Exchange 2007 Beta – aftermath

Saturday, 23 September 2006

As I mentioned some days ago, I evaluated Microsoft Exchange 2007.

Boy, that was fun. I defined roles, I copied mailboxes, I flooded it with spam, I cleaned them up with retention rules, I accessed network shares via webaccess.
In the end the test was spread across 4 servers, 3 of them being virtual on the main testing machine. 2 for mailbox storage, 1 for client access and 1 for hub transport.
To tie up some loose ends I wrote about in my previous posting, well:

  • I wasn’t able to fine tune the webaccess component, hopefully we get that into the final
  • SMTP servers can be setup as desired (portwise, etc), I just didn’t look well enough.
  • Message tracking is a joke, I was SO right about that one.

So, what is my impression? Well, it’s already decided, we will adopt Exchange 2007, as soon as it’s out and reported ready┬á for full business use.

What? You think you noticed that my testing will come to an end?
Well, you’re right, testing of Exchange 2007 will temporarily be shut down, but only to rise from the ashes in my new enviroment, where I will test a migration scenario that is as closely modeled to the real word as possible.

I will be using 2 Supermicro servers, both equipped with 2 dual Core 64Bit HT Xeons, that makes 8 virtual CPUs per machine, and 12 GB RAM each, connected to 2 Promise M500i SAN enclosures stuffed with 500GB SATAII drives.
All fully virtualized to provide a peak of 10 virtual servers, having like 2 gig RAM each, able to access about 5 terrabyte disk space.
I guess that will be enough to simulate a few Server 2003 R2 DCs, some Exchange 2003 & Exchange 2007 Boxes ­čÖé

Evaluating Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Yesterday I got my hands onto the BETA Verison of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. What a ride.

I started by deploying the HUGE package (like 1.2 GB) on our testing environment, a dedicated LAN with a working Exchange 2003 SP2 infrastructure.
The hardware I’ve used is a Dual Xeon 2.8 Ghz machine, 4 GB of ram running Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 Edition.
Installation itself went without any glitches, I used the standard scheme, installing the following roles: Mailbox, Client Access and Hub Transport.

The installer created a new administrative group, and a connector to the the Exchange 2003 infrastructure.
That connector is the only thing that the 2 platforms have in common, everything else has to be reimplementen, redesigned or generally adapted to.
Few examples are recipient policies, offline adress books (if you want them at a http distribution point), accepted maildomains etc etc.

After this I moved the existing mailboxes from the Exchange 2003 Server to the Exchange 2007, just to see how the new Webaccess works.
That was when I really started to get impressed, it’s much quicker now than ever before, the calendar pops up very fast and all looks stable and clean.
Think they really have some clever pre-caching/Ajax/Atlas routines here.

Later, however, I tried to dig deeper into the configuration, and I really was unable to find out how to do some basic operations, which makes me wonder if the real “hands in the guts” configuration of the server is only possible via the new MSH.
So, just for you information, here are some things that are plain obvious in Exchange 2003, but seem unarchievable to me in Exchange 2007 via the new admin console:

  • Setting up another, feature less ┬á(hostheader enabled) Website for Webaccess to minimize attack surface
  • Fine tune how the SMTP server component behaves, like putting it on another port for internal use only
    (Maybe this “issue” resolves itself by assigning the right roles (and ONLY them) to the server, like “Edge Transport”
  • The message tracking center is still a joke, I hope this gets changed after in the final release (err shouldn’t a beta be feature complete?)
    The only you get out of it are the lines in the logfile that match the give criteria, in a table that reminds me of the early days of VB 6.0

Let’s see┬áwhat can be done in the MSH.┬á

I will continue to explore the capabilities of that new platform in the following days.