Exchange 2016 – What can we look forward to?

With the release of Exchange Server 2016 slated for the end of the year it seemed a good time to have a look at what new capabilities it will bring over the existing Exchange 2013 product.

Clients

Let’s start with the area that everyone sees – client access.

All access is now via secure HTTPS encrypted connections, whether using the full Outlook client or the newly renamed “Outlook on the web” (formerly Outlook Web App), ensuring data is secure when in transit. While MAPI over HTTP is now the default communication protocol between Outlook and Exchange, clients that don’t support it will fall back to Outlook Anywhere (RPC over HTTP).

Outlook on the web has been enhanced to provide platform-specific experiences for phones (for both iOS & Android), including a “Premium” Android experience for phones when using Chrome on Android 4.2 or later. Search suggestions & refiners have been introduced to anticipate what the user’s looking for and refine that search with contextually-aware filters (such as date range, senders, etc).

Exchange 2016 also brings support for the Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL) authentication model in Outlook clients on Windows, Android, and other platforms. ADAL enables functionality like two-factor authentication to help improve security of your data.

Server Architechture

With the advent of increasingly more powerful servers the primary design goal for Exchange 2016 is now for simplicity of scale, hardware utilization, and failure isolation. Therefore with Exchange 2016 the number of server roles has been reduced to two: the Mailbox and Edge Transport server roles.

The Mailbox server in Exchange 2016 includes all of the server components from the Exchange 2013 Mailbox and Client Access server roles:

  • Mailbox services include all the traditional server components found in the Exchange 2013 Mailbox server role: the Client Access protocols, Transport service, Mailbox databases, and Unified Messaging. The Mailbox server handles all activity for the active mailboxes on that server
  • Client Access services provide authentication, limited redirection, and proxy services. Client Access services don’t do any data rendering and offer all the usual client access protocols: HTTP, POP and IMAP, and SMTP

Exchange 2016 now allows you to proxy traffic from Exchange 2013 to Exchange 2016 in addition to Exchange 2016 to Exchange 2013. This new flexibility gives you more control in how you move to Exchange 2016.

The Edge Transport role, as in previous versions, is typically deployed in your perimeter network, outside your internal Active Directory forest to handle all internet-facing mail flow, and is designed to minimize the attack surface of your Exchange deployment.

Cloud and Hybrid

When you choose to configure a hybrid deployment in Exchange 2016, you’ll be prompted to download and install the wizard as a small app. The wizard will function the same as in previous versions of Exchange, with a few new benefits:

  • The wizard can be updated quickly to support changes in the Office 365 service
  • The wizard can be updated to account for issues detected when customers try to configure a hybrid deployment
  • Improved troubleshooting and diagnostics to help you resolve issues that you run into when running the wizard
  • The same wizard will be used by everyone configuring a hybrid deployment who’s running Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016

In addition to Hybrid Configuration Wizard improvements, multi-forest hybrid deployments are being simplified with Azure Active Directory Connect (AADConnect). AADConnect introduces management agents that will make it significantly easier to synchronize multiple on-premises Active Directory forests with a single Office 365 tenant.

Hybrid deployments will support the new modern authentication model in Outlook described earlier.

Exchange ActiveSync clients will be seamlessly redirected to Office 365 when a user’s mailbox is moved to Exchange Online.

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Windows 10

With the Windows 10 Preview having been available for a couple of months now it would seem to be a good time to look at this new version of Windows and see what if offers business users.

One converged Windows platform
A lot of work has been done in the background over the last few years to converge the disparate Windows Versions (Phone, RT, Home, Pro, Enterprise, etc) to ease development of applications across platforms. This convergence is realised for the first time in Windows 10 where, essentially the same code base is used from the small, thin and light – up to the largest and most powerful laptops, desktops and all-in-one PCs. Windows 10 even scales to industry and ruggedized devices, purpose-built industry solutions, small foot print devices (Internet of Things) and all the way up to 85” touch-screen conference room displays.
This common platform will help users move between devices without needing to learn another user interface and another way of doing things, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Desktop Experience
For many people moving to Windows 8 was a culture shock as the default screen you were greeted by was the Start Screen. Optimised for Touch devices this was a little confusing for a Mouse & keyboard equipped device. Windows 10 builds on the improvements made in Windows 8.1 update by detecting the device type at startup – for mouse and keyboard users, the Windows 10 user experience begins at the familiar desktop. The Start menu experience of Windows 7 has been expanded, providing one-click access to the functions and files that people use most.
Also bridging the gap between the touch-optimized tablet experience and the mouse and keyboard experience Windows 10 allows “modern apps” to run in a window on the desktop – resulting in modern apps seamlessly co-existing in the desktop space alongside desktop apps.

Data Protection
Microsoft have also made progress in helping companies protect their business data. While BitLocker helps protects data as it resides on a device, once the data leaves the device it’s no longer protected. With Windows 10 an additional layer of protection is provided by using containers and data separation at the application and file level – enabling protection that follows the data wherever it goes. Whether the data moves from a tablet or PC to a USB drive, email or the cloud – it maintains the same level of protection. Users won’t need to change behavior, use special apps, or move to a separate, locked-down environment to keep corporate data secure.

Deployment and Updates
To reduce the impact of deploying new devices to users, new dynamic provisioning technologies have been introduced to reduce the need for traditional wipe & reload approach. Businesses will be able to configure off-the-shelf devices, without reimaging – potentially permitting an employee to purchase a new device in a retail store and have it remotely provisioned by the IT department into a standard corporate build.
Windows 10 will be delivered in a way that gives more choice and flexibility to businesses. As a result, a business can pick the speed of innovation that is right for each group of its users, rather than apply a one size fits all solution. Consumers, and opt-in businesses, will be able to take advantage of the latest updates as soon as they are available, delivered via Windows Update. Business customers can segment their own user groups, and choose the model and pace that works for them. They will have more choice in how they consume updates, whether through Windows Update or in a managed environment. And for all scenarios, security and critical updates will be delivered on a monthly basis.
Apps
Windows 10 will also include a single, unified app store to allow for volume app purchases based on existing organizational identity, flexible distribution and the ability for organizations to reclaim or re-use licenses. Organizations will also be able to create a customized store, curating store experiences that can include their choice of Store apps alongside company-owned apps into a separate employee store experience.
So, whether you are just upgrading your estate to Windows 7 or have embraced Windows 8 in your organisation it would appear that Windows 10 will offer some compelling features to look forward to in 2015.

Exchange 2013 – Coexistence with previous products (Updated)

Exchange 2013 is now available in Preview form for an anticipated launch late this year or early next.

If you are thinking of waiting for the new products before you migrate from Exchange 2003, please be aware of the following information:-

Exchange Server Coexistence

As is standard practice, Microsoft will not support more than two previous versions of a product. This means that there will not be any coexistence capability between Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2003. Therefore to migrate from 2003 to 2013 will require the additional step of migrating onto Exchange 2010 first, and removing all trace of Exchange 2003, before you can migrate onto Exchange 2013.

Active Directory Requirements

Active Directory is required to contain at least one Windows 2008, 2008R2 or 2012 Domain Controller.

Client Restrictions

Outlook clients earlier than Outlook 2007 are not supported. Email clients on Mac operating systems that require DAV, such as Entourage 2008 for Mac RTM and Entourage 2004, are not supported.

Exchange 2013 Preview supports the following minimum versions of Microsoft Office Outlook and Microsoft Entourage for Mac:

  • Outlook      2013 Preview
  • Outlook      2010 SP1 with April 2012 Cumulative Update
  • Outlook      2007 SP3 with July 2012 Cumulative Update
  • Entourage      2008 for Mac, Web Services Edition
  • Outlook      for Mac 2011

Also note that Outlook 2013 Preview will not connect to Exchange 2003.

UPDATE

Since Exchange 2013 has now been through RTM and has now become GA (http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2012/12/03/exchange-server-2013-reaches-general-availability.aspx) you might think you can move into co-existence, this unfortunately is not the case. Microsoft have stated that the required Service Packs (SP3 for 2010, SP3 RU9 for 2007) won’t be made available until Q1 2013. This means that, unless you want to install a “green field” system, you will have to wait until next year before you can look at introducing Exchange 2013 into your environment.

This is very frustrating but as soon as I can get hold of the SP I’ll be testing the co-existence capabilities of 2013.