Just How Radically Different is Exchange 2013?

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Exchange 2013 is indeed radically different.  Sounds like a bad thing, doesn't it?  The modern use of the word radical doesn't typically invoke positive sentiments.  In the ‘80s, we could use radical and tubular and bodacious and everyone knew positive things were afoot at the Circle K. Today “radical” scares people.  Should you be afraid of the changes in Exchange 2013?  Maybe a little.  It's different. Radically different, but not necessarily in a bad way.

The EAC, Dude!

The most radical of all the changes within Exchange 2013 is that it narrows down the management options to two, with one of those options being the Exchange Admin Center (EAC), a web-based GUI console for managing most of your Exchange organization.  Prior to this (with Exchange 2010) we could manage Exchange through the Exchange Management Console (EMC), an MMC-based GUI console, or through the Exchange Control Panel (ECP), which was also web-based but offering nowhere near the functionality that EAC provides.  In addition to the EAC (“You're riding it, dude!” “Finding Nemo,” anyone?), there is also the Exchange Management Shell, which is a command-line management solution through PowerShell cmdlets.

I'll be very honest with you; when I first saw the EAC, I thought “Yikes, that's horrible!”  From a design perspective, it mimics the whole Metro style that we see in Office 2013 apps and Windows 8, a style that uses so much bright white that I feel like my eyes are burning after punching out 500 words in a column like this one (yes, I've already upgraded my Office to 2013).  I'm not a fan of the design per se.  It feels like a web page from the late ‘90s, but once I started getting used to the flow of things, I was pretty happy with how much easier it was to navigate to features and settings.  Plus, I could access the EAC from any browser within my organization without having to worry about installing it (like with the EMC).

Architectural Changes (Back to 2003!)

No flux capacitor required to go back in time here. With Exchange 2013, there is one area where we step back to the early 2000s, and that is in the server role design.  With Exchange 2003 deployments you would design your servers to be either front-end servers for access or backend servers that handled your mailboxes.  That model changed with Exchange 2007 and 2010.  We went to a 5 server role model that allowed us to break up the internal roles (Client Access, Mailbox, Hub Transport and Unified Messaging) into separate systems if needed to assist with CPU performance issues and an Edge Transport perimeter server role.  With Exchange 2013 we return to a 2 server role solution with the Client Access and Mailbox server roles splitting the Hub Transport responsibilities between them.  The UM role has been incorporated into the Mailbox role (and currently the Edge Transport has not seen an update from 2010).

Along with server role adjustments we see all sorts of inner maneuverings with regard to services, mail flow between the server roles and so forth.  But we also see a new Information Store, which has been completely rewritten as the Managed Store using C#.  The Managed Store brings with it a new way that databases are mounted with a process assigned to each one.  However the number of mountable databases per Exchange server has been reduced from 100 to 50.

Interesting Features in Exchange 2013

Hopefully I've enticed you to learn more about Exchange 2013.  Over time I plan on putting out more articles like this one.  Some of the additional new features worth mentioning include the following:

  • Modern Public Folders
  • App Assignments
  • A Revised Outlook Web App
  • High Availability Enhancements
  • An Anti-Malware Feature
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Transport Rules

Stay tuned for coverage of these and more as we continue our series on “radical” changes in Exchange 2013.

Despite the changes, one thing remains: No other messaging solution offers quite so many awesome features to bring together communication and collaboration within an organization.  By combining Exchange 2013 with SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013 and the new Office 2013, Microsoft has created a unified package that is quite formidable.  No matter what decade is your favorite (‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s or ‘10s) play your favorite “winning” song in your head right-wait for it-now. (Note:  I'm playing “Eye of the Tiger” in my head at this very moment.)

Want to learn more about Exchange 2013? See Pluralsight's Exchange Server 2013 Administration Training.

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J. Peter Bruzzese

J. Peter Bruzzese is an author with over a dozen titles sold internationally. He has written hundreds of articles, speaks at a variety of technical conferences held by Microsoft, 1105 Media, WindowsITPro and others and is the Enterprise Windows columnist for 3+ years for InfoWorld. Most notably, J. P. B. is a member of the Train Signal family and is our very own Exchange instructor. Follow him on Twitter at @jpbruzzese. (Exchange MVP, Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP: Enterprise Messaging 2007/2010)