Tag Archives: Exchange 2010

A little more on group metrics

About a year ago (wow, how time flies!) I wrote about group metrics generation in Exchange 2010. In that article, I posted a link to an article that EJ Dyksen of Microsoft wrote about MailTips troubleshooting. I was reminded of that article when I noticed event ID 14039 in my event log– it was claiming that the last group metrics file generated was more than a month old. "That’s not right," I thought. "I’d better verify that group metric generation is enabled."

Only, the EMS parameter for group metrics generation has changed. You now have to use Set-MailboxServer -ForceGroupMetricsGeneration $true. This is documented, but I had to hunt for it, grumble. Sure enough, group metrics generation was turned off on my mailbox servers, I suspect erroneously. Interestingly, the problem cropped up the day after we started our two-week Christmas break… a day or so after I applied a rollup to the servers. I smell a rat…

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Of NICs and DAGs in Exchange 2010

Tony posted a blog article discussing the tradeoffs inherent in choosing a number of NICs for your Exchange 2010 DAG members. While I don’t disagree outright with anything he said, I think there are some additional factors that are worth mentioning.

Bottom line: I always recommend– and practically require– two NICs in all DAG members. Why? The answer is threefold, but to get there we have to do a bit of digging.

It’s important to understand that DAG members process two distinct types of network traffic: "MAPI traffic" to and from CAS servers (and AD, and pretty much everything else) and "replication traffic" to and from other DAG members. (See this TechNet topic for more on the distinction between the two.) First, the way DAGs handle network traffic is that you can specify separate networks for replication traffic and normal traffic. It’s perfectly supported to put both types of traffic on the same NIC. However, if you segregate the traffic onto two separate NICs, you get a bonus– think of it like a saving throw against failover. A failure of the MAPI network will trigger a DAG failover, but a failure of the replication network will merely move replication traffic onto the MAPI network without a failover.

With that in mind, here’s why I think you should plan on using two (or possibly more) NICs in your DAG members.

First, you get additional protection against several potential points of failure. Provided that you’ve designed your environment properly, having two NICs means that you’re protected against failure of a single cable, switch port, or switch. (This assumes, of course, that you haven’t just plugged every DAG member into the same physical switch!) Even if you’re using the tried-and-true method of linking two DAG servers together with a simple crossover cable, having a second NIC insulates you against failure of that cable.

Second, you gain flexibility. All other factors being equal, I’d rather have the ability to shift MAPI or replication traffic to a different physical path when necessary.

Third, the vast majority of modern servers (where by "modern" I mean those sold since the release of Exchange 2007) already include at least two, and often four, onboard NICs. Many IT staffers are suspicious of the quality of onboard NICs due to various problems with chipsets and drivers of old, but I have seen many perfectly stable and well-functioning Exchange environments using modern NICs and drivers so this seems like a legacy concern to me.

Tony makes an important point when he says that companies who have the ability to notice and respond to outages quickly will be OK running a single NIC. I don’t disagree, but I’d point out that even such companies would rather not have outages in the first place. Admittedly, a failure of the MAPI NIC in a DAG member will trigger a failover, but it’s a simple matter at that point to reconfigure the network to use the replication NIC if need be, or to replace or repair the failed NIC if it makes more sense to do so.

If it costs you literally nothing extra to gain the additional benefits of flexibility and protection, in my opinion you’d be well advised to grab those benefits with both hands.

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Exchange Maestro Anaheim days 1 & 2

I had to skip a day of recap postings thanks to a bit of extracurricular work, but better late than never…

Day 1 began right on time, with our attendees eager to get started. We made several structural changes to the course, mostly in the area of reordering material. Tony led off with an architectural session, followed by my presentation on the new Exchange management tools (now including remote PowerShell, formerly the subject of its own session). After a delicious lunch of Mexican food (including mariachi music, serapes instead of tablecloths, and some really excellent decorations), Tony presented the store content and I followed up with the CAS material. We ran a bit long in the afternoon, so I had to stop before I finished with the CAS material so that we’d have time for labs.

Day 1’s highlight was that my friend Alice, a former co-worker from 3Sharp, brought me a Disneyland turkey leg! In Boston, I’d mentioned to Tony, Brian, and Melissa that I wanted to go to Disneyland and find one of the famous Disney turkey legs. Word apparently got out, and Alice, bless her heart, made a trip to Disneyland– her first ever– to see the sights and bring me back some of that oh-so-tasty smoked poultry awesomeness. I was shocked to see it; it’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me. Thanks, Alice!

We closed out day 1 with dinner at Roy’s here in Anaheim with our sponsors from Microsoft and Hewlett Packard. Dinner was quite good, as was the company, but I was out later than I wanted to be so it was hard to get rolling this morning.

Despite my sluggishness, day 2 began promptly at 0900, where I started with the remainder of the CAS coverage. In Boston, we had separate presentations for the CAS role and for client settings and management options, but we decided to combine them to save time. That strategy backfired badly, as I ended up running 30 minutes long. I then compounded that problem by running 40 minutes long on my RBAC session. In fairness, I got a lot of good questions from our attendees, so I didn’t mind going a bit long, but Tony and I had some catching up to do on the remaining sessions: the mailbox replication service (MRS), transport, and compliance. By day’s end, we had no margin left for lab time, so we’ll have to catch up a bit tomorrow.

On day 2, the most memorable quote was Tony’s solemn assertion that “we kill lingering orphans after 24 hours.”

He was talking, of course, about mailbox move requests as part of his session on the mailbox replication service (MRS). We were also surprised and delighted to get a nifty calendar from one of our students who’s active in the Back-Country Horsemen of Idaho. The calendar features some beautiful Idaho scenery, plus: horses! It will go up in a place of honor in my office as soon as I get home.

During a bit of intra-day-2 downtime, I was able to finish the final technical edit pass on chapter 17 of Tony’s book. That ends my involvement with this revision; it’s been a great learning experience to have the opportunity to pore over 16 months’ worth of Tony’s research and experimentation with Exchange. I’ve learned quite a lot from him, and I congratulate him on finishing such a large project– it’s roughly twice as long as the longest book I’ve ever written by myself.

Now it’s off to a class dinner at PF Chang (table for 25, stat!), then a rare evening off (provided I finish tech-editing a magazine article that I owe my editors…)

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Anaheim Exchange Maestro day 1, pre-show

Clearly the only way I will be able to get a word in before Tony is to write about each day before it starts!

I arrived last night in Anaheim after a long (and expensive!) cab ride from LAX, preceded by a flight on Horizon from SJC. We were on a Bombardier Q400, which I’d never flown before. It’s a turboprop, but feels inside like a CRJ-class jet. It was not uncomfortable, and it wasn’t too noisy, so I’ll score that as a win.

The hotel assigned me to an absolutely huge guest room overlooking the pool. Given that it’s in the mid-60s, this is not the benefit you might assume. I was a bit startled to hear a series of loud boom! sounds starting about 9:30. This turned out to be the nightly Disneyland fireworks show; apparently the launch area is close by the hotel. Sadly, I couldn’t see the actual fireworks, but I’ll try to find a better vantage point tonight.

The hotel meeting facilities are about a million times nicer than the Doubletree we used in Boston. I was greeted this morning with a spacious, well-lit room, with a proper whiteboard. The entire corner of the room is occupied by a rather grand buffet of breakfast choices, which I appreciate; I love a good breakfast.

Today we have about 30 attendees, including my friend and former 3Sharpie Alice Goodman. Tony and I have been busy updating our slides to reflect feedback from the Boston attendees, and Brian has done a superb job of updating the lab instructions. The largest change is that the session on remote PowerShell has been removed, and its material integrated with the sessions on Exchange management tools and RBAC. There’s no reduction in the material covered; it’s just been reorganized to make things flow better.

The biggest piece of feedback from Boston is one we can’t do anything about; sadly there’s nothing we can do to make the labs any faster. We are trying to figure out a cost-effective way to help future attendees get SSDs to use with the labs. Their increased speed would help a great deal.

Now I’m off to finish my breakfast and get my game face on for another big day!


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Exchange Maestro, day 3

We wrapped up the Boston Exchange Maestro event today, and it was quite good! (Except that I had hoped to finish my summary before Tony got his writeup done… perhaps I’ll have better luck next time.)

Tony kicked the morning off with an optional 8am session on migration considerations. As much of the class is still on Exchange 2003, this was well-attended. There’s a wide variety of environments out there, and I enjoyed hearing the attendees’ specific questions about exactly how to accomplish specific tasks in their environment.

I then gave a longer-than-expected presentation on Exchange scalability. It took more than the 90 minutes I’d allotted, and there were still many areas of the topic that I didn’t get to delve into. In particular, I would like to have enough time to walk through more of the details of the Exchange 2010 mailbox role storage calculator. There’s way more there than I can cover in such a limited amount of time, though we did have some interesting discussions around storage provisioning.

The high point of the day was our group work. Tony, playing the role of a hard-nosed corporate CIO, gave the attendees a high-level description of an Exchange 2003 environment with 12,000 users and a simple set of requirements. Their task was to break into groups and develop high-level designs, then present them. We were joined by two consultants from HP’s services organization who circulated around and helped the groups identify the key points required for their designs. At the end of an hour, Tony and I had the attendees mail us their presentations, then I chose three teams to present their designs for Tony’s scrutiny. Our presenters showed a great deal of mental agility in answering Tony’s sometimes-pointed questions.

The low point of the day was finding a live roach in my sandwich. As Tony points out, this can indeed happen at almost any hotel; however, we had a long string of problems here, ranging from noisy construction work during our classes (which Melissa quickly stopped) to numerous A/V problems to getting kicked out of the room earlier than we’d planned. This sort of thing does happen from time to time, but I think and expect that we’ll have better luck in Anaheim.

One of the most valuable things about this training is that we’re trying to move the emphasis away from the purely technical. The general level of training for Exchange is fairly low: the official Microsoft curriculum is too limited, and the variance in instructor quality too great. We wanted to deliver training with more technical depth and an exploration of the business issues behind Exchange 2010 deployment. I feel like we did that here, and we’re both looking for opportunities to sharpen that message in our future events.

Tomorrow I have an early-morning flight back to San Jose, where I’m looking forward to spending some time with the boys. Sunday night I head down to Anaheim for our next event, which I’m looking forward to quite a bit.


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First day of Boston Exchange Maestro training

Tony beat me to it; while I was presenting during the latter portion of the day (and, I admit, catching up on e-mail) he was busy writing an excellent summary of our first day of the Exchange Maestro workshop here in Boston. As he pointed out, timing was one of the key issues that we had to struggle with. For events like this, there is always a tension between the amount of time you would like to have and the amount of time you do have. Exchange 2010 is complicated enough that we could easily, and very productively, spend a full week covering the topics we’ve selected for this three-day event. I feel that we have done a good job sticking to the schedule and managing our time well, but there’s so much material to cover that staying on the schedule can sometimes be challenging

Tony pointed out a couple of minor issues with the venue: for one thing, we got thrown out about 90 min. sooner than I thought we should have. Furthermore, during the morning, we were serenaded by the sounds of an ongoing bathroom renovation, complete with the dulcet tones of a reciprocating saw, some kind of rotary hammer, and other percussive power tools. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am a huge power tool fan and use them every chance I get. However, it’s fair to say that they were not the ideal accompaniment for our technical material. Fortunately, the hotel paused construction, and we will be moving to a different room for tomorrow and Friday– hopefully one with less ambient noise.

The attendees were engaged in asking questions, and they stayed busy with the labs. Tomorrow morning first thing I will be presenting on RBAC, a difficult topic to begin the day with. Hopefully the attendees will come with bright eyes and at peak alertness; they will need it. After RBAC, Tony will present on the mailbox replication service, followed by my presentation on the Exchange transport core. Rounding out the day, Tony will cover the retention and compliance aspects of Exchange 2010. That will be unknown territory for most of our attendees, so I expect that we all will be enlightened by the resulting discussions.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out the important contributions that Brian made during the day. In addition to making sure that the labs went smoothly, he made a number of very helpful suggestions about how we can better streamline the material to fit the allotted time, as well as catching a number of minor mistakes in our slide decks and accompanying presentations. It’s been great to have him here!

One thing that Tony failed to mention about today’s sessions is that he continually gave me a hard time about my progress (or lack thereof) in finishing the technical edits for his book. Don’t tell him, but I’m going to go work on it now so that I can finish it and avoid further harassment.

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Exchange 2010 Inside Out: the inside story

Update (12 Dec 2010): The book is now available from Amazon in both paper and Kindle editions.

As regular readers of this blog may know, I have been working on a number of Exchange related projects over the last few months. Two of them involve the world-famous and internationally known Tony Redmond, late of Hewlett-Packard, noted raconteur, and all-around Exchange expert.

First, and coming soonest, is our upcoming two-city Exchange Maestro roadshow. Tony and I are sharing teaching duties in these three day classes. Brian Desmond, a fellow Exchange MVP and expert, is acting as our lab master. I have lately been quite busy creating the content for my portion of the presentation. My topics include unified messaging (of course!), role-based access control, remote PowerShell, and the ins and outs of the client access server role. Our first event is practically right around the corner, coming as it does in about three weeks. For more details, see the event website– it’s not too late to register.

I have also been busy performing the technical edit on Tony’s forthcoming book, Exchange 2010 Inside Out. When Microsoft press first approached me about doing the technical edit, I was hesitant. Tony’s books are legendary for the quality of their content, their information density, and their sheer page count. The thought of being responsible for the technical quality of such a large work was daunting. However, it was also a wonderful opportunity to work with someone whose knowledge and abilities I very much respect, as well as to get a toe back into the book publishing world. It has been quite an adventure so far.

The workflow we follow is fairly simple. First, Tony writes a chapter. Then it goes through a copyedit. The copy editor is responsible for making sure that the manuscript follows the Microsoft style guide for punctuation, capitalization, and avoidance of various other pitfalls, traps, and general badness. For example, the Microsoft press folks have insisted that Tony remove any reference to his favorite imaginary spam website, “sexybabes.com”. Apparently, Microsoft has run afoul of officials in various countries throughout the world for using similar names. Anyway, after the copy editor has worked magic on the manuscript, it comes to me for the first technical edit pass.

My job is to read through Tony’s work, checking it for accuracy, completeness, and consistency. For example if in one chapter, Tony says that an Exchange feature works in a particular way, and he speaks about it differently in a later chapter, I’m supposed to catch that. I am also in charge of catching mismatches between PowerShell commands and their descriptions, making sure that PoSh commands work properly as printed, and in general ensuring that there are as few technical mistakes as possible in the book.

The fun part of this job is that I also get to suggest to Tony areas where the coverage in the book might be improved or clarified. He has been quite generous in listening to my suggestions instead of telling me to shut my pie hole. (In fact, I am not sure that Tony knows the expression “shut your pie hole”. I fear that I may have accidentally educated him by this blog post.)

When I’m done, I post the chapter back to the SharePoint site that we use, then Tony gets another crack at it. He has to resolve each of the embedded comments or questions generated by the copy editor, me, or the project editor. Once he has done all these things, he resubmits an updated draft of the chapter, and I get it again for a second technical review pass.

Because Tony’s book covers Exchange 2010 service pack 1, there have been a number of cases where changes in the service pack code during its lifecycle have resulted in the need to add or remove or change material during the second tech edit pass luckily, Microsoft shipped SP1 early so we have had access to the final version for some time, making it possible to ensure that we cover the service pack as it actually ships and not as it was projected to ship in earlier days.

After Tony’s done with his second pass, the copy editor may get another crack at the chapter, depending on what state it’s in. After that, the production staff takes over and turns the original Microsoft Word document into a print ready set up page proofs, which Tony then gets to review and check for last-minute changes. By the time the chapter “goes to pages” it is expensive and difficult to make changes. Imagine, if you will, making a change on page 172 of an 800-page book and having that change ripple through the rest of the book. It’s not impossible, but the production staff strongly prefers that we make any necessary changes before getting to pages, which is why we have multiple editing passes earlier in the process.

I expect that the book will be done before Thanksgiving. The last time I wrote an actual print book, it took 10 to 12 weeks between the time I had finished everything I had to do and the appearance of the finished book on bookstore shelves. Much of this is because there are only a small number of places in the world they can print actual books in that size and with that page count. That means that, as with many other processes that require a long lead time, there is a great deal of pressure to stick to the schedule. Even if you finish the book early, that’s no guarantee that you can still get press time. Then there is all sorts of other tiresome processing that has to go on: the cover must be printed, the pages and cover must be bound together, the finished book must be boxed and shipped to distributors, who then ship it to buyers’ warehouses, who then eventually ship it to local outlets.

One of the key advantages of this book is that it covers service pack 1. Microsoft made a great number of changes to Exchange with SP1. Some are functional improvements, some are new features, and some are restoration of features or capabilities that were in Exchange 2007 but were cut in Exchange 2010. For that reason-currency-I would have to recommend this book, but I will freely admit that it is not for everyone. Tony is assumed a fair amount of Exchange knowledge on the part of the reader. This is not really an appropriate book for beginners. That is not to say that a motivated beginner couldn’t learn from it, merely that an introductory book like McBee’s Mastering, is a better choice for someone who’s just starting out. I think there’s room in the marketplace for more than one good Exchange book, and I am delighted to have had a hand in this one’s production.

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Paul Thurrott and I talk Exchange 2010

One of the fun things I got to do at TechEd this year was shoot a couple of short video segments with Paul Thurrott. Despite the fact that he and I have worked for Windows IT Pro for years and years, we’d never met face to face before. The first of the videos, in which we talk about Exchange 2010 and Communications Server “14”, is now available here.

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TechEd 2010 wrapup

Executive summary: man, it felt good to be back home. Not literally, of course; I grew up in Houma, which is very unlike New Orleans in most ways, and I haven’t lived in Louisiana for more than 20 years. Though I’ve never lived in New Orleans, I’ve visited it many times and in many different circumstances: going to my dad’s office in the CBD, honeymooning there with my wife, working frantically to finish sessions at MGB when I was first starting 3Sharp, and playing the tourist when going to visit family. The goodness came from being surrounded by the familiar sense of community and place that I think everyone has to some degree, and having that familiarity complemented by the company of some of my very best friends.

I arrived on Monday afternoon. At around 4pm, it was 95° and solid overcast, with probably 80% humidity. In other words, it was a typical June afternoon. After a quick cab ride from the airport, I dropped off my stuff at the Courtyard by Marriott on St Charles Avenue. By happy coincidence, this was right across the street from the Pearl, a restaurant where I ate lunch with my dad pretty much every time I went to visit his office. I picked this hotel because it was inexpensive and because Marriott is running a great promotion, but I was delighted to see such a memorable (to me, anyway) landmark right off the bat. (The hotel was excellent, by the way: clean, comfortable, safe, and convenient.)

I took a few minutes to drop off my stuff, then walked over to the convention center to register and get my TechEd badge. It was a pleasant walk despite the heat and humidity, and once I got registered I spent a few minutes walking around the show floor, where I met up with a gaggle of Windows IT Pro Magazine folks. After a brisk walk back to the hotel, I cleaned up a bit before walking over to Brennan’s Palace Café for dinner.

As you might expect from a restaurant run by a member of the Brennan family, the food was superb. I had an excellent piece of pecan-crusted redfish, a bit of crabmeat cheesecake, and some excellent BBQ shrimp. The crowning touch: bananas Foster, something I hadn’t had in years. The only drawback was that service was, shall we say, leisurely– we sat down about 8pm and didn’t finish dessert until about 11:30! I was sorry that dinner took so long, as there was a separate Exchange Roundtable event that I also wanted to attend.


Tuesday morning I’d set up a group breakfast at Café Beignet on Royal, just a couple of blocks from my hotel. Several Exchange MVPs and assorted other folks showed up; I finally got to meet Jeff Guillet and Tino Donderwinkel in person. Then it was time to walk over to the MVP NDA sessions organized by our most excellent MVP team. While I can’t talk about the specifics of the sessions, I can say that there are some pretty nifty things coming later this year from the Exchange and Communications Server teams– and I’m not just talking about the things they’ve already announced. (Fascinating thing I learned during lunch: dell.com is powered by SharePoint!)

For dinner, I joined fellow MVPs Jason Sherry and Pat Richard at Coop’s Place, right near Central Grocery (another favorite spot of mine). I’d never been there before, but I’ll be there again. The gumbo was OK, but the red beans, rice, and sausage I had was outstanding! I ate until I couldn’t eat any more. Fortunately, that coincided with my plate being empty.

We then walked over to the Aquarium of the Americas for the “community influencer” party. Don’t get me wrong. I love aquariums, and I really love this particular aquarium. However, it was odd being there without the huge crowds I associate with places like this and this. The community-influencer parties are always a bit of a crap shoot because you never know exactly who will show up; I spotted a few other folks I knew but didn’t stay long. Instead I went back to the hotel, wrote my UPDATE column, and watch the hated Lakers beat the Celtics in game 3.

Wednesday, my final day, dawned early; I met Jim McBee for breakfast and we… wait for it… went to an actual TechEd session. I won’t say which one, except that I was very disappointed with it. The speaker wasn’t a very good presenter, his demos didn’t work, he finished more than 30 minutes early, and the part of the presentation that I stayed for was pretty much recycled from the Exchange documentation. Rather than subject ourselves to any further risk of stupidification, we took off for the National World War II Museum.

Wow. I could have spent all day there. We started with Beyond All Boundaries, a movie summarizing World War II in 48 minutes. It moved me to tears several times, not just because of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought for the Allies but for the needless waste, death, and destruction suffered by civilians on both sides. I never knew that nearly 20 million Chinese died during World War II, nor that the UK suffered more deaths than the US did (and proportionately their losses compared to ours were even greater). We didn’t have time to go through the entire museum because Jim and I both had other engagements, but I will make it a point to go back next time I’m in New Orleans.

In the afternoon, I shot two video interviews with Paul Thurrott: one on Windows Phone 7 and one on Exchange 2010 and Communications Server “14”. This was especially cool because– despite having worked together at Windows IT Pro for years— we’d never met in the flesh. The interviews were fun to do, and I’ll post a link to them once the video folks are done with them.

After that, the trip home was pretty much anti-climactic (except that my cab got buzzed by an F-15 on full burner when we drove past the end of the active runway). Just the way I like it! Tomorrow it’s back to work.

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Exchange Connections Fall 2010 call for sessions

My co-chairs and I are working on assembling this year’s Exchange Connections content, which we’ll be presenting November 1-4 in Las Vegas at good ol’ Mandalay Bay. That’s why I’m posting this call for sessions!

Everything you should need to know is in this document.

The deadline for session proposals is May 6 – hurry, hurry, as usual! Although the deadline is May 6, the sooner you can send in session proposals, the better the odds are we’ll be able to choose your sessions. I’ll try and respond to your submissions on the same business day with any thoughts or requests or tweaks. The conference has a brochure to get out pretty much ASAP if we’re going to get people to show up, so time is – as always – of the essence.

Note that we’ll be co-located, as usual, with dedicated conferences for Visual Studio, ASP.NET, Windows, SharePoint, and goodness knows what else – so for these proposals, stick strictly with Exchange and OCS topics.

If you want to submit sessions, see the call for sessions. If you have questions, you can ask them here or via e-mail.

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TechNet webcast on Exchange 2010 Unified Messaging

Yay! I’m going to be doing another webcast in the TechNet webcast series:

3/16/2010 11:00:00 AM – TechNet Webcast: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging (Level 300)
Unified messaging in Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 made it possible to connect with a telephone system and put voice mail into an Outlook inbox. In this webcast, we demonstrate how deeper use of speech recognition in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 unified messaging makes “anywhere access” to information even easier. We also discuss other new features, product architecture, and upgrading from Exchange Server 2007.

Register here, and I’ll see you there!

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Great blog post on Exchange 2010 DAS vs SAN

Fellow MVP Devin Ganger wrote a great post on his blog (where “great” means “long and packed with technical detail”) on Exchange 2010 storage configurations. I was going to cite it, but it wasn’t in my RSS reader. I knew his blog was named “Devin on Earth” so I told my browser to go to http://devinonearth.blogspot.com/. Surprise! That’s not his blog; it belongs to a brunette named Devin who lives in San Francisco.

So, for MVP-Devin’s blog post, go here instead. Update your blog list while you’re at it.

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RSS feed for Exchange 2010 KB articles

I love using RSS to keep track of various information sources, and I just found out that there’s an RSS feed of KB articles for Exchange Server 2010. Use this feed along with your preferred aggregator to keep track of the latest support information for Exchange 2010. (If you don’t already know how to use an aggregator, try Google Reader for a quick, easy, and free introduction.)

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Group Metrics and Exchange 2010 MailTips

I had quite a merry chase through the Exchange documentation this morning trying to figure out the best way to explain something.

Exchange 2010 MailTips come in several flavors. You can set MailTips for individual mailboxes using Set-Mailbox, but most MailTips are automatically generated in some way. You can use the Set-OrganizationConfig cmdlet to control several of these generative behaviors, but there are a few quirks.

One type of MailTips come from data that the CAS pulls from queries against the mailbox server. That’s how the “recipient out of office” and “recipient mailbox full” MailTips work. As long as the CAS can make RPC queries against the mailbox servers, these MailTips will work just fine.

The “external recipient” and “large audience” MailTips rely on data from the Group Metrics component that runs on the mailbox server. Here’s where the quirks start. By default, these MailTips are turned on by default in the organization configuration. However, if you read this you might get the impression that GM data are generated by every mailbox server in the organization. However, if you run Get-MailboxServer and look at the results, you’ll see that the GroupMetricsGenerationEnabled setting defaults to $false.

Where does the GM data come from? That’s the rub. Exchange 2010 always generates GM data on the server that generates the OAB but only if there is an OAB generated. If you use the default Exchange install settings, you’ll get GM data even though it may look like GM generation is turned off. On the other hand, if you turn off OAB generation, you get no GM data until you manually enable GM generation. Neither of these behaviors are documented as clearly as they should be. The “Understanding Group Metrics” topic does mention the latter point, but it took some work to find the topic in the first place. If you do what most admins will do and start searching for info on GroupMetricsGenerationEnabled you’re not likely to find it. Hopefully this will be fixed in a forthcoming update to the documentation.

(Thanks to EJ Dyksen, Nate Waddoups, and Robert Gillies of Microsoft for helping figure out what was going on with this stuff.)

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Playing Exchange 2010 protected voice mail messages

Exchange 2010 offers protected voice mail that works roughly like the “mark as private” option that many legacy voicemail systems provide. The difference is that Exchange 2010 uses Active Directory Rights Management Service (AD RMS) to apply restrictions to the message that prevent clients from forwarding it. This gives the same protection as legacy VM systems, which implemented message privacy by keeping VM recipients from forwarding messages.

This is a nifty idea, given that it ties together Exchange UM with AD RMS in a logical way. It has some implications, though, that may not be obvious at first glance.

First, of course, is that you have to use a compatible client to play the voice message. A client that doesn’t support AD RMS won’t even see that the message has an audio attachment. It just shows up as the familiar “this message is protected with…” text. In this context, “compatible” means Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, or OWA 2010. There’s no Mac client (yet; the forthcoming version of Outlook for Mac is alleged to support AD RMS messages), nor are there mobile clients.

Second, when you play the message, the way you play it may vary according to the policies in effect on your system. The UM mailbox policy defines a setting named “Allow multimedia playback of protected voice messages“. When this setting is false (e.g. when it does not allow multimedia playback), users can only play protected voice mail messages through the Exchange Play on Phone mechanism or through Outlook Voice Access (e.g. over the phone), not through the inline media players in Outlook and OWA. This is useful in some contexts to prevent users from playing sensitive messages on their laptop speakers at the coffee shop, at high volume in a cubicle farm, and so on.

Unfortunately, the documentation says this setting is set to false by default… in other words, the default settings (according to the docs) only let you play protected VMs on the phone. In reality, the settings is true by default, so that users can play protected messages back on the phone or through the local media player. In other words, the docs are 100% wrong. I blame this on the fact that the attribute name in the UM mailbox policy is RequireProtectedPlayOnPhone– the opposite wording. If “require X” is false, that’s the same as “allow not-X” being true. So, this is now bugged with the Exchange UE team.

In playing with this feature, I also wasn’t able to make Exchange protected voice mail messages show up consistently in Communicator’s VM notification system. I think that’s because my test machine was using Outlook 2007, in cached mode; the protected VMs didn’t show up in its “Voice Mail” search folder either. I’ll have to test this some more with an Outlook 2010 machine to see what happens, but my expectation is that Communicator should show protected VMs just like it does normal ones.

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