Implementing Exchange 2007 While Avoiding the Hiccups

By Eric Romero

(Originally published July 24, 2007)

What follows are some notes from my experience in testing Exchange 2007. If you’re considering implementing it, what follows may help you avoid some wasted time and frustration.

FYDIBOHF23SPDLT, DWBGZMFD01QNBJR
First, we have to remember the nature of the minds we’re dealing with as we implement their work. At least it allows us to maintain our sense of humor. While user-friendliness is a commonly accepted development goal, there are exceptions. Here’s one:

Exchange 2007 has changed how it treats Administrative Groups. It doesn’t require (use) a lot of them anymore. Instead, it groups all the Exchange2007 servers into a unique Administrative Group called FYDIBOHF23SPDLT with a predefined exchange routing group called DWBGZMFD01QNBJR.

These long and difficult names actually have a purpose. They spell out “EXCHANGE12ROCKS” if you shift each letter “down” or “up,” respectively, in the alphabet. This has little to do with our happiness, of course, but it must have made somebody at Microsoft giggle happily.

Installation
Beginning in May, I tested Exchange2007 Enterprise (not Exchange 2007 SP1), running on Windows 2003 Server SP2. To make my task easier, I used a farm of VMware virtual servers available online at http://replicatetech.com/. This service allows me to “preserve” the current stage -of all servers involved- and get back to it if something fails or if I want to run what-if scenarios.

I did a transition from a single Exchange 2003 in a single AD forest, encountering some hiccups during the Exchange 2007 setup due to some missing prerequisites, some errors in AD replication and an access denied to “common64” directory in the Exchange 2007-ent DVD. I recommend running the “Exchange 2007 readiness check” using the Exchange best practice analyzer to avoid a prerequisite failure.

Along the way, I noticed that the setup program did not give me the “successfully installed ” message, leaving me with the sensation that it had not finished, but it did.

The installation did create the above-mentioned Administrative Group FYDIBOHF23SPDLT and Routing Group DWBGZMFD01QNBJR, but it did not create the routing group connector to the existing Exchange 2003. The routing group connector is supposed to be automatically created during the Exchange 2007 setup, but I ended up creating the RGC manually.

Exchange 2007 now has 16 services listed in the services console instead of the 10 services in Exchange 2003. The SMTP service is not listed anymore in Exchange 2007. Exchange 2007 manages its own SMTP code.

Because I installed all the Exchange 2007 roles in the same server, I needed to provided two OWA URLs, one for Exchange 2007 and one for Exchange 2003 mailboxes. I understand a unique URL is still possible if the CAS and MAILBOX roles are “not” in the same box. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/932438/en-us

I needed to remove the pre-loaded SSL certificate and load a commercial one to make “Outlook anywhere” (formerly rpc-over-https) clients work.

If your organization still uses MAPI Outlook 2003 or below clients, then answer “yes” to the following Exchange setup question: “Do you have any client computers running Outlook 2003 and earlier or Entourage in your organization?” Otherwise the only MAPI Outlook client which could connect to Exchange 2007 would be Outlook 2007.

Some Notes from Class
I also went to a Microsoft Exchange 2007 class this month to corroborate my findings and learn more. One important setting you need to disable is called the “back pressure.” It needs to be disabled on the edge-server-role and on the hub-server-role. If it is not disabled, the server can stop receiving messages, due to memory and hard disk space limitations. This is not a good outcome, particularly if it stops working on a Saturday at 1am.

In class, we discussed Local Continous Replication (LCR) and Clustered Continous Replication (CCR). LCR helps if a local hard disk fails, because the Exchange 2007 transaction logs are constantly replicated to nearby hard disk (It must have a drive letter. A sharename is not a good idea). CCR offers high availability to another “well connected” Exchange server (with a different name). Both servers must be in the same IP subnet and both Windows servers must be Enterprise Edition. The CCR requires a third machine called the “witness.” The “witness” will check which server is acting as the master. So far, however, I still prefer WANsync-HA by XOsoft for disaster recovery solutions.

It is clear that Exchange 2007 requires some initial exploring. The GUI and “management shell” must be understood, although some administrative tasks must be performed using the command prompt only. There is no public folder tree structure on the Exchange Management Console (EMC).

I have not tested this solution, but it seems to provide a way to test Exchange 2007- Unified Messaging
http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2006/09/25/428984.aspx

I like the idea of running the product on a 64-bit machine. It does not present the 4GB RAM limitation anymore, and the enterprise version offers a total of 50 mailbox stores. This allows you to split the load among them to provide faster restores and maintenance, a single instance of ESE per store and better administration of the mailboxes’ size.

I have yet to see what is officially included in Exchange 2007 SP1. I would recommend that larger organizations with many administrative groups and heavy public folder use wait for SP1.

Happy Exchanging!

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