In my previous article in this series, we discussed Exchange “Alternative Architecture” options for medium-to-large businesses. We specifically covered common storage design options and which were ideal to design the best solution for a customer that has decided to remain on-premises and chosen to not follow the Preferred Architecture. To reiterate, I’m a big fan of Office 365 and the Preferred Architecture but I understand many customers will not follow either of these two routes. Therefore, if they deviate from either of these options they should at least follow the recommended guidance that can increase the uptime and better the performance of their solution.
This is a story about one company’s trials and tribulations of migrating to and maintaining a hybrid cloud environment; specifically Microsoft Exchange. Once upon a time Acme Industries decided to move to the cloud. The decision was based on a sales pitch from a cloud vendor that described the pretty blue skies of the cloudy world. “You'll have fewer servers on premise so it’ll be less complex and overall you'll be very happy.” The company agreed that reducing on-premise services, simplifying infrastructure and gaining the ability to reprioritize their IT staff to higher value tasks made a great deal of sense. And while they all agreed this was a wise decision, they knew it was important that they recognized that like any deployment, there were going to be new processes to learn and expectations that need to be managed. However, not everything would be moving to the cloud, there would be some accounts that would remain on-premises. Therefore, theirs would be a hybrid deployment.
For as long as Microsoft Exchange has existed, Outlook meeting corruption has been a consideration for those that rely on calendaring. Meeting corruption can appear in many forms. However, meeting corruption typically occurs when meetings disappear, when duplicate meetings appear or through other unusual anomalies that users may experience with an appointment. Microsoft continually makes strides toward eliminating calendaring issues through Outlook and Exchange updates, however, calendaring issues still persist. More importantly, it’s typically our organizational executives that see the most issues when their calendars are not functioning as expected.
So what can we do about this?
The cloud is here to stay, and Microsoft is gearing up to be a huge player in this space. For example, the Office 365 service is growing by double digits. But what happens when cloud ambitions clash with commitments to customers who run software in their own datacenters and server closets?
Let’s look at a case study—two new features that were announced in early 2014 that were to land first in Office 365:
Office Graph: Office Graph is a machine learning, Big Data style technology that purports to bubble up in single view documents, messages, and people that are relevant to what you are working on. It uses a comprehensive view of your Exchange inbox as well as others’ inboxes, SharePoint sites, Lync conversations, and activity on the Yammer corporate social network.
Clutter: Like Gmail’s “priority inbox” feature, Clutter tries to distinguish legitimate mail from mail that is less useful to your daily activities but is not spam or junk mail. It then attempts to corral those messages into one place so your regular view of your inbox is less cluttered and contains more actionable, relevant messages to whatever you are working on.
Anyone who has participated in migrations or transitions to Exchange has most likely encountered or has had to work around potential issues caused by the nickname cache. A “cache,” also known by its file extension, NK2 in older Outlook clients, is a convenience feature in Outlook and Outlook WebApp (OWA) which lets users pick recipients from a list of frequently-used recipients. This list is displayed when the end user types in the first few letters.
The potential issue revolves around end users using those lists to send messages, as the list contains cached recipient information. Because this information is static, it may become invalid at some point. Thus, when users pick recipients when sending messages, they may be sending messages to non-existent recipients or invalid e-mail addresses, which create issues like non-delivery of e-mail.
In an earlier version of Outlook, this information was stored in local .NK2 files. In Outlook 2010 and up, this information is stored in your mailbox (AutoComplete Stream). Unfortunately, OWA utilizes its own cache mechanism while Outlook stores recipient information in other locations as well, like the ‘Suggested Contacts’ folder for example.
Now that Exchange Server 2013 Service Pack 1 is out, many organizations are beginning to seriously evaluate the latest iteration of Microsoft’s messaging platform. Many of these same organizations may have divisions, offices, or even vast swaths of their company using Exchange Online or Office 365 and Microsoft’s hosted Exchange platform. Helpfully, Service Pack 1 enables some key functionality in Exchange as it relates to hybrid on premises and cloud deployments. In this piece, I examine two important developments in hybrid Exchange deployments that are possible now that Exchange 2013 Service Pack 1 is available:
Hybrid Deployments with More than One Active Directory Forest
The Hybrid Configuration Wizard can be used to interoperate with Exchange Online across all of your forests, especially in larger deployments with multiple forests containing an Exchange organization—a newly supported scenario.
Are you attending TechEd North America in Houston, TX from May 12th – the 15th? If so then choosing your sessions will be quite the challenge. The conference in its entirety has almost 700 sessions to choose from. If you are an IT professional attending in the “Office Servers and Services” track then your choices are narrowed down to 150 sessions covering Office 365, Office client apps, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Visio, Yammer, and Microsoft Lync. Of those sessions there are 58 to choose from covering Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange and only 4 days of conference to learn it all!
So, which sessions are most important to learning more about Office 365 and Exchange 2013? Well I must admit that all the sessions do look wonderful, but this guide to the Exchange track at TechEd highlights the standouts. It also leaves plenty of opportunities to pursue some of the other tracks that TechEd offers.
Update 02/13/2014. By popular demand: added a “Lost modified on:” field which display the date on which one of the settings on the virtual directory was last modified.
Update 02/12/2014. Added some new features to the script. If you add -ADPropertiesOnly when calling the script, it will now only query the ADProperties which processes a whole lot faster in distributed environments. The script now also automatically creates a Remote PowerShell session if it cannot find an active one to use. It will connect to the server you specify with the -ComputerName parameter. If you choose not to specify the parameter, the script will create a remote PowerShell session to the localhost. Thirdly, there’s now also a -Filter parameter which allows you to filter the server(s) for which you want the see the results.
The following command would query all CAS’es in the environment which have “02″ in their name and return the ADproperties for the different virtual directories:
Next week Exchange administrators and Exchange MVP’s are looking forward to Microsoft’s Exchange conference MEC 2014 http://www.iammec.com/. The conference is scheduled from March 31st through April 2nd in Austin, TX at the Austin Convention Center. The conference covers all aspects of Exchange including deployment and migration of Office 365 and Exchange On-Premises, security, e-discovery, compliance, support, manageability, architecture and much more. If you love to learn about Exchange and its possibilities then MEC is the place to be next week.
The speaker and session lineup is impressive making it almost impossible to choose which topics to pursue, and the networking opportunities are also impressive. Here are some of the highlights to look forward to:
Sunday, March 30th from 6:00 – 8:30 pm Microsoft is hosting a Welcome Reception in the Exhibit hall. While you are there be sure to stop by the Enow Software Booth to learn more about MEC Trivia where you can win up to $1000 for answering questions correctly about Exchange.