Tag Archives: exchange 2010

Connect-ExchangeServer PowerShell Function

When working with Exchange 2010 it is possible to remotely connect with PowerShell to an Exchange 2010 server without having the Exchange Management tools installed on your local workstation. This is a feature known as implicit remoting. The technique to connect is very straightforward, but to make it not necessary to have to remember the commands I wrapped them up into a function Connect-ExchangeServer which I then stored in my PowerShell profile.

function Connect-ExchangeServer {
param(
$ExchangeServer
)
$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri http://$ExchangeServer/PowerShell/ -Authentication Kerberos
Import-PSSession $Session

}

Happy Remoting!

Exchange 2010 DAG Running on vSphere – Database and Log Disk Support

Whilst at VMworld Europe 2010 I attended a session on virtualising Exchange 2010. This was one of the most useful sessions I went to and whilst it confirmed a number of issues I had read about in the Best Practices Guide there was one tip I picked up from the session that was not in the guide and I thought would be useful to share.

When deploying Exchange 2010 in a Database Availability Group (DAG) on vSphere the Database and Log file disks are only currently supported on RDM disks not VMFS.

On my return to the UK I confirmed this with VMware via a support call

The supported method of deploying Exchange 2010 DAG at the moment is by having the Exchange database and log files deployed on RDM disks.
DAG has not completed the QA process for VMFS volumes which why we are not recommending VMFS for DAG storage at the moment.

We do have some customers that have Exchange DAG supported on VMFS but they needed to have their configuration approved using the RPQ process.
A RPQ is an exception that allows a currently unsupported configuration to be supported once the conditions of the RPQ process are met.
You would need to engage with your VMware Account Manager to initiate the this process if you want to go down this route.

Hopefully I will find out when VMFS support arrives and can update this post.

Running Outlook 2003 in TS or Citrix and Planning an Upgrade to Exchange 2010?

Outlook 2003 is listed as a supported client for Exchange 2010 with the following caveats:

  • Clients running Outlook 2003 don’t use RPC encryption, which RPC Client Access requires by default. You will either need to turn off the RPC encryption requirement or configure Outlook 2003 to use RPC encryption. However, Outlook 2007 and later versions are automatically compatible with the change to RPC Client Access because they support RPC encryption by default. For more information, see Understanding RPC Client Access.
  • On clients running Outlook 2003, you may notice that folder updates don’t occur automatically in a timely manner. This situation occurs because User Datagram Protocol (UDP) notifications aren’t supported in Exchange 2010. For more information about resolving this issue, see Knowledge Base article 2009942, In Outlook 2003, e-mail messages take a long time to send and receive when you use an Exchange 2010 mailbox. However, Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 are automatically compatible with this change.

Having now witnessed the impact of the second issue it could cause you a big issue if you are running Outlook 2003 in Terminal Services or Citrix. The KB article 2008842 suggests two options:

  • Make a registry interval to reduce the polling time from 60 seconds to a lower value, 10 is the minimum
  • Use Outlook’s Cached Exchange mode

Having made the registry change down to 10 seconds the phrase from above ‘…..folder updates do not occur in a timely manner’ is pretty diplomatic! I think most people could live with an email sitting in the Outbox for a few seconds or being delivered within seconds rather than instantaneously. However, deleting an email and it then not dissapearing for up to 10 seconds is a real issue. It feels like it didn’t work, so naturally you press the delete key again and this time you are presented with an error because that item no longer exists. The whole experience with this refresh issue is pretty poor.

Whilst Outlook’s Cached Exchange mode is a very common deployment method for laptops and desktops (if not the standard these days) you cannot use it when running Outlook 2003 in Terminal Services or Citrix.

The final option is an upgrade to Outlook 2007 / 2010 which might not be a big deal in some organisations, in others it will involve significant work and planning.

It appears that there is unlikely to be a better fix either. Further details already written up very well here.

Update 05/11/2010

The KB article has been updated to reflect the fact that the minimum value can actually be set to 5 seconds not 10. Whether that is an acceptable value for your environment is another matter.

Update 01/02/2010

So it looks like enough customer pressure has been placed and the Exchange Team have just announced that UDP support for Outlook 2003 will be available for Exchange 2010 in Roll-up 3 for SP1. This means you can now consider Outlook 2003 in Terminal Services as a viable client for Exchange 2010 again.

TrainSignal – Exchange 2010 Training DVDs

exchange_server_2010_soloI was lucky enough recently to receive a review copy of the recently released Exchange Server 2010 Training DVDs from TrainSignal. Not all IT pros are fortunate enough to be able to go out on training courses for everything they want or need to learn about for their job, so I was very interested to see how this form of instructor based DVD training would work.

I had an excellent first impression of this experience because whilst I was waiting for the DVDs to ship from the US I was informed that the same training course was also available for me online so I could start straight away! I thought this was a fantastic idea and a terrific surprise I was not expecting. If you’re like me, then once you decide to get into a topic you want to get on with it as soon as possible, so not having to wait for the DVDs to arrive was great.

The topics are split into 40 different videos and cover everything from the real basics for those who haven’t worked with any version of Exchange before through to the more advanced topics such as high availabilty and disaster recovery. The advantage over on-site course based training I found of having all the videos available was that if there was a section you felt you already knew about or was not particularly relevant for your environment, then it could be skipped through rather than having to sit through at an on-site course. Naturally, if you found you ever did need it then it would be possible to go back to it at a later date.

The videos are a mix of instructor led Powerpoint type slides intermixed with lots of real demonstrations. The instructor takes the course at a good pace, slow enough for new Exchange administrators, but not too slow that experienced admins would get frustrated. I also felt that the instructor had real world experience tips to add, despite Exchange 2010 still being a relatively new product.

The DVD package contains 3 discs. The first two contain the entire course split over the 2 discs and can be watched on any PC or Mac. The instructor notes that you see during the different videos are also available on this DVD as a pdf. Tip: You need to install the TechSmith Screen Capture Codec first to watch the videos, which the DVD helpfully prompts you to do if you don’t have it installed. If like me you missed that on the top of the help page and spent 5 mins trying to install plugins for Firefox then you probably shouldn’t really be left responsible for important IT systems. 🙂

The third disc contains the entire course on different formats for loading onto mobile devices. There are video formats in .mv4 for iPod and .wmv for other devices. Also available are MP3s which might be useful if you enjoying learning just by listening or maybe as revision repeats if going for the Exchange 2010 certification.

I found the different available sources of the course fantastic and really helped to get through the material quicker than I would if only one was available. For instance:

  • I used the online course at lunchtime whilst at work
  • The iPod material whilst commuting
  • The DVD or online course again whilst at home

Overall I was really impressed by this set of DVDs and would definitely consider other series in the future. Previously if I was not able to attend a course for something I needed to learn about then typically I would buy a book instead, but in future I think I would be looking to see if Trainsignal had a series for it first.

You can find out more about the other courses they have available at www.trainsignal.com or follow them on Twitter. Currently there are courses for lots of Windows products, VMware and Cisco technologies.

Exchange 2010 DAG Support Within Virtualised Clusters

One of the major new features within Exchange 2010 is the Database Availabilty Group (DAG). This replaces High Availability options from previous versions of Exchange such as SCR and CCR – it essentially works by having multiple copies of the same Exchange databases replicated across multiple Exchange servers.

DAG

Exchange 2010 is supported on hardware virtualisation platforms provided the conditions in this Technet article are met. Whilst looking at various options for a possible Exchange 2010 deployment for a user base in the hundreds (it obviously made sense to look at what possibilities are available if deciding to virtualise the mailbox server role) I stumbled across this blog post which suggested that whilst Exchange 2010 was supported as virtual, when running a DAG it was not supported if part of a virtualised cluster.

Given that most people looking to deploy Exchange 2010 DAG solutions virtually, may well already have an existing cluster and do not wish to purchase standalone virtual hosts just for this solution it seemed a bit dissapointing to read that Microsoft had taken this stance. I contacted MS support to clarify exactly what was and wasn’t supported.

Whilst going back and forth with the support guy I read this Technet Magazine Article which suggested that the above stance might have changed recently and in fact a DAG would be supported within a virtualised cluster, provided that all virtualisation HA features would be disabled for the Exchange 2010 DAG VMs. This seemed to reflect the below quote from the virtualisation support article

“DAGs are supported in hardware virtualization environments provided that the ….. clustered root servers have been configured to never failover or automatically move mailbox servers that are members of a DAG to another root server.”

Eventually they confirmed that this was correct and whilst it would be supported to deploy a DAG in a virtualised cluster with these features turned off (HA and DRS in VMware ESX) there was a strong emphasis that this would not be recommended. Exactly why it was not recommended was difficult to ascertain, the impression I got from the call was:

  • As Aidan mentions in his blog post he speculates that it hasn’t been tested enough to be recommended yet. There was also a lot of emphasis on the call on large scale deployments and not much demand yet for testing smaller deployment scenarios.
  • Fixing VMs to particular hosts does mean that the hosts themselves become a management burden, it was mentioned that this could be a high cost.

Whilst it does increase the level of management, purchasing modern physical hardware to run an Exchange 2010 DAG could mean that the servers are not highly utilised for smaller deployments – consequently the hardware cost of doing so can be comparatively high to the cost of a VM.

The main purpose in this deployement  to consider virtualising Exchange was hardware cost, not the HA features it could bring – Exchange itself will bring application HA.

The upshot of this post is essentially that an Exchange 2010 DAG in a virtualised cluster is supported by Microsoft provided the HA features are turned off, but not recommended by them. Consequently you can take that information into your design process and consider if it makes sense for your deployment.

Update:

If running VMware virtualisation, you must also consider that prior to vSphere 4.0 U1 running MSCS clusters within HA/DRS clusters was not supported, this changed with the release of U1. Since an Exchange 2010 DAG relies on Windows Failover Clustering then you must be on at least U1 to be supported – however, again HA / DRS must be disabled for the VMs in question. Virtual Kenneth has some very useful information about this in a blog post.

Update 07/06/2011:

Seems like enough customers put significant pressure on Microsoft so that they have changed their stance on this issue. As of the post from 16th May on the Exchange Team blog site HA and DRS are now supported for Exchange 2010 DAG clusters, provided you are running Exchange 2010 SP1. Be careful though, as Matt Liebowitz helpfully points out you need to consider your cluster heartbeat timeouts to allow for a brief network interruption of vMotion.

He also posts other helpful information on this issue here.