Database limits head north in Exchange 2013 CU2 while LinkedIn causes headaches elsewhere

I didn't get to TechEd North America this year but based on some of the photos I have seen on Facebook, I might not have liked those queues for Surface PCs... or some of the parties. But the news was good as we learned that Microsoft will increase the limit of supported databases for Exchange 2013 from 50 to 100 (again), that Azure might host a witness server for DAGs, that MFCMAPI is all-powerful and that LinkedIn causes headaches for Exchange administrators.

It’s the week for TechEd North America but I’m not there due to a previous commitment to drive down through France to discover some new vineyards, a task that I am happy to report was successfully completed. Thanks to the wonders of the Interweb and spotty Wi-Fi connections, I have been carefully tracking matters as they unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere so that I can report them to you.

First up, the Exchange team started to reveal some details of what will be included in Exchange 2013 CU2. Based on Microsoft’s desire to release a cumulative update per quarter it’s fair to anticipate that CU2 will arrive sometime after July 1, three months since CU1 arrived. Of course, software and bugs conspire against those who set dates and CU2 might be delayed a tad. We’ll see.

In the interim, it’s good to see that customer feedback and the luxury of more time to analyze the effects of architectural changes made in Exchange 2013 have convinced Microsoft to increase the limit for mounted databases on a mailbox server from 50 to 100. Exchange 2010 allows 100 databases to be mounted on a server but it uses a different architecture and the two versions are not comparable.

Not much to say about the change really, unless you’re one of those folk who run very large Database Availability Groups (DAG), in which case you have the challenge of how to deal with a reduction of databases from 1,600 (100 for each of the sixteen DAG members) to 800. Such a reduction is enough to make any administrator go white with giddy anticipation of challenges to come (or not)… Upping the limit to 100 in CU2 has a follow-on effect on planning tools such as the Exchange 2013 mailbox role requirements calculator, so Ross Smith IV was quick to reassure everyone that normality would be restored with an update for the calculator once CU2 appears.

A cynic might conclude that playing around with database numbers is yet further evidence that Exchange 2013 was released a little too early for comfort. I think there’s some truth here. Thankfully the fact is that CU1 is so much better than Exchange 2013 RTM; I expect the trend to continue with CU2.

Another interesting snippet came from Scott Schnoll, who said that CU2 might allow the witness server for a DAG to be located on an Azure Iaas VM server, further evidence that Microsoft really is moving to embrace the cloud in as many ways that it can.

In other news, LinkedIn, that well-known collector of contact information for the world, committed a faux pas in the eyes of Exchange administrators when it introduced the ability to harvest Outlook contacts for a user. On the surface this seems like a very good thing because we all want our users to feel loved and respected and anyway, LinkedIn already allows users to import contact data from Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail (and indeed, as shown in the screen shot, from "Any EMail”). The problem is that these are mostly consumer email systems (Gmail being used by both consumers and businesses) and it doesn’t matter very much if a user decides to import contacts from their personal email account. On the other hand, allowing users to decide to grant a third party access to corporate data, such as the contacts held in their Exchange mailboxes, is a different matter, if only because corporate security might have an opinion on the matter. LinkedIn uses Exchange Web Services (EWS) to access contacts and it’s easy to block this access for the organization by running the Set-OrganizationConfig (see the example below) to add LinkedIn to the block list for EWS applications. More information is available here.

Set-OrganizationConfig -EwsBlockList "LinkedInEWS"

Another interesting piece of information came from Stephen Griffin, who points out that MFCMAPI can be used to create Outlook MAPI profiles to connect to Exchange 2013 via RPC over HTTPS. Those of you who enjoy manipulating MAPI profiles programmatically can rejoice.

Finally, the news that Microsoft will include Outlook 2013 for the Surface RT with Windows 8.1 made me think that I should use an RT rather than a Surface Pro. In truth, I only bought a Surface Pro because it runs regular Windows but since then I’ve found the device to be just a tad heavy. My son’s RT is just the right weight. Maybe I’ll change…

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Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Jun 7, 2013

Tony
So here we are ... if release 2013 version is not "confusing" and "erratic" I don't know what is. Even Ross admits that limit of 50 was not really tested properly due to lack of test environment (@Microsoft ???).

As far as LinkedIn ... I don't think that simply blocking as described will prevent attempts to authenticate, worst case when you change your password account lockout perhaps. Wondering if this technique can be used with Office 365 ?

For CU2 introducing dynamic memory allocation/de-allocation would be nice, thus no need to restart store service.

on Jun 9, 2013

@keruzam,

1. I agree that the RTM version of Exchange 2013 ought to have been delayed to allow for more testing. Unfortunately the imperative of releasing Exchange alongside the other Wave 15 products won out. CU1 is much better; I expect CU2 will be too.
2. Blocking LinkedIn EWS access will not stop users attempting to authenticate. That process will happen through user education and IT intervention and will be different in each company.
3. I hope that the memory allocation algorithm becomes more dynamic too!

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Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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