Sunday, November 22, 2009

Exchange 2010 DAG has a weakness and it's Public Folders

Ehlo All,

One of Exchange Server 2010's best new features is Database Availability Groups. This is a high availability solution for mailbox servers. So, while Microsoft advertises how you can use JBOD and no RAID for disk subsystems for Exchange Server 2010 Mailbox Servers (see the Microsoft User Group presentation on this topic), there is one weakness with this. DAG does not work for Public Folders. So, do not put your Public Folder database on a non-RAID Mailbox Server. Plan on deploying a mailbox server that runs the Public Folder database with a well protected and appropriate disk subsystem. This is unfortunate especially since every Exchange environment deployment I've seen and worked on uses Public Folders. Maybe a future service pack or E15 can fix this. This isn't an easy fix though due to how Outlook clients communicate with Exchange 2010 though. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Exchange Server 2010 OWA - Missing Feature (adding notes) and Clarifcation of Multi-Browser Support

Ehlo All,

During last night's NY Exchange Server User Group meeting after Angi Livermore's excellent Exchange Server 2010 HA technical presentation and demo, I gave a demo comparing Exchange 2007 Outlook Web Access to Exchange 2010 Outlook Web App and found a missing feature. I initially called it a bug, but I bet you Microsoft omitted the feature to release the product sooner. So, while 2010 OWA add some new features (below), the loss of adding notes is a major pain point. Also, a clarification of the multi-browser support.

Some New Features for OWA 2010
  • Premium mode for non-IE browsers. Firefox on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Safari on the Mac. Safari does NOT work on Windows. I tested this with Safari 4.0.3 (531.9.1) on XP SP3. Safari on Windows is OWA Light only.
  • Favorite Folders. Ability to add a Favorite folder. These are shown in the top left. Favorite Folders from Outlook to OWA are not shared.
  • Ability for end user's to view email delivery reports. No more end users saying "did my email arrive yet?". The delivery report shows date and time the email left the Exchange Server organization and was delivered to an outside email server.
  • Threaded email message conversations. All related emails are saved under one message (thread) in your Inbox. This is similar to how gmail's email conversation work or will exist in Outlook 2010 when it's released.
  • Multiple Calendars. You can view multiple calendars in OWA and send a calendar share request from within OWA.
  • Ability for the end user to change AD attributes [phone #, address, etc]. As per Angi, admins can disable this functionality.

Missing Feature for OWA 2010
  • Unable to post a note. This existed in OWA 2003 and 2007. Below are screen shots showing this. This was tested using Microsoft's Exchange Server 2010 UC Trial Service. I debated replicated this with the RTM, but haven't had a chance. I mentioned this to a Microsoft rep to confirm this issue. If you notice, the only 2 drop-down options when in the Notes folder is to create an email message or meeting request.

Exchange 2010 OWA Premium Mode - attempting to add a Note. Click to view full image.


Exchange 2007 OWA Premium Mode - adding a Note is possible. Click to view full image.

I'm a big fan of OWA and the new support for Firefox, but the lack of adding notes is a pain since I heavily use notes. Hopefully Microsoft fixes this as soon as possible.


Recap from November NY Exchange Server User Group Meeting - Exchange 2010 High Availability Technical Presentation and Demo

Ehlo All,

[UPDATED 11/18/09: Added PPTX presentation. See URL below.]

If you missed last night's NY Exchange Server User Group meeting presented by Angi Livermore of Microsoft and official presenter at the NYC Launch Event for Exchange Server 2010 a few weeks ago, you missed one of our best of all time.

Here are some highlights:
- Exchange Server 2010 technical demo of High Availability (called Database Availability Groups). Presentation by Angi can be found here [PDF] or here [PPTX - more clear version].
- most number of attendees (50) at a meeting ever!
- standing room only (we ran out of chairs)
- during my demo of OWA 2007 versus 2010, I found a bug in Exchange 2010 OWA relating to posting Notes. It's not possible based on the 2010 OWA provided by Microsoft for UC Trials. Oops. I'll blog about this later.

Other Notes from the meeting
- OS requirements to run Exchange Server 2010 DAG feature is Windows Server 2008 and later AND Enterprise Server or higher.
- Clone a VM, no need to change the SID. The application we all know called NewSID is not necessary anymore. Turns out it was a myth! NewSID developer (who now works for Microsoft) explains in this blog posting.
- Exchange 2007 will be supported on Windows 2008 R2. Microsoft reversed course on this. Microsoft Exchange Team stating such on this blog posting.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Article - Discussing Leapfrogging from 2003 to 2010

Ehlo All,

This is a good non-technical article from that discusses IT admins that have gone from Exchange Server 2003 to 2010 and others that are considering it. Hence bypassing Exchange 2007. I would agree with this, since the biggest change involved in moving to 2007 or 2010 is the x64 operating system. Once you have planned for x64, make the jump if you can to 2010. Jumping from 2003 to 2007 improves I/O by 70%, while going from 2003 to 2010 improves I/O by 90%. So, this will allow you to support more users on a single server than before. One of the big cost savings in upgrading.

The only word of caution is make sure your Exchange eco-system software is supported (e.g. backups, spam filtering, archiving, replication, mobile messaging [aka BlackBerry], etc). Jumping Exchange versions typically requires software upgrade especially for a x64 operating system.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Windows Server 2008 Core Supports VMware Tools Installation

Ehlo All,

Quick question. Do you think you can install a GUI app on a Core install. Answer is sometimes. I found out tonight while I installed a newer operating system for my Terminal Services environment (Windows Server 2008 R2) that one can install VMware Tools on Windows 2008 Server Core. It's very easy. Details can be found on this website. Jens also discusses how to configure the video driver as well. I tested it under ESX(i) 3.5 and it worked quite well.

Enjoy the tip,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Exchange 2007 will support Windows 2008 R2

Hello All,

The Microsoft Exchange Team announced today (11/4/09) that Exchange 2007 will be supported under Windows Server 2008 R2 once an update is released for this. Originally, it was not going to be supported, but MS changes their mind. Full details can be found here.


Testing out Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 for uptime comparison to VMware's Hypervisor

Ehlo All,

I believe that virtualizing Exchange and other servers has more advantages than disadvantages. So, while VMware is the leader in the space (w/ESX and ESXi) and this is what I deploy clients using, I realize the Microsoft virtualization solutions (w/Hyper-V) will gain a significant market share in the coming years. So, I decided it was time to start to test it out. Specifically, I wanted to see how often it needed a reboot due to Windows updates and the stability of the OS.

Since a hypervisor reboot requires pausing all VMs, it's a real distruption. I realize you could move all the VMs, but that means you need 2 hypervisor servers. Sometimes clients do not have this. So, I wanted to see the stability/uptime of just the hypervisor. I know my ESX(i) can go easily months if not years without a reboot since it's a hardened OS and there are very few security updates. Curious to see how Hyper-V would fare compared to this. Keep in mind, if you loaded the full Windows 2008 Server and then added the Hyper-V Role, it would need to be rebooted a LOT due to all the extra software loaded inthe OS. So, I feel this is more of an apples (Hyper-V R2 standalone hypervisor version) to apples (ESX/ESXi) comparison.

Since it's a free product (similar to ESXi) and anyone can download it. I downloaded the free Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 on 11/4/09. It was released on 8/28/09.

Download Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2

Installed it in a VM on my ESXi 3.5 host and then ran the Hyper-V R2 updates. It found 4. 2 were important, and the other 2 were worthless (application compatibility for games, etc). I installed these 2 below. Both updates required reboots.
KB975467 - Important - DoS via magic packet
KB974571 - Important - Spoofing attack

I modified the resource allocation on my ESXi deployment, since this VM doesn't need to be a normal/high priority for ram and cpu. We shall see what happens.


Monday, November 2, 2009

TimeOutNY rates NY Exchange User Group as one of the best...

Ehlo All,

In this week's print & web issue of TimeOutNY, they rated NYExUG as one of "the best IT Techie groups for socializing and networking in NYC". Join us at one of our upcoming meetings to learn why. Article URL below.

Amazingly, they made an error on the article even though it was fact checked by a separate person who called me. This TimeOutNY error required me to do some email admin work. So, they listed the email as register@nyexug... when in reality it should have been rsvp@nyexug or join@nyexug. So, I added the incorrect alias to my mail gateway (email hits this before my Exchange Server) to auto-reply with a thank you email and some URLs pointing people to the correct place to RSVP for the meeting. And then I ran a query on my clustered spam filtering solution to see the # and email addresses of people who emailed the wrong address so I could notify them. All for a single email address error. Then again, I could have ignored it and let people fall by the way side, but that's not my style.

TimeOutNY Article

Our Upcoming November Meeting
November 10 Meeting Topic - Our Exchange 2010 Launch Party (e.g. Major New Feature Explained in detail [Database Availability Groups, etc])

Speaker: Angi Livermore (Principal Technology Specialist) of Microsoft. Full BIO below.

Register Now (open to the public & free pizza dinner / click to attend RSVP - by Mon November 9th at 3pm EST)

Meeting Topic Details - Launch Party for Exchange 2010. We have already had an "intro to 2010", so this meeting will focus on digging deeper into the new product. We'll have a presentation and demo for the following features.
- Database Availability Group (the new HA functionality that replaces CCR, SCR, & LCR)
- multi-mailbox search (ability to search content across numerous mailboxes)
- new OWA premium capabilities (premium support for 3 browsers instead of just IE)
- core store enhancements (better I/O)
- transport improvements (redundancy in transport of messages so transport server failures will not affect message delivery)
- admin audit logging (know what changes are done to your Exchange environment)

Full Speaker BIO
Angi Livermore is a UC Core Technology Specialist for Microsoft and has over 20 years’ experience in the technology industry with a strong background in messaging and collaboration technologies. Prior to this role, she worked in Microsoft Consulting Services for 4 plus years working in various Financial Services and NY district accounts.

Previously, Angi held several different positions with Merrill Lynch for five years and the latest was a Vice President of Product Delivery Services. Her last assignment was as an individual contributor focusing primarily on facilitating the release of Global Private Client (GPC) initiatives, (“Trusted Global Advisor”, also known as TGA) with a heavy emphasis on technology enhancements that reduced the total cost of ownership.

Prior to coming to Microsoft in August of 2001 and working for Merrill Lynch, Angi also worked for several Microsoft partners working with MS Mail, Exchange, Windows, Active Directory, and Mobile technologies. She is very passionate about helping customers achieve their full potential by using Microsoft technologies.

Angi lives in West Windsor, NJ with several four legged friends and her hobbies include: golf, golf, and more golf…


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Test your Exchange Restore Capability - Tips for Restoring

Ehlo All,

So, I've been using AppAssure's MailRetriever (part of Replay product) on Exchange 2007 (& other types of servers) for about 9 months now, and have been impressed for it's ability for continuous data protection (aka snapshots) and ability to natively write VM files (e.g. VMware Workstation, VM Server, VM Player, ESX, ESXi, and Hyper-V). I've used it numerous times to restore individual Exchange items and traditional files. BUT, a major concern has arisen recently. I've been working with AppAssure support for over a week to resolve a significant issue with item level restores and no good news yet. My major concerns are that the Replay product reports a restore success, but it's not. I've replicated the issue 3 times and support has been notified and working on it. Restoring an entire user's mailbox folder (e.g. Sent Items) results in almost 500 missing items (from about 85k). Yet, OWA/Outlook/exmerge to PST report about 500 more items that the restore and matches the correct folder item count.

During this time, I needed a way to test restores. So, originally, I would create a test AD (Test Account1) and email account ( and then restore my data to this account. And then I would delete the AD and email account, and re-create on the next restore. So, I've gotten good at deleting AD accounts and purging mailboxes. But, I found a better approach. Just delete the email account and purge it from the database and then re-create it for your next test. Why delete the AD account, it's not necessary. Some helpful sites to learn the commands.

1) Delete Exchange attributes from AD User (disconnects mailbox from AD user)
Here is what you need to type in bold.
[PS] C:\Windows\System32>disable-mailbox

Are you sure you want to perform this action?
Disabling Mailbox "" will remove the Exchange
properties from the Windows user object and mark the mailbox in the database
for removal.
[Y] Yes [A] Yes to All [N] No [L] No to All [S] Suspend [?] Help
(default is "Y"):y
2) Deletes disconnect mailbox(es) in Exchange Server 2007
Type the following 3 commands found on this page (skip option "Removing a single entry")

Also, In my testing of this issue, I made a full export (copy) of my DC & Exchange 2007 servers. And then I run them (NIC configured) via VMware Server to host only mode. This makes the servers visible to only the VMware Server. I then have a full shadow production environment. So, now I can test against the backup software. I originally detected the issue when I did a full mailbox restore to another AD account on my Exchange Server and compared sizes & item count and noticed the large discrepancy. I'm also in the process of getting Backup Exec 12.5 and ARCserve (r12.5) to test restores via those products as well. Curious to see how well they work.

So, far my Backup Exec 12.5.2231A x64 testing has been painful since the default install on Windows 2008 from a demo downloaded via their website does not show the Exchange Server databases. Same problem using 12.5.2231A x86 on 2003 occurred. I followed the support solution (document ID 315712) but it didn't resolve it. I'll continue troubleshooting later this week. I'll report my feedback on ARCserve later this week too.