Exchange Server 2016 represents Microsoft's commitment to delivering an on-premises messaging product that “meet's today's business expectations.”
With the volume of email and other communications continuing to grow, people need tools that help them focus on what’s most important in their inboxes, schedules and interactions with others at work. And as the quantity of email data grows, so do the demands on IT to manage, preserve and protect it. To help you meet these challenges, we’ve deepened the integration between Exchange and other Office products, so your organization can be more productive and collaborate more effectively.
The key areas that Microsoft has focussed on with Exchange Server 2016 are:
- Better collaboration – with Outlook 2016 and the new “Outlook on the web” (the new name for OWA) document sharing will be easier, replacing traditional email attachments with links to OneDrive for Business or SharePoint 2016 (currently in Preview).
- Improved Outlook web experience – this is truly a big step forward for OWA (sorry, Outlook on the web) which I personally use about 50% of the time. The quick action “Archive” button is my favourite, as well as the pasting of in-line images. Emojis are nice as well I suppose.
- Search – faster, more flexible, more intelligent. Search can always be better of course.
- Extensibility – the add-in model for Outlook and Outlook on the web is in full swing. Interestingly the REST APIs have not made it into RTM, but we can likely expect to see those in a future update.
- eDiscovery – an important addition is the ability to search, hold and export public folder content. Microsoft has moved through the five stages of grief over public folders and is now in the acceptance stage. Public folders, once considered deprecated, will be around for a long time and need the same compliance features as mailboxes.
- Simplified architecture – combining Client Access and Mailbox services into a single server role greatly simplifies deployment and management. And the co-existence story for Exchange Server 2016 with Exchange 2013 and 2010 is set to make this one of the lowest friction upgrade paths in Exchange history.
- High availability – many performance and stability improvements that have flowed down to the on-premises product from Microsoft ongoing experience running Exchange Online.
The new features are certainly interesting, but what about features that didn't make the cut? A number of items that have been publicly discussed in Microsoft blog posts and sessions at Ignite are absent from Exchange 2016 RTM. Of course, all such information was subject to change before RTM. No doubt the primary driver here is to ensure features are fully developed and stable before shipping them in a future Cumulative Update for Exchange 2016.
A few of the missing features:
- Search index from passive – the goal here is to have content indexes for passive database copies build/update from the passive database copy rather than replicate from the active database copy, which should reduce DAG replication traffic. No timeline on when this feature will appear.
- Auto-expanding archives – the goal here is to have Exchange 2016 automatically provision additional archives for a user when their archive mailbox reaches 100Gb. This feature is still marked as “in development” on the Office 365 roadmap, so you should expect to wait at least until it is rolling out in Office 365 before it will appear in an on-premises CU.
- Delayed lag playdown – lagged copy playdown will be enabled by default, causing lagged copies to automatically replay their log files and bring the database up to date if the DAG detects a loss of database redundancy, something that has reportedly avoided some potentially bad outage scenarios in Office 365. Delayed lag playdown will throttle that replay process based on the server workload, ensuring it does not overload the server.
It may be disheartening to see key features not make it into the RTM build. But on the other hand, most Exchange Server RTM builds are missing something that many of us would consider important. The quarterly update cycle (for now) with features shipping in Cumulative Updates should deliver these key features to us in the near future. But they have to be stable first.
Do you plan to deploy Exchange Server 2016? Let us know in the comments below.