The loss of the Message Tracking Log Explorer and the denuded Exchange 2013 Toolbox

The transition to the browser-based Exchange Administration Center (EAC) means that the days of MMC-based consoles are nearly over as far as Exchange is concerned. One last vestige hangs on in the form of the Exchange Toolbox, a sad shadow of its former self as it currently includes just three options.

The Exchange toolbox has always been a loose collection of utility programs gathered from the highways and byways within Microsoft. Some of the utilities come from the Exchange development group, and some, including the extremely useful Remote Connectivity Analyzer (ExRCA) are developed by people who aren’t part of the product group.

It seems like the general rush in Exchange 2013 to drop everything related to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) framework and embrace the browser paradigm for management in the form of the Exchange Management Center (EAC) has caused a clear-out of the toolbox, which now boasts just three entries (see below) instead of the twelve provided with Exchange 2010. Dropping MMC wherever possible seems like a really good idea, especially in view of the fact that MMC caused some problems for Exchange 2010 SP1 last year. Of course, the move to EAC was well under way by then as it builds on the principles established by the Exchange 2010 Control Panel (ECP) and Exchange 2013 was ramping up for its beta versions and I doubt that anyone in the Exchange team shed any tears at the demise of MMC.

Toolbox

It’s understandable that the reason to drop some of the utilities is “progress”. For example, it probably does not make much sense to continue shipping the public folder management console when a) it’s built on MMC and b) Microsoft would really like any of you who use public folders to try their super-duper modern versions, which can be managed through EAC. Of course, during the migration process you can continue to use the public folder management console on an Exchange 2010 server or a workstation where you have installed the Exchange 2010 management tools. Other utilities, such as the RBAC editor and delivery reports (aka message tracking), are now part of EAC.

However, one big change – and one that removes quite a lot of value – is that the Message Tracking Log Explorer (MTE) is dropped. I can’t quite think of a good reason why this decision was taken, except that MTE shares the same UI as two other dropped utilities – the Exchange Best Practice Analyzer (ExBPA) and the Mail Flow Troubleshooter. I note that ExBPA does not feature on Microsoft’s Exchange Analyzers page so it is possible that this utility is in the process of being overhauled.

In any case, dropping MTE seems to have removed some value from the toolbox. It’s true that many experienced Exchange administrators prefer to query the message tracking logs through EMS because they consider this to be the fastest and most efficient way of extracting information. It’s absolutely true that anyone who is proficient in the black art of the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) will have no problems whatsoever dealing with the Get-MessageTrackingLog cmdlet, especially if they have built some scripts to make the process a little easier. But not everyone enjoys navigating message tracking log data through a command line, especially if they are not used to the syntax of the Exchange cmdlets (or even know what a cmdlet is or how to do anything apart from launch EMS). I’m sure that some Exchange administrators, even at this stage, still consider EMS an unnatural act. And it’s these people that will miss MTE most.

Perhaps it is Microsoft’s intention to remove the toolbox completely as soon as they can. It’s easy to see how this might happen. ExRCA already points to a web page, the Template Editor should be assimilated into EAC in a future version, and the Queue Viewer should be an option in EAC too. A future toolbox should really be a section within EAC that’s composed of a collection of hyperlinks to utilities such as ExRCA and the Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool (OCAT). Such a toolbox would be much easier for Microsoft to manage, reinforce the importance of EAC as the center for Exchange administration, and remove an icon from server desktops. And isn’t a clean server desktop a wonderful thing to behold?

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On-premises and cloud-based Microsoft Exchange Server and all the associated technology that runs alongside Microsoft's enterprise messaging server.

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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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