What question would you ask Microsoft's Exchange development supremo?

I've read lots of comments and tweets about various aspects of Exchange recently. Some are positive, but lots are negative. This might simply be the nature of the Internet where many of those who care to contribute do so because they have experienced a problem and want to share that information. In any case, I'm talking to the man who has responsibility for all of Exchange server development next week and I want to know about your cares, concerns, and questions. Speak now... or stay quiet!

I need your help. Next Friday (December 13), I shall interview Perry Clarke, Microsoft CVP for Exchange development (in other words, Perry is responsible for every bit of code written for Exchange, both on-premises and cloud). I have known Perry for many years and have quite a few questions to ask him about the future direction of Exchange and other issues, but I thought that I’d open it up to the Exchange community and invite you to submit questions that you’d like me to ask Perry.

I’m not looking for leading statements like “I think Exchange 2013 quality is crap” or “Microsoft is driving everyone to the cloud”; I want well-reasoned questions that dive to the core of an issue and are preferably backed up with hard fact. In short, I need your thinking caps to be firmly in place before you pose a question.

When you come up with a question that you want me to ask, write it out. Then go have a coffee or whatever drink moves your creative side and then come back and have a look at the question again. And if you think that the question is still valid, then submit it as a reply to this post and I’ll add it to the mix of potential questions for the 60-minute interview. I give no guarantee that I will use any or all of the questions that flow in but I will read every one and they will form part of my research and preparation for our chat.

When the interview is over I will write it up and publish the questions that I ask plus Perry’s response in a post to this blog. My plan is to do this on Tuesday, December 17.

The challenge is there. Speak now or forever hold your peace – or whatever the equivalent is in electronic terms.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

Discuss this Blog Entry 20

on Dec 6, 2013

1: When we are going to get rid of Public Folder Database?
2: What future do you see for an Exchange Admin or Consultant in coming years?

on Dec 7, 2013

In Exchange 2013 there is no Public Folder Database, instead public folder mailboxes that integrate with the DAG. Did you mean Public Folders in general?

on Dec 10, 2013

There is no PF DB in 2013. Just PF mailboxes. So that answer to 1) is Exchange 2013.

on Dec 6, 2013

A questions that I have for Perry is, back in the Ex 2007 & Ex 2010 days Microsoft had an Exchange On-Premises infrastructure in Microsoft. So they tested everything in the Exchange On-Premises infrastructure before sending it to us Exchange On-Premises customers worldwide.
Today with Ex 2013 Microsoft is testing on Office 365 and this has caused many issues with Exchange 2013 On-Premises CU1, CU2. Looks like CU3 is better but still issues.
Why doesn’t Microsoft build a solid Exchange On-Premises infrastructure in-house and test everything before sending it to us Exchange On-Premises customers worldwide. Microsoft needs to remember 400 million Mailboxes worldwide are Exchange On-Premises so Microsoft needs to think about it customers worldwide, Do not destroy a business that you have worked so hard to build for 20 years.

on Dec 6, 2013

Why does the Exchange product not ship with any native health monitoring tools which can be run from the GUI? Why is it left to Steve Goodman to provide handy scripts and DAG Dashboard Status tools to get me information which could already have been easily provided?
Why was the ExBPA tool removed? Consultants walking into a foreign customer’s Exchange Org often used the ExBPA to get a quick reference point on the source environment – remember that Discovery work which is so vital to a successful project (which no one wants to pay for, but I still need to get done)?

I only have so many hours on my SOW to get a project delivered. Having to dive into PS just to get basic info every time is time-consuming. With all of the engineering work done to ship Ex2013, I find this lack of first-hand info counter-productive.

Additionally, many (most?) small/medium (and many mature Enterprise) customers don’t have SCOM deployed or don’t know how to use it effectively. What should we use to monitor Exchange when you leave they ask me! Well…you could go buy Quest Spotlight on Messaging/SolarWinds/SCOM/etc. – all at additional cost. But most often than not I give them a copy of pre-canned scripts I have on my USB drive and point them at a few well-written MVP posts. I wonder how much these lack of monitoring tools actually causes poor administration of the Exchange Org, if the go-to-guy has no PS experience.

Much of the under-the-hood work in Ex2013 is great (Managed Availability) etc. and I appreciate the simplified architecture. I even like the EAC, even though working through an IE browser is sometimes annoying. But you guys need to show a bit more love on the environment monitoring side, you might in return see more love from the community. It looks like a cost-saving exercise, which when combined with Server 2012 lacking a Start button, feels like a half-finished product and causes resentment.

on Dec 6, 2013

I would like to concentrate in three things:
- What is the future of ActiveSync compared to OWA Mobile?
- powershell is great, but why doesnt the GUI have ALL available commands, as in the shell?
- are we moving towards an architecture where there is no front end and backend, but just Exchange systems with all components?

Thanks

on Dec 6, 2013

Received via email:

I’m still aghast that there is no legacy public folder access through OWA. My current customer has 3TB of public folders and thousands of mailboxes, and this limitation is just going to complicate their migration. I guess they’re going to have to defer moving the mailboxes of those who need OWA access to public folders to the very end and leave them blacked out until all the public folder content migrates, and who knows how long that will take?

Additionally, all this pain of upgrading to Exchange 2013 presents very little in the way of features. I’d like to see the Exchange team implement some fixtures in addition to the plumbing. One example of something many people would like that has been requested since Exchange 4.0 is some diversity in group calendaring, for example where one could set up a group calendar object that would display the consolidated calendars of everyone in, say, a distribution group, and it would be available to everyone.

Perry really ought to have someone who’s relatively independent from the Exchange team monitor the forums to see the breadth of feature requests. These things would really make an upgrade more sexy for many customers.

on Dec 6, 2013

Received via email:

I find myself interested in the explanation for all the “take aways” between 2010 and 2013.

SMIME, audit logging, IP filtering, significant reduction in capabilities in the EAC vs. EMC, the list is very long.

Even by 2013 SP1 we will not have feature parity. Which means it isn’t happening. After SP1 ships, they’ll start on the next major release…

on Dec 7, 2013

Show script button to show the EMS code for all/(vast majority of) 2013 EAC tasks.

on Dec 7, 2013

Some enhancement requests:
* Get rid of MAPI and make EWS the standard client (this transition should happen though slowly...)
* Expand the Edge Role to offer complete publishing of all Exchange services: OWA, ECP, Autodiscover, AS, Outlook Anywhere. Just do what the TMG did for Exchange..
* Change the Jet Engine structure to give us the ability to restore single mailboxes without having to restore the complete database!
* make a powerful GUI (available as a windows application) with ALL options available.
* Create a dashboard based UI that shows the Exchange health and consolidates all events associated with Exchange

on Dec 7, 2013

more thoughts:
* Give users more self service abilities. Expand on what is already available and make it work with Outlook, OWA and Mac clients.
* Compliance: Allow us to create retention tags based on size and not only on age. Even allow single items to automatically land in the archive depending on their size.
* DLP: Create proximity based criteria/rules for words in a mail.
* Sizing: Give us better guidance in sizing environments with lots of AS clients. currently there is not a lot of information available..
* DR: Give us a tool to calculate maximum RPO for a configuration
* QoS: Give us the ability to control the experience of specific users and Exchange components.

on Dec 7, 2013

From email:

What about antispam possibilities on-premises. In SP1 finally will be added Edge role, but without such a possibility. As a opportunity for e.g. Exchange 2007 Edge with FPE (free antispam updates till December 2015) It is at least hard to understand for me – waiting more than a year for missing role with very little functionality? I can understand that we are pushing to the cloud but more than 80% of my clients don’t want cloud antispam – only on-premises. Of course we can offer them any available antispam appliance, but if someone expecting such a functionality from Microsoft he would be disappointed.

on Dec 7, 2013

From email:

As for questions to Perry, I have a couple.

1) The last several versions of Exchange have introduced a number of infrastructure changes whose net effect is to make it easier to provision most elements of an Exchange deployment. Exchange 2007 made it possible to create complete scripts to consistently deploy servers or roll out changes across a server farm. Exchange 2010 moved redundancy from the storage level to the application level. Exchange 2013 allows even higher levels of automatic recovery from service and storage failures. For future versions of Exchange, will we see more automatic provisioning, both to allow automated responses to high and low load levels, as well as to permit automatic recovery/rollback of failed servers (such as during a failed patching)?
2) Although the DAG requires the Windows cluster components, it uses hardly any of their capabilities – and the cluster components are a common source of problems with a DAG in many deployments. How hard would it really be to remove this dependency in future versions of Exchange?
3) With Exchange 2013 SP1, the Edge Transport role comes back. Although Exchange doesn’t require a reverse proxy capability, many customers do have requirements (despite Greg Taylor’s excellent points otherwise, regulatory auditors are not always convinced) to terminate all inbound connections in a perimeter network zone. Is there any thought of expanding the Edge Transport role to become a true Edge role (comparable to that in Lync), permitting it to mediate all incoming connections to the Exchange server?

on Dec 7, 2013

Tony, here are the two questions I'd be interested in hearing Perry's thoughts on.

1) ActiveSync seems to have had no significant development from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2013. Yet BYOD is a fast growing need for businesses, and MDM vendors are filling in the gaps between customer requirements and Exchange capabilities, with varying degrees of success. Do you plan to continue developing ActiveSync with new features to meet the market, or are you content to maintain it as a stable, mature protocol and shift focus to Exchange Web Services to deliver future mobile solutions, such as your OWA apps for iOS?

2) The coupling of EAC and ECP leads to customers having to make an uncomfortable decision around external OWA/ECP access for users, and the external exposure of the EAC as a result of that. Would you consider separating EAC into its own virtual directories so that access can be more easily controlled?

on Dec 9, 2013

Here are some of my questions for Perry:

1. I see a number of changes in Exchange 2013 that make it easier for Microsoft, not the customer. Examples are modern Public Folders, removal of spam filtering, and the lack of mature toolsets like ExBPA and ExTRA that were available in Exchange 2010. It seems that the only new development being done is for the cloud. Comments?
2. What is the reason for the signigicant takebacks in administrative tools? EAC is marginally OK, but why is there no right-click functionality like there is in OWA? It just makes administration more difficult for admins.
3. With the advent of Exchange 2013, Microsoft has been touting that customers can now use layer 4 load balancers over layer 7 load balancers. Are you seeing customers actually buying and using L4 load balancers, since they do not have any form of application health checking?
4. It seems that Microsoft has abandoned all forms of interoperability testing, even with it's own products (previous Exchange versions, old and new Internet Explorer, Outlook). Is this being addressed, or are you expecting your customers to do this testing?
5. What is the future for Exchange Admins and consultants?

on Dec 10, 2013

Hi Mr. Redmond. I have a few questions:

Exchange-aware Anti-virus
I'm curious about the state of the "Exchange-aware" anti-virus and what immediate and long-term guidance is on them.
With VSAPI gone with Exchange 2013 my understanding is that database-level scanning can still be accomplished via programs leveraging EWS (but to me this feels like a "Buyer-Beware" solution, especially since I've been in situations in the past where the Exchange-aware AV was the only smoking-gun on a corrupt database).
With Microsoft making Forefront for Exchange EOL in favor of Exchange Online Protection and adding some anti-malware/spam features into Exchange 2013, what are the thoughts on database scanning? I know many Exchange professionals are happy enough recommending a hosted solution (akin to EOP) along with scanning of SMTP messages in-flight on-prem, but my Information Security group is cautious of messages sitting in a mailbox that may contain zero-day malware (to which my argument is "That is why we have desktop AV").

It feels that Microsoft is quietly moving away from recommending scanning on the database level. Is that a fair assessment?

Third-Party ActiveSync Clients
Many of us have felt the sting of ActiveSync issues from Android and iOS devices; many of them relating to the Calendar ("Appointment Hijacking").
As is my understanding, Microsoft merely licenses the IP for ActiveSync to companies; they don't mandate how the licensees implement it. With the number of problems seen with third-party EAS devices, is there any thought to updating the licensing program, or maybe having Exchange act as a "Traffic Cop" and blocking items that don’t adhere to ActiveSync as Exchange expects?
Additionally, how does Microsoft deal with problematic EAS devices in Office 365 (outside of normal proactive steps, like throttling policies and Calendar Repair Assistant)?

That is all I can think of for now.
Thanks!
-Paul

on Dec 10, 2013

Hi Paul,

First of all, "Mr. Redmond" is my father. I appreciate the sentiment, but I am plain "Tony".

You raise good questions. In respect of the AV situation, I don't think much has changed since I wrote about it in September 2012 (http://windowsitpro.com/blog/will-exchange-customers-trust-cloud-provide-anti-malware-protection). Microsoft got out of this market because of cost - they weren't making money - and they wanted to concentrate on cloud-based scanning because they need this for Office 365. As such, they leave the on-premises market to third parties who can do what they can to create competitive advantage. I think EWS is less likely to corrupt a database simply because it is designed for the purpose of accessing Exchange mailbox data and is supported as such by Microsoft.

In respect of EAS, I think that a lot of work has been done in Exchange 2013 to bulletproof the server against the woes created by bad client implementations. Regretfully that work has not been backported to Exchange 2007 and 2010... But they are aware of the issue and I have seen a lot of progress on this point from the server perspective. Clients, that's a different matter.

TR

on Dec 10, 2013

Question: What is Microsoft doing to better test co-existence with legacy version of Exchange?

In 2013 CU1 proxying had lots of issues, even when proxying to Exchange 2013 in another AD site. CU2 fixed most of those issues, but I’m still issues with CU3 with 2007 clients. 2007 is on SP3 UR11 at both clients.

For 2007 & 2013:
Outlook Anywhere is unstable, works best if you have clients connect directly to 2007
EAS is unstable, known issue with EAS proxy breaking after multiple crashes of EAS App Pool on 2013
OOF not working after installing KB2837618, 2825677, and even without these fixes installed. I suspect there is another update that also breaks this for Outlook 2013

on Dec 11, 2013

A general comment about many of these responses, all of which I appreciate sincerely. Although Perry is responsible for Exchange development and is therefore the person who has the “the buck stops here” responsibility, he is not going to cover individual problems and feature requests during a one-hour interview. It’s the wrong forum for such a debate and we won’t have the time. Instead, the discussion will be at a higher level and cover issues such as product quality, the future for on-premises software, where the next big bets might be, and so on. However, all of that being said, I do know that Microsoft marketing is reading the comments and is also looking at the ideas submitted on http://exchange.ideascale.com/, so please do keep on expressing your valuable and worthwhile opinions.

on Dec 13, 2013

I know inplace update, never was a nice story for Exchange. But…
Because of the E15 principle “Every Server Is An Island” we moved away from Version dependency... it could be an nice idea bring back the inplace-upgrade functionality. Developing a tool, to convert E15/14 databases into E16 format and simply mount those databases under the new Exchange version, would speed up and simplify any E2E migration.
Thoughts of a busy mind ;-)

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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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