

2%

Avg. % Processor Time

4.28

3.66

14%

3.60

16%

Some observations and notes:

  • ReFS caused a ~13-14% IOPS drop when compared to NTFS.
  • Using ReFS resulted in increased I/O latencies, especially write operations.
  • ReFS had a positive impact on the processor utilization, lowering average utilization by around 15%.
  • For some reason, average write latencies were lower using ReFS with BitLocker rather than without it (~10%).

Given the impact of file system choice on I/O performance and CPU utilization, I hope next versions of Exchange Server Role Calculator will feature an option to select which file system will be used to store Exchange data, as the difference in I/O performance and CPU utilization between NTFS and ReFS seems significant. Though this small test was performed with Exchange 2013 running on Windows Server 2012 R2, It could be that Exchange 2016 or the next version of Windows Server 2016 contain changes that will diminish the differences or perhaps even grant ReFS an advantage over NTFS. This is something we will only know after these products have shipped, something worth investigating later this year.

The JetStress reports can be found here.

I will finish with a short disclaimer: This test was only performed to get an indication of performance impact of using different file systems with Exchange 2013 utilizing identical hardware. The results are purely indicative, and not necessarily representative for other configurations nor meant to provide guidance or proof. Always test and validate your configuration using tools like JetStress before putting Exchange in production.

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.

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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!

End of Exchange 2010 Mainstream Support

Exchange 2010 LogoWith all the media attention for Windows 7 going out of mainstream support, one might forget today also marks the end of mainstream support for Exchange Server 2010.

Exchange 2010, which was released in October, 2009 (which seems centuries ago now), and which still has a very large installed base, is going into the extended support phase.

Depending on your support contract, this means Microsoft will no longer provide free support for this product. Patches for security issues will still be available, and owners of premier support contracts are eligible for non-security updates through extended hotfix support option.

Exchange Server 2010 will reach end-of-life on January 14th, 2020.