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The Future of Microsoft Exchange (Online) Webinar Unraveled

With Exchange 2016 fever in the air, many admins are left with looming questions about what changes this new iteration will bring.

ENow’s Microsoft Exchange Server MVP Michael Van Horenbeeck recently partnered with MSExchange.org to host a webinar that would clear up some lingering questions surrounding Exchange 2016 and beyond.

Here are some of the highlights:

Improvements in Exchange 2013

As Exchange 2016 approaches, Microsoft is still improving the 2013 version. However, you can expect to see some of these changes in Exchange 2016, including:

  • Hybrid Configuration Wizard

This new wizard removes dependency on the on-premises server for high configuration wizard bits, similar to how oAuth configurations are done today. This allows Microsoft to be more agile while maintaining a familiar look and feel. 

With the high speed of innovation, we’re also starting to see changes in Office 365 affect the hybrid experience, especially with the new wizard.

In fact, the wizard interacts with the service to set up oAuth in Office 365; any changes will immediately update the hybrid configuration wizard bits, and any time you run the HCW bits, you’ll be updated to the latest version necessary to set up hybrid.

It’s important to note that you will be able to run the wizard on Exchange 2013 and 2016, but you can’t opt out. However, you do have the option to customize your settings.

While some are still skeptical of the cloud, it’s clear that Microsoft is increasingly relying on it to improve the on-premise experience.

  • Support for Running Exchange on Azure

As of May, Microsoft supports these Exchange 2013 scenarios on Azure IAAS VMs: non-production, cluster witness for stretched DAG, and production, if Azure premium storage is used, which guarantees a certain latency to disks.

But the question still remains: Do you want to run Exchange in Azure?

With limited use cases, there are few situations where running Exchange in Azure is a sensible or cost-effective solution. If you need hosted Exchange, it’s better to choose Office 365.

What to Expect With Exchange 2016

After getting a taste for Exchange 2016 at Ignite, here are a few features admins can look forward to and important considerations to make:

  • Enhanced Document Collaboration

With cloudy attachments, for example, you can upload and share documents with OneDrive or send them as an attachment to lighten the email load. This also saves users time from saving, exiting and reopening files before attaching a document. People can also work on the same document through email, which will streamline the collaboration process dramatically.

  • Office Server Considerations

Exchange Server now leverages the Office Web Apps, and Exchange authorizes access to documents via an oAuth token. So if you want the best end user experience possible, you have to deploy Office server along with Exchange to allow side-by-side viewing.

  • Search Enhancements 

Based on analysis from Office 365, Exchange 2016 will boast a speedier search.

Outlook will now user server-side index when online, leading to more reliable results. And when you start typing, you’ll get suggested search terms such as contact names. Some other productivity enhancements include:

  • Inline reply and previews for URLs/videos
  • Intelligent recipient selection
  • One-click archiving
  • Common typos and suggestions
  • A better way to handle and insert images
  • Weather view

A Glance at Exchange 2016 Preferred Architecture

The Exchange 2016 architecture has evolved from the 2013 version and will provide simpler co-existence with Exchange 2013 — something all admins can celebrate. Microsoft is also making a big push toward its preferred architecture — or its recommendation for how you should deploy Exchange.

This preferred architecture uses an unbound namespace model for Autodiscover, mail or (protocol-specific entries) and OOS. Here are a few more architectural changes to be aware of:

  • High Availability Improvements

The new feature “DB divergence detection” will also bring a host of new HA improvements, including faster DB failovers and loose truncation. In this situation, truncation kicks in when log files go down or you run out of disk space.

The GetMailboxServerRedundancy control will also determine which servers can or cannot be recycled or put into maintenance mode, which limits excessive database moves.

You can use New-SettingOverride to control the policies, but admins can still override them by specifying the –SkipMoveSuppressionChecks parameter with Move-ActiveMailboxDatabase.

  • Security Enhancements

Some security concerns have also been addressed with new BitLocker support, Enhancing Mailbox Audit logging (the same as Office 365), and DLP improvements. 

The new Exchange will also allow for eDiscovery and archiving improvements, such as public folder data and Integration with Equivio (machine learning).

  • Extensibility
It’s important to note that MAPI/CDO will no longer be supported (for real this time). Exchange 2016 will support other protocols such as EWS or REST APIs, such as Mail-, Calendar-, Contacts API. These APIs will enable access across all mobile, web and other platforms and enhance interactions with ExchangeFrom an Architectural point of view, Exchange 2016 seems more an evolution of Exchange 2013. As such, it’s no surprise to see the Mailbox- and Client Access Server roles combined into a single server role, especially given that it was Microsoft’s recommendation to deploy multi-role servers ever since Exchange 2010 SP1.While there aren’t any groundbreaking changes with how load balancing is done in Exchange 2016, you can now include both Exchange 2013 and 2016 servers in the same array. This is because Exchange 2013 CAS can proxy to Exchange 2016 mailboxes and the other way around. This should greatly improve the migration process from Exchange 2013 to 2016.In short, these architecture improvements bring a better HA story and improve coexistence and migration scenarios. Admins should still capitalize on the physical commodity hardware like large capacity 7.2k disks that Microsoft continues to recommend in its Preferred Architecture.Want to get all the details surrounding the future of Exchange 2016? Check out the slideshare or hour-long webinar.