With the release of Exchange 2013, there have been many blog posts on What’s New or implementation guidance, however the content has been pretty typical of the same stuff repeated over and over, or someone’s perspective of implementing the technology in their isolated home lab. For those of us officially participating in Microsoft’s early adopter program implementing Exchange 2013 in real life production environments, we are restricted from blogging, talking about, sharing our experiences until the product releases, so I’m always chomping at the bit waiting for the final release of the product so I can share “real” information. NOW that Exchange 2013 is out, I’m going to post a series of blog posts on real world large scale deployments of Exchange 2013 and what is truly in Exchange 2013 that helps drive decisions by organizations to jump in and migrate to Exchange 2013 in their production environment!
The world of IT is very different than it was a decade ago when organizations immediately upgraded to the latest version of technology just because it was the latest version. These days, organizations typically need business justification for migrating, and that is what we found to be true in our early adopter customer implemenations that we had to key in on specific improvements in Exchange 2013 that directly addressed business benefits worthy of the organization to migrate to Exchange 2013 (and even moreso to migrate to a beta version of Exchange 2013 in production at the time!). The balance of this blog post introduces those key areas in Exchange 2013 that were deemed valuable enough and worthy of the organizations to make the commitment to migrate. In subsequent blog posts, I will provide more details on EACH of the areas I note below.
Support for (non-Microsoft) Tablets, Laptops, Mobile Phones
As much as Exchange 2013 has a number of “under the hood” improvements for performance, reliability, management, and scalability that I address in other key points in this article, the first and foremost “driver” for early adopters to push Exchange 2013 into the enterprise has been Microsoft’s support for non-Microsoft endpoint devices. Exchange 2013 has full support for iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, Android phones, Apple Macs, Linux systems in addition to what you’d expect for Windows devices, Windows RT tablets, and Windows 8 systems.
The reality is that there are no special “apps” needed to be downloaded for multi-endpoint support, the full client support is facilitated by leveraging the native Outlook Web App (OWA) that is provided by Exchange 2013. OWA is full featured and has a common user interface (UI) across all platforms. The first thing people (wrongly) think when posed with OWA as the client software for endpoints is that OWA is Web-based meaning that it cannot be used offline, is slow, not full featured, not touch enabled, etc, but quite the contrary. Exchange 2013 fully leverages the core capabilities of HTML5. For those familiar with HTML5, it provides “offline” capabilities, you can effectively “go offline” with HTML5 written apps, so from your mobile phone or tablet or whatever, you can click “Offline” and you can still open emails, calendar appointments, create new emails, reply to emails, etc. And then when you are back online, anything queued up will do a two-way sync. A portion of your mailbox is cached on the system or device, similar to an Offline Store (OST), all enabled or disabled for security purposes by policy.
And since the content is cached locally, the responsiveness of accessing OWA content is instantaneous as the client does not have to fetch the content off the Exchange server each and every time typical of traditional Web-based access. That, combined with comparable features between OWA and the full 32-bit/64-bit Outlook client AND auto-adjustment for various form factors (phone, tablet, full screen) makes OWA in Exchange 2013 a game changer in terms of support for virtually “any” endpoint device with a browser that supports HTML5.
I cover this as well as more details about what Microsoft calls “1-wide”, “2-wide”, and “3-wide” formats in a subsequent blog posting that I’ll post shortly.
Enhanced Email Retention, Archiving, Legal Hold, and eDiscovery
While supporting any endpoint (especially in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)) environment is a critical business need that is applauded by endusers, the functionality in Exchange 2013 that has a direct cost offset of 3rd party tools (and thus economically offsets the cost of migrating to Exchange 2013) are in the areas of email retention, archiving, Legal Hold, and eDiscovery. Exchange 2010 introduced integrated email retention, archiving, journaling, and eDiscovery that I blogged about a couple years ago in what is seen as the authoritative guide on the topic on the Web (see my 7/29/2011 blog post for details). With Exchange 2013, Microsoft expanded the capabilities to improve key areas of Classification, integration with Rights Management Services, improved eDiscovery capabilities, AND the ability to search and hold not only Exchange data, but holistically across Exchange data, Exchange archives, SharePoint data, and filesystem data so that a single query and action can centrally manage ALL of the content for users.
This integrated enhancement for eDiscovery and information management comes at a time when organizations are looking for alternatives to their 3rd party archiving tools. In the past couple years, organizations have found their archiving vendor selling out and no longer being support (in the case of Mimosa NearPoint), has not been updated in a decade and thus very old and clunky (in the case of Symantec Enterprise Vault), or just requires more administration, management, constant care and feeding to keep a separate server configuration working properly with the core capabilities of Exchange OR as the organization looks to migrate mail to the Cloud (as in Office 365), how to handle on-premise archives.
The simplicity of having Exchange 2013’s archiving, retention, legal hold, and eDiscovery built-in, native, and part of the day to day administration of management of Exchange, plus the portability of mailboxes, archiving, policy rules, enterprise search, legal hold, and management becoming universal between Exchange 2013 on-premise and Exchange Online in the cloud, organizations don’t have to create complicated plans and sophisticated training on managing their compliance driven communications.
In an upcoming blog post, I will cover how Microsoft is addressing retention, archiving, legal hold, and eDiscovery in Exchange 2013, and show how basic functions are addressed by both users as well as by administrators in the organization.
Truly Enterprise Scale and Supportability
As much as the “under the hood” guts of Exchange 2013 adds significant value to the overall reliability, stability, scalability, and manageability of Exchange, organizations see these enhancements as “great to have” in terms of improvements, but hard things to convince management as “the reasons” to upgrade to Exchange 2013. But if some of these other points I note in this article are business critical enough, this then becomes the extra kicker as every organizations wants their email system to just work better.
Selfishly, Microsoft improved Exchange 2013 to better support millions of mailboxes that Microsoft hosts for Office 365, and the benefits of the enhancements are received by us all even if we put Exchange 2013 on-premise. As I’ve blogged Exchange architecture in the past, Exchange 2003 was a good corporate email system that typically when you had more than about 500 mailboxes, you would add a 2nd server to split the load. With Exchange 2007 we were able to get 1500-2500 mailboxes comfortably on a single server, and Exchange 2010 bump that up to 5,000-10,000 mailboxes on a single server. But with Exchange 2013, we’ve been able to scale the new Exchange to support 50,000 to 250,000 mailboxes on a single server with enhancements made to the core platform. Additionally, where in the past you had to patch/update the frontend and backend servers simultaneously, with Exchange 2013, the separation between the CAS frontend role and the MBX backend role does NOT require simulateous patching and updating. For Microsoft that is hosting tens of millions of mailboxes, this ability to patch and update separately, and scale tens or hundreds of thousands of mailboxes per server, while your enterprise might not have millions of users, it does mean that organizations can cut back on the number of servers they have for Exchange. The early adopter orgs we worked with were able to cut the # of servers by at least half, and even to the point of dropping three-quarters of the servers OUT of the environment and yet have even better high availability and redundancy!
This becomes a financial factor for organizations looking to migrate to Exchange 2013 that can decrease dozens of Exchange servers OUT of the environment simplifying maintenance, and support while improving reliability and redundancy.
This is all covered in the architecture of Exchange 2013 that I will address in a future blog post in a lot more detail…
On-Prem, In-Cloud, or Both
In the past, the conversation of email in the cloud was a decision of all or nothing, you either decided to pick up and move everything to the cloud, or your honker down and keep email on-premise. But with Exchange 2013, Microsoft has completely changed the concept of cloud email with full support of a Hybrid on-premise and cloud model. With Exchange 2013, an organization can port users between On-premise Exchange and Office 365 in the cloud choosing to migrate users to the cloud, or keeping some users on-premise. This split model is frequently necessary when the organization has some key application or function that requires Exchange to be onpremise. For those users who need their mailboxes on-premise, they can remain on-premise. Those who don’t need the on-premise mailbox requirement can have their mailboxes migrated to Office 365.
The tools to administrator and manage both on-premise and cloud Exchange mailboxes is the exact same tool, so effective the new Exchange 2013 Admin Center. Additionally, when eDiscovery searches are conducted, when mail is archived or retained, when mailboxes are put on legal hold, the same policy, rule, and process is blanket supported BOTH for mailboxes on-premise and those in the cloud. No need to configure separate policies, no need to search cloud and on-prem separately, a true tight integration that helps organizations optimize email storage to THEIR needs!
Tight Integration with SharePoint, Lync, and Office Web Apps
And lastly, of the biggies for decision making to go to Exchange 2013 has been the tight integration between ALL of the 2013 applications including Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013, and Office Web Apps. 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 / Lync servers, combined with the decrease in servers just because of better scalability that I mentioned previously, and early adopter orgs have been able to drop the # of servers in their environment by 50-70% WHILE improving redundancy and high availability!
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Also with the consolidation of servers, there is extremely tight integration where SharePoint document libraries and discussion threads are integrated right into OWA so that a user can not only see their emails, archives, and public folders, but also their SharePoint libraries. 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.
I’ll address more about Site Mailboxes, Office Web Apps, and other integration points in Exchange 2013 in a subsequent blog posting as well.
So, a fair amount to cover, AND you won’t have to wait long for the subsequent blog posts that I reference here as I plan to post all of the content within a week of time (the advantage (or disadvantage) of doing a “day trip” to Asia, I have 38 straight hours of flight time that gives me plenty of time to do some writing!).
And to address one other point, the ultimate question of “when is the right time to migrate to Exchange 2013?”, the easy answer to that is because a key component needed to migrate from Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010 (effectively Service Pack 3 / Roll-up 8) is not slated to be publicly available until early calendar 2013, organizations can’t just up and migrate “right now” anyway. Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013, Office Web Apps are RTM and publicly available for download and implement now for a green field (brand new) implementation, so organizations installing Exchange for the first time can most certainly implement Exchange 2013 now!
However, during this wait period, my suggestion has been for organizations to build Exchange 2013 in their labs, fiddle with the features I note above that ARE fully functional and capable for use today. While you can’t migrate to Exchange 2013 just yet, you can at least get your feet wet on the new features and functions, something you’ll need to do at some point anyway.
As for the comment whether Exchange 2013 is “prime time” if orgs can’t put it in production until early 2013?, organizations that have been on the early adopter program for the past year+ HAVE been authorized and are supported with their migration to Exchange 2013 with a beta release of the needed Exchange 2007 / Exchange 2010 Service Pack and Roll-up, and as an organization implementing Exchange 2013 to authorized early adopter organizations, my company has firsthand experience with thousands of mailboxes being migrated in production to Exchange 2013 which is what these blog posts are based on.
Follow the additional posts I’ll be doing on Exchange 2013 (as well as upcoming series on Windows 2012), you can access all of my blog posts by going to http://www.networkworld.com/community/morimoto. Hope you find this information helpful!
Rand Morimoto is the President of Convergent Computing (http://www.cco.com), a consulting firm in the San Francisco Bay Area that helps organizations plan, design, implement, migrate, and support their Microsoft (and non-Microsoft) technologies. CCO was an early adopter of Exchange 2013 putting dozens of servers in production months before the product release. Rand is the author of the book "Exchange 2013 Unleashed" from Sams Publishing written based on early adopter deployment experiences, tips, tricks, and best practices.
Rand Morimoto has been in the computer industry for more than 30 years and has authored, co-authored, or been a contributing writer for a couple dozen books on Microsoft Windows, Security, Exchange email, BizTalk Server, and remote and mobile computing. Rand is the president of Convergent Computing, an IT consulting firm that has been one of the key early adopter program partners with Microsoft, implementing beta versions of Microsoft technologies 2-3 years before the product releases to the public. This provides Rand and the consultants in his company extensive knowledge on the technologies long before the products are generally available.
Besides speaking at more than 50 conferences and conventions around the world in the past year on tips, tricks, and best practices on planning, migrating, and implementing technologies, Rand is also head judge for the worldwide Imagine Cup competition, is a Board member for the Chabot Space and Science Center and planetarium, and a Regent for the Board of Saint Mary's College of California.
Rand's book Exchange Server 2010 Unleashed was selected as the November, 2009, book of the month book giveaway. Read a free sample chapter of this book,, hosted exclusively by Microsoft Subnet. Buy the book now from InformIT.
Rand's latest book, Microsoft System Center Enterprise Suite Unleashed has been selected as the April, 2010, Microsoft Subnet book giveaway. Read an excerpt of Microsoft System Center Enterprise Suite Unleashed.
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