Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Exchange 2010 - Under The Hood: What's changed?

  • By far the most important change with respect to Exchange Server 2007 is the new Database Availability Group. This will allow you to create multiple copies of an Exchange Server database within your organization, and you are no longer bound to a specific site (like in Exchange Server 2007), but can now stretch across multiple sites. Microsoft has also successfully transformed Cluster Continuous Replication and Stand-by Continuous Replication into a new ‘Continuous Availability’ technology.

  • While on the topic of simplifying, a lot of SysAdmins were having difficulties with the Windows Server fail-over clustering, so Microsoft has simply ‘removed’ this from the product. The components are still there, but they are now managed using the Exchange Management Console or Exchange Management Shell.

  • With the new Personal Archive ability, a user can now have a secondary mailbox, acting as a personal archive - this really is a .PST killer! You now have the ability to import all the users’ .PST files and store them in the Personal Archive, and using retention policies you can move data from the primary mailbox to the archive automatically, to keep the primary mailbox at an acceptable size, without any hassle.

  • To deal with ever-growing storage requirements, Microsoft also made considerable changes to the underlying database system. All you will need to store your database and log files with Exchange Server 2010 is a 2 TB SATA (or other Direct Attached Storage) disk. As long as you have multiple copies of the database, you’re safe! And the maximum supported database size? That has improved from 200 GB (in an Exchange Server 2007 CCR environment) to 2 TB (in a multiple database copy Exchange Server 2010 environment). If you haven’t yet considered what your business case will look like when upgrading to Exchange Server 2010, bear in mind that this will truly safe a tremendous amount of storage cost - and that’s not marketing talk!

  • Installing Exchange 2010 is not at all difficult, and configuring a Database Availability Group with multiple copies of the Mailbox Databases is just a click of the mouse (you only have to be a little careful when creating multi-site DAGs). Even installing Exchange Server 2010 into an existing Exchange Server 2003 or Exchange Server 2007 environment is not that hard! The only thing you have to be aware of is the additional namespace that shows up. Besides the standard namespace like webmail.contoso.com and Autodiscover.contoso.com, a third namespace shows up in a coexistence environment: legacy.contoso.com. This is used when you have mailboxes still on the old (i.e. Exchange Server 2003 or Exchange Server 2007) platform in a mixed environment.

  • Lastly, for a die-hard GUI administrator it might be painful to start managing an Exchange environment with the Exchange Management Shell. Basic management can be done with the graphical Exchange Management Console, but you really do have to use the Shell for the nitty-gritty configuration. The Shell is remarkably powerful, and it takes quite some getting used to, but with it you can do fine-grained management, and even create reports using features like output-to-HTML or save-to-.CSV file. Very neat!

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