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Exchange 2010 SP2 – Whats new?

This article is in continuation to the existing writing up on “Exchange 2010 SP2: “http://msexchangeguru.com/2011/12/05/e2010-sp2/ “. I intend presenting a more elaborative version of the existing write-up in three dimensions –

  • Per se an Exchange Admin
  • Per se O365
  • Per se SP1

“Technology” is as well about versions. The more you address the technology problems, the better version you are creating and presenting to users. A service pack is ideally all about fixing bugs and work issues in-addition to having some new features. So this SP2 is no exception as well, you have huge bug fixes here and some cool features as well, the key ones being your HCW, OWA mini, ABP (Address Book Policies) and OWA Redirection.

Let me begin with the installation part! I really am not going to get into the installation part in depth, as its kinda quite straight forward.. Very much similar to doing your SP1, just ensure you have one thing in function and that being “IIS 6 WMI Compatibility component” checked, and rest is fairly simple.

The top notch striking, value -add features are HCW(Hybrid Configuration Wizard) and BPs (Address Book Policies) in addition to your OWA features, we will address all though!

 

 


Hybrid Configuration Wizard:

There is always this consistent argument about on-premise and hosting for your Exchange Requirements. Well the bottom line is always, what works for one may not for other but there are always “superior” benefits if you could intersect between them. Precisely, that is what has been addressed to in SP2 HCW feature.

Interpreting terminologies is always a challenge! So if you ask us, what exactly does the word “HYBRID” in this context mean, it tries to exhibit a meaning of “CO-EXISTENCE”, to be more articulate, it establishes the needed platform to have a “synchronous happy relationship” between your on-premise and hosted environment, in this case being, E2010 on premise and O365 or any Cloud provider.

So irrespective of your interest, in terms of moving your entire mailboxes to Hosting Provider or moving one or two subsets of mailboxes to Hosting Provider, you have to understand that it is all complex, the complexity doesn’t reduce at all. Managing mailboxes is always a challenge and to have it co-existed with both environments, will be definitely more challenging. To have a hybrid path between your E2010 On-premise and O365/Cloud Provider, you would have to possibly go through close to 50 steps , in terms of having a complete translation to your O365/Cloud Provider from E2010 On-premise. With the HCW, its now reduced to close to 6 steps, which is amazing in itself.

How does HCW do this?

HCW comprises of three highly copacetic features and them being EMC, EMS and SM.

  • EMC (Exchange Management Console) : This is the real hero, which guides you step by step as to how you smoothly transition your environment to a hybrid environment. Its easy to relate and follow.
  • EMS (Exchange Management Shell) : As the name sounds, it relates to all your needed “cmdlets” that will devise EMC for all its processes through out the set-up process.
  • SM (Simplified Management) : You indeed will be handling higher ease in terms of management of hybrid environment as you no longer will be dealing with exchangedelegation.contoso.com or service.contoso.com domains. Thus, you can now relate the management being Simplified aspect.
  • Background Bit : Okay, so now that we relate these, how does it all work in background making my task simpler or enable HCW to do the humungous work in just 6 steps?

First of firsts, where does the Hybrid config information get stored? This is an apt query to understand in terms of relating it stronger. The HCW will be firstly creating an AD object wherein it is going to store all your hybrid information and then it goes about working on the defined parameters in the AD object (Now all this certainly means, it calls for a schema update as well ). Its actually after this, that you can run the HCW, as in when HCW does this little trick, its good enough to run it for your environment.

So this is how it goes.. The first thing HCW does is, is to understand your environment and cloud provider/O365 , where it stands in terms of the hybrid process. Ideally , the HCW will be comparing the AD parameters with your On premise E2010 and cloud Provider, and incorporates the needed “missing” parameters or if it matches good, then it starts the hybrid process. So when you run SP2, the HCW’s Exchange Management Console will take inputs from the cmdlets in Exchange Management Shell and do the needful.

Per se the steps reduction, all wonderful stuffs it does is, it takes care of your SMTP domain (which will assist in email exchanges between E2010 and Cloud provider/0365), enables the send and receive tools (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE), address policy modifications, free/busy calendar sharing, federation trust-> incase you have a trust, it enables it and if you don’t then it creates the needed organizational trust, TLS encrypted mail flow) , and takes care of necessary proxy enablements (MRS) without which you can’t move your mailboxes in your hybrid environment. To get a better hang, Please refer http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh529921.aspx#BKMK_HybridConfigProcess

  • Per se an Exchange Admin : HCW reduces your task close to 80% and makes it easier for you to understand and implement it. Another key benefit, it will allow admins to do migration upto a batch of 50 as well.
  • Per se O365: It gives a better take to using 0365 for new users
  • Per se SP1: It bridges to a great extent the gaps in Online and Hosting expectations

Address Book Policies:

Now before I venture into that area, I would just like to re-iterate once about GAL Segmentation!

GAL (Global Address List) contains info about all Mail enabled objects in your Exchange environment.

Why do I need to do GAL Segmentation??

GAL Segmentation primarily means you segment your GAL and address lists. Now the reason if you ask me, it could be for legal reasons or to have more coherence in functioning or hosting requirements wherein you are hosting (as in Cloud Provider) different organizations.

Another good question if you ask me, if wasn’t this Segmentation working good enough or possible in SP1 or what difference does an ABP does? Well there are reasons for ABP being superior.

Firstly, this GAL Segmentation was possible very much but it was all complicated. I don’t deny there are ways to tweak things or you can work around in Exchange, but certainly this Segmentation was all done through scripts which needed to be in sync with the right settings. We all need to identify with the fact that changing things in Exchange can at times cave in ways for it to start functioning faulty.

Getting back to ABP

Now this feature is all about answering requests primarily from Hosting Providers and even admins as well to streamlining the GAL into sections that can be branched for users so that the users need not necessarily see the complete GAL.

What all should be Addressed to create an ABP

  • One Global Address List
  • One Offline Address Book
  • One room list, now this is required in an ABP. Even if you don’t use these in your firm, you still need to add an empty room list.
  • One or more address lists

As said earlier, ABP is all about planning and filtering your environment, Microsoft suggests you to use “CustomAttributes” as key filtering criterion, in addition to all available options.

How does ABP work?

It ideally tries to select different objects from the GAL to create a customized address book which can then be implemented on your mailbox through policies. Now the next obvious query, if we can have multiple ABPS, yes you can in your organization. So when a user connects to a mailbox, he can only connect and view objects as defined by the ABP assigned to his mailbox. Schema Updates are called up in your ABP as well.

Take on this Feature

  • Per se an Exchange Admin : ABP greatly helps admins to assign which portion of GAL the users can access (Manual Work is eliminated). This as discussed above was quite possible earlier, but in all round about ways. This is a key highlight for admins going ahead which is a very strong “sieve” in creating a customized address list.
  • Per se O365: It gives a better take to using 0365 for new users because it overcomes the feature which wasn’t present in O365.
  • Per se SP1: It bridges to a great extent the gaps in segmentation enhancements in SP1, OABs are built in GAL and not AL as per SP2.

OWA Redirection

What happens when your OWA in a CAS Server gets across to a wrong AD? Ideally your CAS will take a call and it will either put you to a proxy site or place you to the target site.

Now if your proxy site has a link in it, the user will be directed to it and he will have to sign in on and he gets through or if the proxy doesn’t has a external link , the user will be directed to mailbox and he can still access it.

So either ways, the user will have to login twice. With SP2, the need to go through the link is eradicated, which will lead to a SSO.

Take on this Feature

  • Per se an Exchange Admin : It enhances user experince through easier functionality
  • Per se O365: It offers an added advantage to it in terms of smart redirections.
  • Per se SP1: SP2 ensures a SSO through forms authentication.

OWA Mini

This is somewhat very similar to your OMA in SP1.

What then should excite you about it is, it’s built as OWA Forms and not an App. The look and feel is good.

It basically works well for browsable phones, giving you good flexibility in terms of calendar and contacts. However, ActiveSync will not be supported on this. It ideally is a text based interface for a mailbox.

Take on this Feature

  • Per se an Exchange Admin : There isn’t anything great that can be said in this for admins. This basically is a feature brought back on user demand.
  • Per se O365: It offers an added advantage to it in terms of wider audience profile.
  • Per se SP1: SP2 ensures it is form based, so its performance is better.

The overall take as per our team will be, it’s a fairly transparent move by Microsoft, in terms of offering the users who were/are hesitant in testing 0365 environment. This comes at a time, when we all want a little of everything, but the incongruity is, is the little thing of everything worth it? Incase of SP2 it does seem undoubtedly… Technology advancements are just about changes in framework but not certainly changes in Picture within the frame. So go ahead and try yours, you certainly wouldn’t regret it!

Ratish Nair
MVP Exchange
Team@ MSExchangeGuru

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