All right, day one at the MEC has wrapped up and the “un-conference” thus far has been a success. Seeking to distance itself from the typical technical conference MEC has certainly provided a welcome departure from what we’ve all become accustomed to recently. Most notable among the differences is the atmosphere at the keynotes, each thus far has provided a hefty dose interesting content, witty humor, and shots at a whole host of targets.
Simply put, the keynotes were entertaining and provided plenty of new information on Exchange 2013. There’s a great deal that I could talk about from the overall look feel and delivery of the conference, however I’d like to cover the nuts and bolts, what’s new for Exchange.
The first keynote started off by addressing how the workforce has changed over the last 10 years or so. Each subsequent generation has brought with it a new set of expectations, with the newest generation of workers having a clear sense of what technology can provide and the expectation that it will deliver. As a result, many companies are struggling to meet these expectations as they strain the limits of delivery and security. A key example of this can be found in the current trend of companies embracing BYOD (Bring your own device) despite these concerns. In order to address these trends Exchange 2013 focuses on service delivery making e-mail part of an interactive social experience.
So what’s new?
Well from a community perspective, it seems that we’re going to get a little more support. Yesterday Microsoft announced a new community site for Exchange, iammec.com. This should be a great addition to the current set of resources, and hopefully increase interaction between Exchange MVP’s, MCM’s and the Exchange community in general.
Managed Availability-Exchange 2013 introduces this new feature which allows Exchange to self-resolve small issues without human interaction. For example, if a service is not responding for a set threshold, Exchange will automatically attempt to restart the service. If successful, no further action is taken. If there is still an issue a number of potential possibilities arising, the final of which is notifying for human intervention. Still a lot to look into here, but at first glance it looks to be highly valuable.
As mentioned previously, Exchange 2013 allows e-mail to become integrated with overall social experience. In Outlook 2013 each contact entry includes social network information as well as their latest social updates. Additionally, messages now include active content, for example addresses will be displayed with a Bing maps view.
Also announced was expanded support across a number of different devices and clients including major internet browsers and smartphone devices. The goal here was to provide a nearly identical experience accessing your information regardless of the location. The UI has been simplified greatly and takes on the “Windows 8” apearence found in each of Microsoft’s latest releases.
Exchange 2013 also introduces new security and protection features, one of which is Data Loss Prevention (DLP). This provides the capability to identify and protect sensitive data through content analysis based on regulatory standards, including PII and PCI. If used in conjunction with Outlook 2013, PolicyTips will inform users of potential policy violations. This functionality is also extensible to company identified policies as well. In addition transport rules can be configured with new predicates and actions based on this feature.
Also new is the Exchange Administration Center which replaces the Exchange Management Console and the Exchange control panel with a single web based user interface that can be partitioned to allow or disallow management features. As part of this change Microsoft also improved the management experience, simplifying the UI, presenting first commonly accessed configuration items with all available by clicking into an expanded menu.
Some of the key takeaways from the technical keynote that followed include:
- Exchange 2013 consolidated to two roles (CAS &MBX)
- CAS now handles all client requests functioning as a proxy only and includes SMTP traffic
- The mailbox role assumes internal HUB transport and takes on all processing and rendering for user activity.
- Internal & External URL for Outlook Anywhere, no need for Split brain DNS
- 2013 will be the last release to support MAPI/CDO
- IOPs have been cut by 99% over Exchange 2003
- Allows for the deployment of 7200RPM disks
- OST size can be controlled via a slider
- Public Folders move to mailbox stores as a special type of mailbox, eligible now for DAG replication
- Databases run their own store process; this means that any potential store process issue is limited to a single database instance.
- Outlook leverages the search foundation found across all Microsoft Office products.
All in all, so far the conference has been great; there’s been a good balance between tech and product features. Last night Microsoft sponsored a party at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure which included plenty of fun, food and drinks for all. Today there’s an opening keynote followed by a number of Chalk Talk style sessions, plenty yet to learn about the newest version of Exchange. In addition I’ll be stopping by the Hands-on labs and of course the Exhibition hall. If you’re here please stop by, I’d love to talk more about what’s new, we’re in booth 19.