Microsoft Exchange Server 2013

Microsoft Exchange is on a release cycle that has followed a 3-4 year timeline since Exchange 5.5 was released in 1997.  It should be no surprise that Exchange 2013 will be the next revision in the Exchange product line.  What was surprising is how it was announced – Microsoft announced Exchange 2013 alongside the new announcements for Office, Lync and SharePoint.  The Exchange announcement was abnormally quiet for Microsoft. I can only assume that Microsoft is saving the momentum for the Microsoft Exchange Conference in September.

The number one technical change that grabbed my attention is the new Exchange architecture.  Exchange ’13 will be brought down to two roles – a Client Access Server role and a Mailbox Server role.  Without diving into the nuances, the Mailbox Role is effectively what would be an installation on Exchange 2010 with all of the roles installed.  The Client Access Server role under Exchange 2013 acts like a stateless proxy.

If you are experienced on Exchange 2003, it seems similar to the old front-end/back-end configuration we would implement on Exchange 2003.  I agree that from a very high level it looks like Microsoft pulled Exchange 2003 out of the mothballs.  However, on a deeper inspection you will notice that the changes are designed to resolve a lot of the challenges customers face today with Exchange 2010 – challenges around load balancing and cross site failover.

You should also know that RPC access for Outlook clients is gone.  Yes, you read that correctly, no more RPC.  Clients must connect using http/https.  Outlook no longer connects to the server FQDN.  Instead AutoDiscover in Outlook creates a new “server name” comprised of mailbox GUID, @ symbol, and UPN suffix.  This enables clients to more efficiently move between servers without the issues we can experience today.  As part of this change, Outlook 2003 is no longer supported.

Are these changes a good thing?  Personally, I do not know yet.  It have to take a deeper technical dive into the new architecture before I can render an opinion.  Of course, the reality is that the changes are here and my job is to help clients understand how to implement the product in the best possible way.

You can read up on some of the technical features of Exchange 2013 here:

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