My Five Favorite Features of Exchange Server 2013 Preview

Exchange Server 2013 Preview was released a few weeks ago to give us a first look at what the future holds in store for Exchange. I got a couple of weeks to dig into it in depth and so here’s my quick impression of the five changes I like the most about Exchange 2013.

  1. Client rendering is moved from the Client Access role to the Mailbox role. (TechNet) Yes, this means some interesting architectural changes to SMTP, HTTP, and RPC, but I think it will help spread load out to where it should be – the server that host active users’ mailboxes.
  2. The Client Access role is now a stateless proxy. (TechNet) This means we no longer need an expensive L7 load balancer with all sorts of fancy complicated session cookies in our HTTP/HTTPS sessions. It means a simple L4 load balancer is enough to scale the load for thousands of users based solely on source IP and port. No SSL offload required!
  3. The routing logic now recognizes DAG boundaries. (TechNet) This is pretty boss – members of a DAG that are spread across multiple sites will still act as if they were local when routing messages to each other. It’s almost like the concept of routing groups has come back in a very limited way.
  4. No more MAPI-RPC over TCP. (TechNet) Seriously. Outlook Anywhere (aka RPC over HTTPS) is where it’s at. As a result, Autodiscover for clients is mandatory, not just a really damn good idea. Firewall discussions just got MUCH easier. Believe it or not, this simplifies namespace and certificate planning…
  5. Public folders are now mailbox content. (TechNet) Instead of having a completely separate back-end mechanism for public folders, they’re now put in special mailboxes. Yes, this means they are no longer multi-master…but honestly, that causes more angst than it solves in most environments. And now SharePoint and other third-party apps can get to public folder content more easily…

There are a few things I’m not as wild about, but this is a preview and there’s no point kvetching about a moving target. We’ll see how things shake down.

I’m looking forward to getting a deeper dive at MEC in a couple of weeks, where I’ll be presenting a session on lessons learned in virtualizing Exchange 2010. Are you planning on attending?

Have you had a chance to play with Exchange 2013 yet, or at least read the preview documentation? What features are your favorite? What changes have you wondering about the implications? Send me an email or comment and I’ll see if I can’t answer you in a future blog post!