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Exchange Queue & ANew Features and Improvements in Exchange Server 2010

Henrik Walther

This month's installment of the Exchange Queue & A column is extra exciting, as it covers some of the brand new features and improvements included with the new version of Exchange, Exchange Server 2010 (codenamed E14).

QDoes the new version of Microsoft Exchange replace the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) database technology with a version based on SQL Server?

AThis was a common question back when Exchange 2007 was being developed and the answer is still the same. No, the ESE database technology has not been replaced in the new version of Exchange.

That said, you can expect a lot of improvements relating to the ESE database technology in Exchange Server 2010. Exchange 2007 significantly reduced the I/O footprint for Exchange Server due to its 64-bit architecture, database cache optimizations, the elimination of the streaming database (STM) file, and the installable file system (IFS). Exchange Server 2010 does even more. Exchange 2007 reduced the I/O footprint up to 70 percent—and Exchange Server 2010 will do considerably better.

QHave the high-availability features we know from Exchange Server 2007 changed in the new version of Exchange?

AYes, there are several significant changes to high-availability features in Exchange 2010. As most of you are probably aware, Exchange 2007 introduced new high-availability features such as Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR) and Local Continuous Replication (LCR). To provide site resiliency capabilities for Exchange environments, Standby Continuous Replication (SCR) was added in Exchange 2007 SP1.

Although these features work very well in most enterprise environments, some administrators consider CCR and SCR to be a bit complex to deploy.

With Exchange Server 2010, the Exchange product group has done a lot of work to make the high-availability and site-resiliency features easier to deploy and manage. The result is that Exchange 2010 combines the key availability and resilience features of cluster continuous replication (CCR) and standby continuous replication (SCR) into single high-availability solution that handles both on-site and off-site data replication. Mailbox servers can now be defined as part of a Database Availability Group ( DAG) to provide automatic recovery at the individual mailbox database level instead of at the server level. (see Figure 1). Each Mailbox server in the DAG can host a copy of a mailbox database from any of the server members of the DAG. Like CCR, DAG also uses some Windows Failover Clustering technology, but you no longer need to mess around with the Windows Failover Clustering console or cluadmin.exe. Exchange High Availability is now managed via the Exchange Management Console or the Exchange Management Shell. A new process called the Active Manager runs on the Mailbox servers to manage which mailbox database copies should be active, and only part of the Windows Failover Clustering features are used by a DAG.


Figure 1 Creating a New DAG

On a related note, the concept of storage groups has also been removed from Exchange Server 2010. Now databases live at the organization level, making storage groups obsolete. Although transaction logs used to be associated with storage groups, logs still exist in Exchange Server 2010 as the Extensible Storage Engine and the database use them.

QAre there any improvements relating to Transport server redundancy?

AIndeed there are. Most of you are familiar with the Transport Dumpster feature from Exchange 2007. This feature allowed a Hub Transport server in the same Active Directory site as a CCR-based Mailbox server to resubmit any lost mail after a failover. With Exchange Server 2010, a feature known as Shadow Redundancy has been introduced. Shadow Redundancy provides redundancy for the entire time messages are in transit. With this feature, a message deletion from the ESE-based message queue (mail.que) on a Hub Transport or Edge Transport server will be delayed until an Exchange Server 2010 Transport server has verified that all of the hops the message uses have completed and only then will the message be deleted. Should any of these hops fail, the message will be resubmitted.

Of course, the Transport Dumpster has also been greatly improved. We will cover these improvements in a future installment of the Exchange Queue & A column.

QCan you talk a little about how administration has been improved in Exchange Server 2010?

ASome of the most notable changes related to administration result from the fact that Exchange Server 2010 is based on Windows PowerShell V2; which can be used remotely. This means you can administer Exchange 2010 servers across the network with only Windows PowerShell V2 and Windows Remote Management 2.0 installed on the local machine.

Another interesting change is that you can now add more Exchange organizations to the Exchange Management Console—whether on-premises Exchange organizations or cloud-based organizations such as Exchange Online.

And unlike Exchange 2007 where you had to use the Export-Mailbox and Import-Mailbox cmdlets to export and import data to or from PST files, you can now export and import mailbox data directly via the Exchange Management Console GUI, as shown in Figure 2


Figure 2 Exporting a Mailbox via the Exchange Management Console

QHas client access been improved in Exchange Server 2010?

AYes, there are a number of enhancements related to client access. Probably the most significant one is that Outlook 2007 and later clients will no longer connect directly to the Mailbox servers using MAPI. MAPI is still the primary connection protocol, but with Exchange 2010 these clients will connect to the Client Access Servers (CAS) using a new RPC Client Access Service. This new service is entirely rewritten in managed code, and one of the reasons for the introduction of this service is to restrict all data access to a single common path in the middle tier. The net result will be an improved client experience. For instance, Outlook users will no longer be aware when a failover occurs between mailbox databases in a DAG, as the end point connection for Outlook clients now are CAS.

QIs there anything new for disclaimers based on transport rules in Exchange 2010?

AYes. With Exchange 2010, disclaimers will now support HTML-formatted text, images, and hyperlinks.

QWhat about the Exchange 2007 permission model—any changes made in this area?

AThe permission model we know from Exchange 2007 has actually been replaced with a new one called Role-Based Access Control (RBAC). RBAC makes it possible to define broader or more precise roles and assignments derived from users and/or administrators and the tasks they perform. As most of you already know, Exchange 2007 has only three broad roles to modify: Org, Recipient, and Server, which, along with the fact that permissions are focused on Active Directory objects, makes it extremely difficult to grant or delegate more granular permissions. Exchange 2010 even includes self-management roles, which allow users to create and manage distribution groups.

QI've heard about a new control panel included with Outlook Web Access 2010. Can you explain what this is all about?

AYes, OWA 2010 now includes the Exchange Control Panel (ECP), shown in Figure 3, which replaces the old OWA 2007 Options page. The ECP can be considered a more formal management tool for users as well as administrators. Within the ECP, you can manage all the options that were included with the old Options page and much more. For instance, users can now create and manage distribution groups, perform message-tracking for their own messages, configure retention policies, and even change property fields for their Active Directory user account so that it always contains up-to-date information. And Exchange administrators can create new mailbox-enabled users from within the ECP.


Figure 3 The new Exchange Control Panel in Outlook Web Access 2010

QWill it be possible to use the premium version of Outlook Web Access 2010 OWA with browsers other than Internet Explorer?

AYes, the front-end team in the Exchange product group invested heavily in making sure end users would get the best OWA 2010 experience whether they use Internet Explorer or any of the other popular browsers available today. Now you can also use Safari or Firefox and still get the OWA 2010 premium experience.

QCan you tell about some of the new features and enhancements to OWA 2010 that will especially appeal to end users?

ALet me start by saying that there are lots of exciting features and improvements in the new Exchanger 2010 OWA 2010 client. Here are some of my favorites: Search folders and Favorites are included in the navigation pane. You can now set categories for messages directly from within OWA 2010. OWA 2010 gives you the option of showing calendars side-by-side, and there's a great conversation view that makes the Inbox much easier to digest (see Figure 4). You can now send text (SMS) messages from OWA 2010. And last but certainly not least, OWA 2010 now integrates with Office Communicator, so you can take advantage of its capabilities, such as seeing presence of colleagues on your contact list, sending and receiving instant messages, and more.


Figure 4 OWA 2010’s Conversation View

Henrik Walther is a Microsoft Certified Master: Exchange 2007 and Exchange MVP, with more than 15 years of experience in the IT business. He works as a Technology Architect for Trifork Infrastructure Consulting (a Microsoft Gold partner based in Denmark) and as a Technical Writer for Biblioso Corporation (a U.S.-based company that specializes in managed documentation and localization services).