Exchange 2013 Preview Bringing Management Perks

Microsoft Exchange 2013, which was released last week in the form of a beta preview, contains several management improvements for IT pros compared with its 2010 predecessor. Details on those improvements are contained in an Exchange team blog post and a TechNet library article, but here's a summary: Mostly, Microsoft has centralized a lot of functions and beefed up the architecture, reducing some drudgery in terms of configuration and upgrades.

Administration Center: One benefit is a new "administration center" in Exchange 2013 preview, which combines the functions of the management console and control panel into a single console. The administration center has role-based controls for separating tasks and controlling access in IT departments. Remote access to management tasks over the Internet also can be specifically controlled. The administration center includes a new "notification" viewer to alert users when a process completes. Public folders now are managed under the administration center, instead of being handled using a separate tool.

E-Mail Malware Protection: Exchange 2013 preview has "basic anti-malware protection" built into the product, which is controllable through the administration center. Reporting capabilities are enabled. It's not clear what Microsoft means by "basic" protection. The company also will sell its Exchange Online Protection service as an option, which can work in conjunction with Exchange 2013's basic antimalware protection, if wanted. It's also possible to turn off the basic protection.

Automatic Traffic Surge Protection: Microsoft's team blog claims that the Exchange 2013 preview reduces the need to plan for capacity to address peak e-mail traffic hours. According to the blog, "system work that is not interactive is automatically deferred to non-peak hours in order to preserve the end user experience and higher priority tasks."

Workload Management: A new feature in Exchange 2013 preview is the ability to manage workloads "based on the health of system resources." Microsoft describes how Exchange 2013's throttling priorities work at this page.

Improved Architecture: Microsoft suggested that upgrade requirements will be simplified for administrators using Exchange 2013 in the near future because of some architectural changes it has made. For instance, the number of server roles has been reduced to two roles, a "client access" role and "mailbox" role. The two server roles are now loosely coupled, so that they can be upgraded independently of one another. Moreover, pure Exchange 2013 deployments are simplified. For example, the number of namespaces required for Exchange 2013 deployments drops to two, compared with eight namespaces required for Exchange 2010. Microsoft also claimed in its blog to have simplified the configuration of database availability groups (DAGs) for site recovery. DAG management is now centralized through the administration center. Similarly certificate management is centralized through the administration center and users get notifications when a certificate on a client access server is about to expire. Public folders have been rearchitected in Exchange 2013 as described here.

Batch Moves: Microsoft added a batch move process to the mailbox replication service. It allows mailboxes to be moved in large batches and provides reporting during the move process. There's also an automatic retry feature.

Bigger Mailboxes at Lower Cost: Microsoft's claim to support larger mailboxes for users is based on using "next-generation" hardware and memory. Exchange 2013 now can support "up to 8TB disks." Microsoft's blog claims that input output operations per second (IOPS) can be reduced by adding greater memory capacity, allowing "larger mailboxes at lower costs."

Data Loss Prevention: Exchange 2013 preview has a new "data loss prevention" feature for organizations wanting to set policies to protect certain information. Microsoft's data loss prevention feature in Exchange 2013 comes prebuilt with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Payment Card Industry (PCI) policy standards, but it can support other policies too. Microsoft provides policy templates. Alternatively, policy files can be imported or created new. This feature can be used in conjunction with Microsoft Outlooks 2013's policy tips feature, which "informs users about policy violations as content is being created," according to Microsoft's blog.

Other Compliance Features: Organizations that want electronic discovery control over e-mail are getting a single user interface in Exchange 2013. The new "eDiscovery center" is a console that tracks information across Exchange, SharePoint and Lync. Compliance policies can also be applied to "site mailboxes," a feature that groups e-mail and documents together for members of a group. The site mailboxes feature works when Exchange and SharePoint are combined.

Client Improvements: A few improvements on the user side are associated with the Exchange 2013 preview. Notably, the Outlook Web App client will work in a browser even if the user isn't connected to the Internet. The client automatically syncs up with the data when a user reconnects. Microsoft provides a table showing browser support for the new Outlook Web App here. Importing contacts into Outlook also is a little easier now. Outlook's global address list can import LinkedIn information into a user's contacts. Microsoft plans to integrate other social networking services in the future.

The Exchange 2013 product is expected for product release early next year, although Microsoft hasn't announced a specific date yet. Pricing information isn't publicly available yet.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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