The big news in February 2014 was the release of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Service Pack 1 (build 847.32), the much-awaited version long deemed as “the” software worthy for deployment in many corporate environments. SP1 includes many new features and enhancements that are worthy of debate and I’ll be covering them over the next few weeks in the lead up to the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in Austin at the end of March. I will be speaking at MEC and chairing a panel session too. Hopefully I’ll meet up with many of this blog’s readers there!
In the interim, here’s what appeared on my “Exchange Unwashed” blog on WindowsITPro.com in February 2014.
Exchange 2013 SP1 introduces simplified DAGs (Feb 27): I really like the way that the Exchange developers attempt to simplify core parts of the product. Taking advantage of the capability of Windows 2012 R2 Failover Clustering to remove some of the components previously required to form a Database Availability Group is sensible and practical. It’s also the second-best new feature in Exchange 2013 SP1 (MAPI over HTTP is my candidate for best new feature). You’ll be using these DAGs in the future, so it’s good to get to know them soon.
Exchange Server 2013 SP1: A Mixture of New and Completed Features (Feb 25): It might have surprised some that I was ready to deliver a 1,400 word assessment of Exchange 2013 SP1 soon after Microsoft made the software available for download, but that’s because Microsoft runs a program to allow MVPs access to preliminary code builds so that we can try out new features and find bugs. The good news is that I think Exchange 2013 SP1 is pretty solid, even if there are some acknowledged problems with third-party products (like anti-spam solutions) that depend on transport agents (you can read about the issues in the comments to the EHLO post announcing SP1). The well-tried advice to carefully test any new software version against a realistic representation of your operational environment before deployment, including any third-party products that you use, holds for any update of Exchange).
Four synchronization issues between Outlook and site mailboxes (Feb 20): You might not use site mailboxes, the new integration point between Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, and Outlook 2013, but I do. And they have value in their own way, which might or might not work in your environment. I’ve found four places where synchronization is “interesting” between Exchange and SharePoint. It’s good to know these things before you deploy, unless you like surprises.
Exchange’s most annoying and confusing error message (Feb 18). Have you tried to remove a mailbox database from Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013? If so, you might have had the intense pleasure of meeting the most annoying and confusing error message that I can find in the product. The challenge exists to find a better candidate. Please let me know if you do.
The raging debate around the lack of NFS support in Exchange (Feb 13): I wrote an article in October 2013 outlining why Exchange does not support NFS-based storage. Not much was said then but January produced a fair amount of heat in my Twitter feed as NFS advocates reacted strongly to what they perceive to be Microsoft’s unfair and technically unjustified stance on the topic. So I assembled the arguments from both sides and attempted to summarize them in this piece. And afterwards everything went quiet… too quiet for my liking. Perhaps things will hot up again at MEC.
The Outlook 2013 slider and its potential effect on archive mailboxes (Feb 11): So here’s the thing – Microsoft introduced archive mailboxes with a great deal of hype in Exchange 2010 and pronounced them to be the place where you put items that don’t need to be available all the time. Long-term storage in other words that reduces the size of primary mailboxes. But people are not organized and having archive mailboxes complicates their environment a tad, including not being able to access information from mobile devices. And then Outlook 2013 arrives with some extra smarts that allows control over what information is synchronized to the OST, which addresses the major problem with the OST (performance when it gets too large). So we can now have everything in the primary mailbox again and ignore archive mailboxes. Or can we?
Viewing administrator audit entries – a start made, more to do (Feb 6): I know many of you do not concern yourselves with the details of audit entries. They are, after all, only there to provide insight into matters when something goes wrong. And nothing ever goes wrong on your watch… right? But things sometimes go wrong for me and when they do, I like to know what happened. Up to now it’s meant a somewhat torturous interaction with PowerShell. But from Exchange 2013 CU3 on, you can use EAC. The implementation isn’t too bad, but more work is required to make it really useful.
The unhappy mixture of Office 365, Outlook Web App, and Windows XP (Feb 4): A public service announcement to warn Office 365 users who still have Windows XP around that Outlook Web App is going to turn its nose up in disgust at their habits on April 8. Well, something like that.
March takes us to MEC and there’s lots of work to do to prepare for that event. Stay connected with Twitter or your favourite social media (like the Exchange 2013 Facebook group) to keep up to date with what’s going on.
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