Three days after Microsoft released the good news that Exchange 2013 RTM CU2 was available for download, some humble pie had to be eaten in Redmond when the Exchange development group was forced to post another note to their EHLO blog to say that a problem had been discovered in CU2. Fortunately the problem is with modern public folders so it only affects the three customers on the face of the planet who have deployed this wonderful repository, but surely the new servicing model was supposed to make this kind of irritating bug go away?
I read the EHLO post describing the problem Microsoft discovered with public folder mailbox permissions after a move with a sense of déjà vu and deep concern. Coming just three days after they had posted the news about RTM CU2 availability, I’m sure that the Exchange development group was not too amused when they discovered the problem either.
As everyone who’s been awake over the last two years is well aware, Exchange’s record of issuing bug-free updates is not sparkling. In fact, it’s dismal. How fundamental issues like security (resetting permissions set on a secondary public folder mailbox) are overlooked by the testing regime is worrying, especially when Microsoft is urging its customers to deploy cumulative updates quickly to stay aligned with the version of Exchange running inside itsdatacenters.
Moving on from the roll-up updates provided for Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010, the new servicing model for Exchange 2013 was supposed to prevent the kind of snafus that were experienced previously (like the DAG issue with Exchange 2010 SP2 RU5). Some of the underlying reasons for the quality problems seemed to lie in the fact that Exchange Online and Exchange on-premises used different code bases, meaning that a bug fixed in one had to be fixed (and tested) in the other.
The new servicing model emphasizes the use of a common code base. New code is rolled out into Exchange Online weeks before on-premises customers see it in the form of a cumulative update. The idea is that Exchange Online will act as a massive test-bed for the software and complement the automated test systems that Microsoft uses to ensure that no regression occurs through new code or bug fixes.
As the genial Ross Smith IV observed when writing about Exchange 2013 RTM CU2, “You can deploy a CU knowing it has already had datacenter scale validation in the world’s largest and most demanding Exchange environment.” Quite.
I hate writing about another problematic software release and would far prefer to write about something more productive and positive, such as how to use software to solve business problems. I hope that this turns out to be just a blip as the new servicing model beds in. Thankfully, the problem is in an area of new functionality where not many customers will have been affected as anecdotal evidence indicates that modern public folders have not yet been widely adopted. In addition, it’s fortunate that the permissions can be reset quickly and easily on the secondary mailboxes by forcing a full synchronization with the primary public folder mailbox.
On a more positive note, it’s good to see that MVP Michael van Horenbeeck (of UC Architects fame) has announced that the “Exchange 2013 Cookbook” that he’s been writing with Peter De Tender will appear sometime in August. Michael is a pretty practical fellow and promises that this book is directed at the “accidental administrator” who needs help and guidance to complete tasks rather than someone who’s looking for technical in-depth discussions of why Exchange works in the way that it does. Michael is one of the speakers who will be at Exchange Connections in October where he's speaking about "Building a hybrid configuration with Exchange 2013 in 75 minutes" and "Load-balancing Exchange 2013", which reminds me that the early bird discount for the conference expires on July 17!
Perhaps by then Michael will be able to explain how to move public folder mailboxes without losing permissions?
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