The last of this current series on What’s New in Exchange 2013 that have driven organizations to choosing to implement Exchange 2013 is around the tight integration of ALL of the Office 2013 servers (Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013, and Office Web Apps) together! Instead of separate applications that have “hooks” between them, the 2013 family of Office Server products are very tightly integrated, so much so that you can completely get rid of multiple “frontend” Web servers hosting OWA, Lync Web, SharePoint web and have a SINGLE Office Web App server (or cluster of servers for redundancy) frontend ALL of your 2013 backend servers.
The advantage of this central Web server model is a dramatic decrease in the number of Web servers needed to host the various Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync servers. In my blog posting about Exchange 2013 architecture where I talk about Microsoft eliminating the Hub Transport and Unified Messaging server roles as well as providing performance scalability of literally thousands / tens of thousands of mailboxes and connetions to single Exchange servers, the further minimization of Web frontends with this centralization of Web roles continues. Early adopter organizations implementing Exchange 2013 have been able to drop the # of servers in their environment by 50-70% WHILE improving redundancy and high availability! The key here is to not just simply remove servers, but to take the opportunity to remove a handful of servers, but add in a couple servers for DAG mailbox redundancy, for load balancing, or for site failover!
This ability to decrease servers but then add in redundancy and site resiliency has been a HUGE factor for organizations to migrate to Exchange 2013. Most organizations have some form of high availability / disaster recovery initiative in the works, and instead of buying 3rd party solutions, taking a lot of servers and simply doubling the servers, when properly architected, Exchange 2013 can load balance and spread out active data and information access, while allowing the servers and resources to ALSO act as failover targets in the event of server or system failures.
Back to SharePoint and Lync integration with Exchange 2013 though, so going far beyond simply having connectors between SharePoint and Exchange to literally having SharePoint document libraries and lists show up within OWA! By going into SharePoint 2013 and creating Site Mailboxes, organizations end up having content that is viewable right within OWA.
This integration was possible with SharePoint Workspaces in 2010 as well as individual users were able to bring SharePoint content “offline” by right clicking content and choosing offline access in 2010, however that was ONLY with the Outlook 2010 client. When the user accessed OWA, that link in Exchange 2010 was not available to the SharePoint 2010, it was merely a client function. With Exchange 2013, the connection between Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013 is exposed not ONLY in an Outlook 2013 client, but is also similarly accessible within OWA in Exchange 2013, and since mobile devices have a valuable experience with OWA, the content is accessible also from mobile devices.
Additionally, as mentioned in the eDiscovery / email retention article I posted on Exchange 2013, I had mentioned “search” is now universal across ALL Office 2013 products. So with a search from OWA 2013, a user can find content sitting in their Exchange 2013 mailbox, their Exchange 2013 archive, their SharePoint 2013 document libraries, their SharePoint 2013 lists, their Lync 2013 IM conversations, and even content that is stored on a Windows network share. This universal searching capability leverages the FAST Search that was an option in SharePoint 2010, this FAST Search functionality is now the sole/default search for Exchange 2013 and accompanying Office 2013 Server products!
And with the addition of a Lync Web Access in 2013, much of Lync’s functionality can also be accessed straight from within OWA or SharePoint or wherever the user connects to as their primary connection point. Similar to how Lync provided connectivity in the past of providing “presence” so a user can see whether another user is online, offline, busy, or the like, that functionality is extended in Exchange 2013 / Lync 2013 integration. With Lync 2013 installed, a user can see presence, click a user’s name in OWA and start an instant message, start a Web conference, and start an audio or video conversation. Likewise, a Lync 2013 instant messaging chat can be turned into a better documented and managed email conversation. Or a person looking at SharePoint documents stored up in libraries and click on the name of the author of the document and initiate and IM or Web Conference with that person. The 2010 products provide much of this functionality, in the 2013 server products, the capability of integration is a given, and the ability for users to gain access greatly simplifies communications within an organization.
And lastly, another major component of the Office 2013 Server integration is the ability to support Office Web Apps, the ability of running Word, Excel, and other Office apps from within a browser eliminating the need to having a copy of Office on an endpoint system. Now, when a user opens a document, the document is rendered in a Web view AND the user can choose to edit the document that opens up a Web edited version of the document.
Organizations have been able to tightly integrate Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013, along with Office Web Apps to simply a user’s experience regardless of endpoint the person is working on whether a Windows computer, an Apple Mac laptop, a Windows 8 tablet, an iPad or iPod, an Android tablet, or the like. No longer do users have to think about which computer they were working on, which system they configured for access to what type of documents, or whether they have the Lync client installed or not. The integration of the 2013 server products along with the support for non-Windows based endpoints has really helped organizations achieve support of a BYOD environment or multi-platform endpoint environment!
Several other postings I’ve done on Exchange 2013, just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or http://www.networkworld.com/community/morimoto to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!
http://www.cco.com) an early adopter partner of Microsoft that put Exchange 2013 in production environments months before the product release. Rand is also the author of the book “Exchange 2013 Unleashed” by Sams Publishing that was available worldwide in November 2012 based on real world implementation and migrations to Exchange 2013 involving thousands of user mailboxes.
Rand Morimoto is the President of Convergent Computing (