Retention policies: the fat-busters of the Exchange world

Exchange messaging records management (or MRM for those who deal in acronyms) has long been an interest of mine, if only because it seems to me that it makes a heap of sense to have some intelligence that processes user mailboxes to clear rubbish out on a regular basis. Not that all mailboxes contain such rubbish, you know. Clearly mine does not and is well known in select circles for such cleanliness, which is why I was well-qualified to speak about retention policies at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) last April.

We live in a world of bloated mailboxes crammed full of items that really should be kept for as long as it takes to locate the “delete” key. It amuses me just how much of a mailbox is occupied by out of office notices, non-delivery receipts, and copies of service messages informing the recipient that some long-gone event is imminent, and so on. Not to mention the proliferation of content caused by that fateful decision so long ago to make Outlook’s default option to include the text of a preceding message in its reply. How many petabytes of crud has built up in mailboxes? No one knows, but it’s a bit like those fat balls that accumulate in public sewers – a mess that is only dealt with when it causes a problem.

In any case, the introduction of retention policies in Exchange 2010 was a very welcome step forward in addressing the problem. Of course, it was Microsoft’s second attempt at MRM because they had shipped MRM 1.0 in Exchange 2007. That didn’t work out so well because MRM forced users to move items into folders. MRM 2.0 as used in Exchange 2010, 2013, and Exchange Online (Office 365) is so much better because it automates the clean-up process and does everything in the background. Following my previous analogy, like water flushing away in a well-maintained sewer, the Exchange Managed Folder Assistant (MFA) scours mailboxes to remove old and unwanted items to keep mailboxes and databases as clean as possible.

Administrators have to do some work to set up an MRM framework. Retention policies have to be defined and then assigned to mailboxes. The retention policies are built from tags and these have to be considered in terms of what folders they should control and what action should be taken. In most cases, it’s sufficient to define a policy that contains a set of tags to control the major default folders (Inbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items) so that these folders are cleaned up by removing items after 30 days or so, some personal tags to allow users to mark items for long-term retention, and a default tag that applies to the rest of the mailbox to clean up aging items that have been stuffed into folders and forgotten.

To get the ball rolling, Microsoft provides a default MRM policy in Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013. This policy is there to support the deployment of archive mailboxes and is applied automatically to a mailbox when it is enabled with an archive. The logic is good because the effect of the retention policy is to move items from the primary mailbox into the archive as soon as they are aged out by the default tag contained in the policy. The effect on some installations who deploy the retention policy without realizing its effect and impact can be “interesting.”

The use of retention policies are covered in all of the Office 365 plans (the spreadsheet accessed through this link is a very good resource to know what’s covered by a particular plan). In an on-premises environment, you don’t need to own enterprise CALs to use the default MRM policy. This is because the policy is there to support archive mailboxes, which are also covered by the standard Exchange CAL. However, enterprise CALs are required as soon as you begin to define and assign your own retention policies. This isn’t usually a big thing because most companies have bought enterprise CALs for other purposes, like deploying custom ActiveSync policies.

But if you’re in a situation where you only have standard CALs and want to use retention policies, you can modify the default MRM policy to fit your own purposes. This includes adding or removing tags from the policy, changing the retention period or retention action for tags, or disabling tags. In the past this was not thought to be possible, probably due to a misunderstanding of the licensing terms and some confusion about what was and was not covered by the standard CAL. But Microsoft has recently updated the TechNet documentation to explicitly state that you can modify the default MRM policy to your heart’s content.

Note that the default MRM policy is automatically assigned to new Exchange Online mailboxes as they are created. This is different to Exchange on-premises where the policy is only assigned when an archive is enabled. The logic here must be that assigning a retention policy from scratch makes sure that mailboxes stay under some form of control, even if their users are unaware of the fact (and administrators too, if you hadn’t learned about this). An archive mailbox is not automatically created for Exchange Online users, so MFA ignores the tags in the policy that have a retention action of “move to archive.”

For more information on how to design, deploy, and debug retention policies and MFA, see chapter 11 of Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox and High Availability.

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Posted in Cloud, Email, Exchange, Exchange 2010, Exchange 2013, Office 365 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fast track Office 365 migrations by Microsoft pose some challenges for partners

Microsoft’s announcement that they intended to accelerate the on-boarding (migration) of customer seats to Office 365 through the “FastTrack” program surprised some attending the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) last month.

Apparently the idea is that Microsoft will hire (or has already hired) between 250 and 600 new employees to take on the “on-boarding” workload involved in moving customers over from their existing email systems to Exchange Online. The new service will swing into motion sometime toward the end of the year and will focus on closing the gap between the purchase of Office 365 subscriptions and when those subscriptions are actually used.

Apparently some understandable frustration exists within Microsoft that considerable effort often goes into winning an Office 365 deal only for it to stagnate for a substantial period before going live. Despite the upward trajectory for Office 365, the feeling is that things should be going better and that a won but unimplemented deal is always prone to being overturned by a competitor – in this case, potentially a move to Google Apps. Providing an accelerator to deals should move things along faster, or so the theory goes.

The announcement surprised partners who traditionally viewed this kind of work as their bailiwick. With or without Microsoft assistance, a partner would win the deal and then work with the customer to progress through design, planning, preparation, and migration. Given the success of Office 365, migration projects are a lucrative source of income for third party consultants. And that up-to-now reasonably predictable income stream might have underpinned the investment made by partners to build their capability to deliver Office 365 services.

Helping customers to move to Office 365 faster makes perfect sense from a Microsoft perspective. In the early days of Office 365, migrations tended to be more problematic than today. Years of experience, tips and techniques, and better software – both Office 365 itself and the migration utilities sold by third parties – means that migrations are often not as technically challenging as before. Migrations are still boring and mundane work but at least the work is well understood.

But migrations to any new messaging platform can encounter lurking potholes, largely because there’s usually a period when old and new systems run alongside each other. Small companies of less than a couple of hundred users can move over a weekend, but once you deal with larger numbers the need to move mailbox data from on-premises servers across the Internet to Office 365 slows the pace. All of which means that complications like directory synchronization come into play. In short, migrations can be an extended and messy business.

It seems that Microsoft will offer their new services to customers who have more than 150 seats to move to Office 365. According to an August 15 report, Microsoft’s team will be able to migrate users from Exchange 2003 or later versions, Lotus Domino 7.0.3 and later, and IMAP-accessible systems such as Gmail.

It’s unclear whether some of the Microsoft engineers will ever go onsite or if they will always operate from call centers. Details of the exact onboarding tasks that Microsoft will take care of are not yet available but are likely to include the most straightforward and easily scripted processes such as mailbox moves and user provisioning. However, as reported, quite a lot of work will remain as:

Customers will be responsible for the migration of client-side data — including .pst files, local Outlook settings and local contacts — and post-migration support… Many Microsoft partners offer these types of services.

To make such a venture possible, I imagine that Microsoft will follow a very precise playbook that outlines exactly how to prepare to execute a migration. Some new tools to automate steps can be anticipated. Any deviation from the playbook in terms of the characteristics of a customer’s on-premises system or the data to be migrated will possibly mean that it will fall outside the terms of this service and have to be referred to a partner. For example, if substantial pre-work is required to update the on-premises environment before a migration can start, that work is likely to be left to the customer or farmed out to a partner.

Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2007 servers are probably the most common email servers found in the target base of customers considering a move to Office 365 and not all of these systems will have been well maintained over the years. I can see some challenges in figuring out basic stuff such as making sure that sufficient network capacity exists to allow mailboxes to be moved. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft validates a customer environment before starting any real on-boarding work. Sometimes it takes the eyes of a skilled human to detect lurking problems in an IT system and that won’t happen when everything is done from a call center.

And you’ll notice no mention of SharePoint and Lync migration or co-existence with on-premises versions: this effort is all about getting Office 365 moving by accelerating the transition of email to the cloud. Given that a lot of small companies don’t use SharePoint or Lync, providing an email-centric migration service is the most effective course to take. According to reports, Microsoft told partners at WPC that this initiative will allow the partners to focus on more complex migration projects where more customized interaction (and therefore billing) is required to enable customers to move. In other words, instead of doing ten small migration projects that can now be handled by a Microsoft call center, a partner can focus on two or three more “interesting” projects and devote the same amount of effort to those engagements.

To ease the pain for partners, Microsoft will continue to fund Office 365 engagements through deployment funds that cover $15,000 for the first 1,000 seats in a project plus $5/seat afterwards up to a limit of $60,000 per customer. These funds cover migration work that cannot be done from a central point.

Continuing funds will help, but partners really need to focus on the big picture and ask themselves whether their business should center on any activity that can be automated and transitioned to a call center. Long-term success is better gained through high-value, high-knowledge activities. Perhaps this Microsoft move will be sufficient to persuade partners who have made a decent business from Office 365 on-boarding that they should concentrate on other aspects of Office 365, like SharePoint deployment, enterprise Lync, or even making sense of Yammer?

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Thoughts about Microsoft’s unified technology conference

As expected, Microsoft’s announcement that they would run an uber-conference focused on the enterprise to replace TechEd and the individual Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, Project, and MMS conferences did not receive universal approval. The new conference takes place in Chicago next May and, if TechEd is anything to go by, should attract a crowd in the region of 15,000. Perhaps more, especially if they are excited by the promises made by Julia White when she announced that the event will deliver:

  • “Clearer visibility into Microsoft’s future technology vision and roadmap
  • Unparalleled access to Microsoft senior leaders and the developers who write the code – many of whom will present and engage with you and answer your questions
  • A broader range of learning opportunities across all of Microsoft’s technologies, including actionable best practices from industry experts
  • Deep community interaction with the top technology professionals and industry peers in structured and informal settings
  • Epic after-hour festivities for you to unwind and turn up the fun!”

I’m sad to see the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) fall by the wayside once again, after just two events following its relaunch in September 2012. The MEC organizers ran two very good conferences and managed to satisfy the demands of the Exchange community with a well-balanced mixture of both Microsoft and independent content delivered with humor and passion.

But MEC is no more and the hashtag #IamMEC is replaced by #MECisgone. Such is life.

Much as I loathe the notion of attending an uber-conference with all its attendant pressure for hotels, spaces in session rooms, seats for meals, long queues at registration, problems with stressed Wi-Fi networks, and a crowded tradeshow, I see advantages for both attendees and Microsoft in the new approach.

The advantages for Microsoft are more obvious. Instead of splitting their resources across six conferences, they focus on just one. I assume that the budgets for most Microsoft conferences are cost-neutral as attendee fees match the costs of each event, so running one large conference instead of five or six smaller events shouldn’t make much difference there.

The fact that Microsoft won’t have to ship engineers, marketing people, and other staff from conference to conference during the year should result in big savings. For instance, it was silly to have MEC and TechEd run in Austin and Houston within six weeks of each other in April and May. Time is the most precious resource, after all, and this decision should free thousands of weeks of people time for more productive activities. Like improving product quality, creating new features, or better communication with customers. And because it is a single conference, it should be possible to ensure that the best speakers with the deepest technical knowledge are available.

The hope is that Microsoft will reinvest some of the time saved by not running the now-canned conferences into the planning that is necessary to deliver compelling content for the various groups that will flock to the new event. A quick look at the likely groups finds:

  • Exchange
  • SharePoint
  • Lync
  • Windows Server (Management)
  • Project
  • Cloud
  • Azure

You’ll notice that I don’t include Office 365 in the list. This is because the Office 365 services (Exchange Online etc.) can be addressed in the “base” technology tracks. In reality, outside of the services, the remaining stuff that you might discuss about Office 365 are licensing details and other mundane stuff that really doesn’t light up a conference agenda.

Coordinating so many tracks (which could be then represented by multiple subsidiary tracks) in a coherent agenda that allocates the right rooms to the right speakers at the right time is a difficult task. After all, you don’t want a session covering an arcane (but important) detail of a product to be delivered by a barely coherent speaker to an audience of two in a large conference hall when people cannot get into other more popular sessions. I imagine that some sessions from popular speakers will need to be repeated as well, which increases the scheduling complexity.

Although some will look for dedicated content, others will like the fact that a single conference provides coverage of the complete Microsoft enterprise technology stack. It should be possible to cherry pick great content across the complete spectrum to update yourself for different tasks, such as planning the migration of an infrastructure to Windows 2012 R2 complete with upgrades for all of the applications, monitoring framework, third party products, and even home-grown applications.

Attendees will be happy if the schedule is well-organized and contains lots of compelling content delivered by speakers who know their stuff. Given that new (“Wave 16”) versions of the Office servers are due toward the end of 2016 is helpful in this respect as people will be interested to find out what new features have been included in the servers and how they will coexist with existing technology.

Apart from the prospect of dealing with crowds (for everything), the biggest attendee issue I have heard voiced is that not everyone will be able to attend a single conference. Take the average IT shop where a number of people divide up the responsibilities for different technologies. In the past, these people would have each been able to take a week off to attend the conference that best matched their area of competence. Now, they will have to make a decision as to who should attend the mega-conference and figure out how they can share the information gained at the conference. To offset the problem, the fact that Microsoft does an excellent job of sharing conference material through MSDN’s Channel 9 should give those who are left behind confidence that they’ll have access to a lot of the content presented at the conference without being there,

At this point in time it’s too early to know whether the new technology conference will be a solid replacement for the set of conferences that it has displaced. But I’m positive for now and will remain so unless the agenda is a mess and Microsoft takes too many short cuts. I don’t think they will, but I will be watching.

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Exchange Unwashed Digest – July 2014

Another month has gone by and it was a busy one for my “Exchange Unwashed” blog on I published thirteen posts covering everything from the thorny question of just how many paid subscribers Microsoft has for Office 365 to some lingering system registry entries for long-departed Exchange 2013 servers. Here’s what happened in July 2014:

Office 365 by the numbers – an ever-increasing trajectory (July 31): Microsoft does not publish details of how many subscribers connect to Office 365 so you have to make some educated guesses as to how they’re doing. The most recent data was a report of a $2.5 billion annual run rate given at the recent Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). Plugging that into an Excel worksheet indicates that Office 365 now has 9.53% of the installed Exchange base. But the trajectory is upward and the installed base is moving. The question is how quickly it will move over the next few years and how much will end up in the cloud. Recent legal debate and U.S. rulings that Microsoft has to provide copies of email kept on Office 365 servers in Ireland won’t help reassure non-U.S. customers that their data is safe in the cloud, so it will be interesting to track how things evolve over the next few months.

Yammer – a technology still looking for a solution? (July 29): I have been doing my best to use Yammer over the last few months to gain an insight into its value. So far I haven’t found too much, at least not over my existing tools. But Microsoft is working hard to integrate Yammer with their other Office servers so things might get better. Then again, they might not…

Lingering entries for long-deleted servers (July 24): Exchange 2013 is pretty good at cleaning up after itself, but it does leave references to long-departed servers in the system registry on servers. And this causes Managed Availability to have a little fit. Just a little one.

The changing nature of email NDRs (July 22): A heck of a lot of non-delivery notifications are issued by email systems daily. The question is whether you can adjust the content of the NDRs to make the recipients better understand why the email didn’t get through. This post looks at some NDRs from common email systems and concludes which is the best.

Challenges await as Microsoft dumps MEC, TechEd (and other conferences) for a mega-event (July 21): It looks like many of us will be heading to Chicago, IL in the first week of May 2015 to attend Microsoft’s mega-IT technology event. The sad thing is that this event replaces the like of MEC, which I enjoyed immensely. The good thing is that it puts a bullet through TechEd, which I did not. We’ll just have to wait and see how good the new event is and whether Microsoft can deal with the organizational and logistical challenges that await.

Protect users by suppressing Outlook’s conflict resolution reports (July 17): Outlook generates conflict resolution reports when it encounters a problem with an item, such as when two clients operate on the same item at roughly the same time. Normally things go smoothly and Outlook resolves the conflict, but then it has to tell the user that a conflict existed and what was done to resolve the issue. And the problem is that most users don’t care and don’t understand the report. So do everyone a favor and suppress the reports. Outlook will still do its thing and users won’t be bothered. It’s a win-win all round.

Outlook Apps – a new approach worth considering (July 15): The history of Exchange APIs is studded with many failures. Things like CDO Routing Objects – a nice idea but badly implemented and poorly supported. Now we have Outlook Apps, which really seem to be a nice thing because they work across multiple platforms and come with a lot of example code to get you going. Worth looking at!

Microsoft Learning insults Exchange professionals with simply awful video (July 14): I received a lot of feedback after I posted this note about a video that I thought was really bad, mostly because it was a very unprofessional way (IMHO) to treat an important topic. Thankfully Microsoft Learning agreed and they took the video down. See what you think.

Inconsistent searches all too commonly seen in Exchange (July 10). Last week a ZDNet contributor posted a note explaining why he had junked Outlook after many years and had moved to Gmail. The poor search facilities available in Outlook and the inconsistent results that are achieved when searching online and offline were part of his problem. The good news is that Microsoft is aware that they need to do better with search. This can’t happen soon enough.

Codename “Oslo” is now the Delve product (July 9): Much hype accompanied the announcement that Microsoft was working on a product designed to make better sense of all of the information floating around corporate IT systems, especially in places like Outlook mailboxes and SharePoint document libraries. The new product was codenamed Oslo. Now it’s Delve and it’s coming to Office 365 users by the end of 2014. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft resolves issues like privacy and inadvertent disclosure of information when Delve appears.

Security Design Change for Office 365 Public Folders Causes Inbound Email to NDR (July 8): Microsoft said that they were committed to providing better up-front information about upcoming changes to Office 365 through their online roadmap, which is really very good. But then we’ve had a series of small but irritating changes that no one seemed to realize should have been communicated. This one was a good change in that it increased security for mail-enabled public folders and restored parity with Exchange 2010, but it broke stuff for customers without warning, which is never good.

Two recent Microsoft changes affecting Office 365; one reversed, one partially (July 3): Another set of unannounced changes. The first was when Microsoft took over domains operated by and caused mail routing to break for legitimate customers. The second was a botched attempt to introduce new administrative roles within Office 365. The No-IP situation is now resolved and the new roles have been withdrawn – but they’ll be back.

Directory flaw led to Exchange Online outage (July 1): The 7-hour Exchange Online outage on June 24 was caused by the directory infrastructure failing to keep pace with authentication requests. The issue revealed a problem that Microsoft is fixing and it’s also a warning for on-premises customers – if Active Directory goes bad, lots of strange and screwy things happen with Exchange. Period.

I can’t pretend that I will be as productive in August. Vacation beckons.

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A warmed-over MCSE program is no pinnacle

Apparently the head of certifications at Microsoft (Tim Sneath) has said that Microsoft is going to make the MCSE exams “harder for everyone” by introducing new types of questions for which answers are harder to memorize. In other words, they want to eliminate the “certification by rote learning”, brain dumps, and question sharing activities that have made MCSE certification far less valuable than it should be.

Of course, this aspiration comes from the same organization (Microsoft Learning – MSL) that eliminated the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) programs last year, much to the dismay of those who had invested large amounts of time, energy, and money into attaining those accreditations, both of which were firmly based in knowledge acquisition and the ability to put that knowledge into effective practice. I thought that the decision was a bad one then and nothing has happened since to make me change that view.

MSL promised that they would look at creating another “pinnacle” to replace MCA and MCM. In this case, the pinnacle would be the top of the Microsoft accreditation stack and recognize the best of the best in the various technical disciplines. The good thing that could have happened here is an expansion of the numbers who achieved the peak, probably at the cost of some weakening of the high standards demanded by MCM and MCA. I would not have had a problem with this because not everyone can afford the time and cash commitment implicit in travelling to Redmond for MCM training or to go through the time-intense nature of MCA board interviews. It would have been good had a solution been found to allow an MCM-lite accreditation be rolled out on a worldwide basis at reduced cost. Of course, in order to be credible as a “pinnacle”, that accreditation would have had to be maintained at a much higher level than the average MCSE. A 90% MCM would have been a good goal.

However, the problem here is that even an MCM-lite program would have taken a lot of resources and brainpower to deliver. Even if Microsoft had found a good set of tutors available to deliver MCM training around the world, huge effort would have been required to develop the training – and to keep the knowledge refreshed in a world where change occurs on a quarterly cadence. I’m sure that budget was a huge obstacle to overcome.

It seems therefore that MSL has elected to attempt to tweak the MCSE program and force standards higher. Increasing the complexity of the questions asked is a more cost-efficient way of raising standards because the work can be done centrally and then deployed through existing testing mechanisms. MSL can say that they are responding to the needs of customers and IT professionals alike and all is well in the world.

But it really isn’t. Although some increase in the effort required to attain MCSE certification might happen initially, the ecosystem that surrounds Microsoft accreditation will respond. Organizations who deliver training focused on passing MCSE exams will flex and change to accommodate the new testing regime. Question dump sites will continue. People will continue to find ways to game the system. And even if MSL continue to tweak and improve the exams and testing methodologies, they will really only be staying one step ahead of others who make money today from MCSE training and want to continue to do so in the future. It’s a hard place to be.

At the end of the day, I don’t think this approach will improve the level of technical competence of certified individuals very much at all. It might move the needle a tad but it’s hardly going to represent a new pinnacle for the certification stack. On the upside, MSL look good because they are responding to concerns about the MCSE program and are doing so in a cost-effective manner, so the people who read program reviews and monitor budget spreadsheets will be happy.

It’s sad, but MSL seems set on a path that does not accommodate the 1% or so of the technical community who wish to extend themselves and become the best of the best. MCM and MCA were flawed programs  but they represented an obvious and well-earned pinnacle for Microsoft certification. A warmed over MCSE (2014 model) will not.

A missed opportunity…

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And now for something completely different – Monty Python Live

Py8I’m sure many of you don’t appreciate the humour of Monty Python because it is very much an acquired taste. But those of us who were brought up in the black-and-white TV era appreciate the wit and insightful comment that Monty Python brought to the screens at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, not to mention their successful “Holy Grail” and “Life of Brian” films.

All of which meant that the announcement of some live concerts at the O2 in London created a unique opportunity to see five of the six Pythons in action… So I went with my two sons and a friend and am terribly happy that I did.

Four Yorkshiremen

Four Yorkshiremen

This was the first time I had been to the O2 and it’s quite a location, especially if you arrive there via the Emirates SkyLine.

O2 London from the Emirates SkyLine

O2 London from the Emirates SkyLine

We attended the second Monty Python Live (Mostly) concert (July 2). I had read the reviews of the first night and discovered that most of the critics were unhappy because the show was basically a rerun of many popular sketches including “Four Yorkshiremen” (above). However, that’s exactly what I expected and my view appeared to be shared by the vast majority of the 16,000 crowd, not many of whom looked for new breakthrough comedy from the 70+ year old stars.

Lots of people arrived dressed up as their favourite characters. Many red-caped cardinals were to be seen along with a group of Gumbys complete with their most precious wellington boots. I also saw one nattily-dressed gentleman who had forgotten his trousers – or simply wanted to show off what nice underclothes he had.

Paying for an argument

Paying for an argument

The show developed very much as expected with famous sketches being interspersed by some energetic song and dance routines that gave the Pythons a rest.

Lumberjack song

Lumberjack song

I thought Michael Palin was terrific with Eric Idle a close second. Palin’s delivery of the “Lumberjack song” was great as was his delivery in the Spanish Inquisition. Idle’s singing was excellent too and he boasted a tasteful number in black lingerie too.

English judges

English judges

John Cleese was a larger, better padded, and much-rounder version of the younger Cleese who is no longer capable of performing silly walks. That didn’t stop his wit showing through, notably in the argument sketch.

Argument sketch

Argument sketch

However, the best moment of the show came when the Cleese and Palin reunited for the Pet Shop sketch and both managed to forget their lines, much to the delight of the audience and their mutual amusement. It was quite something to note how many of the audience were able to recite the lines about the famous parrot as the sketch developed. Truly these were true believers.

Lovely Parrot that has ceased to be and is no more...

Lovely Parrot that has ceased to be and is no more…

I thought it interesting that Terry Gillam took a more up-front role in the sketches, probably because there’s a certain limit to the number of cartoons that can be deployed in a live show. He popped up as the redoubtable Gumby in the flower arrangement sketch and later on as Cardinal Fang of the Spanish Inquisition. All good stuff

Flower arranging

Flower arranging

The Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition

All of the sketches I anticipated showed up and were a delight. In fact, the whole show was a barrel of laughs from start to finish.

Australian philosphy

Australian philosphy

The live shows come to an end on July 20. However, this show will be broadcast to cinemas around the world on that date and is also due for rebroadcast on July 23 and 24. I might just attend it again.

For those who are interested, all of the photos shown with the exception of the SkyLine shot were taken from the general body of the audience using my son’s Canon S120 digital camera. As obvious here, the low-light performance of this camera was pretty impressive for something that easily fits into a pocket! I used the camera on my Nokia Lumia 1020 to take the photo from the SkyLine.

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Automatic mailbox move requests in Exchange 2013

Soon after writing about the need to clean out lingering mailbox move requests for Exchange 2010, I requested the developers to add the ability to remove move requests automatically after a certain period. After all, it’s a royal pain to find that you can’t move a mailbox just because an ancient move request still exists.

As I was researching new features to write about in Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox and High Availability, I was delighted to discover that a solution exists in Exchange 2013. It’s taken me a while to comment about the solution, but better late than never (I guess).

If you look at the parameters for the cmdlets that control how the Mailbox Replication Service (MRS) moves mailbox data, you’ll find that they all support the new CompletedRequestAgeLimit parameter. These cmdlets are:

Note that the New-PublicFolderMigrationRequest cmdlet, which is used to migrate old-style public folders to their modern counterparts on either Exchange 2013 on-premises or Exchange Online, does not support an age limit parameter. This is very logical because public folder migrations can last for an extended period. Make sure that you read my notes about Exchange 2013 public folder migration if you haven’t started this process yet.

If you don’t pass a value for the CompletedRequestAgeLimit parameter, the default of 30 days is used. And once this period expires, MRS cleans up by removing the request automatically. Of course, Exchange 2013 includes the migration service and mailbox moves are now processed in batches that are controlled by the migration service, but mailbox move requests live on underneath the cover and are the prompts for MRS to move mailboxes.

Some might ask why it took Microsoft so long before they decided to auto-expire mailbox move requests. My theory is that it’s yet more evidence of the increasing attention paid to automation in Exchange 2013 that is brought about by the massive increase in scale seen in Office 365. Consider just how many mailbox moves occur between Exchange Online databases. Now consider just how much of a royal pain in the rear end it would be if all of the mailbox move requests had to be cleaned up manually. Automatic request expiration makes a huge amount of sense when you’re dealing with millions of mailboxes, just like it makes sense if you have just a few to look after.

Another interesting new parameter is Priority, which allows you to provide MRS with an indication of the importance of a job. MRS uses the priority along with other factors such as target server health (as measured by Managed Availability) to decide which job to process next. The default value is “Normal” and it extends from “Emergency” (highest) to “Lowest”.

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