Microsoft has released Exchange Server 2016 for download. The RTM (first) build of Exchange Server 2016 was released in October 2015.
With the cloud-first approach that Microsoft has these days there are few surprises in the release of Exchange Server 2016, as many of the features have been rolling out in Exchange Online already. In Microsoft’s own words:
Most of the new features in Exchange Server 2016 were birthed in the cloud and then refined in a feedback loop that includes millions of mailboxes deployed worldwide. The same is true of back-end improvements to Exchange architecture, high availability, and storage. We are now working to bring these elements to the diverse world of on-premises environments.
As with any Exchange Server release there are some significant changes, as well as improvements, for customers and IT admins to get up to speed on.
Getting Started with Exchange Server 2016
Exchange Server 2016 has just two server roles:
- Mailbox server role – this role will consolidate the Mailbox and Client Access roles from Exchange Server 2013. Compared to Exchange Server 2010 this role consolidates all of the functions of the Client Access, Mailbox, Hub Transport, and Unified Messaging server roles. The Mailbox server role in Exchange Server 2016 is the only mandatory server role, and the consolidation reinforces the recommended practice since Exchange Server 2010 to deploy Exchange as a multi-role server instead of deploying individual roles to separate servers.
- Edge Transport server role – this role will be much the same as Edge Transport in previous versions of Exchange, designed to sit in perimeter networks and provide secure inbound and outbound mail flow for the organization. Edge Transport servers are not mandatory.
Here is a series of articles to help you get started with learning about Exchange Server 2016 and planning your deployment.
Planning and Installing Exchange Server 2016
The current system requirements for Exchange Server 2016 include:
- Windows Server 2008 or higher domain controllers and global catalog servers
- Windows Server 2008 or higher domain and forest functional levels
- Windows Server 2012 R2 or higher operating system (Windows Server “10” support is expected but can’t be formalised until it ships as well)
- Co-existence with Exchange Server 2010 SP3 RU11 and Exchange Server 2013 CU10
The co-existence story is particularly interesting. While Exchange 2013 and 2016 can’t co-exist in the same DAG, either version can proxy client connections for databases hosted on the other, which will simplify the Client Access namespace migration.
For more on deploying Exchange Server 2016 see the following articles:
- Which Edition of Exchange Server 2016 to Deploy?
- Installing Exchange Server 2016 Pre-Requisites on Windows Server 2012 R2
- Installing Exchange Server 2016
- Migrating to Exchange Server 2016 from previous versions
Configuring Exchange Server 2016
- Certificate Warnings in Outlook After Installing Exchange Server 2016
- Exchange Server 2016 Client Access Namespace Configuration
- Exchange Server 2016 SSL Certificates
- Moving an Exchange Server 2016 Mailbox Database
- Outbound Mail Flow for Exchange Server 2016
- Inbound Mail Flow for Exchange Server 2016
- How to Configure Exchange Server 2016 for SMTP Application Relay
Exchange Server 2016 High Availability
The Database Availability Group (DAG) remains the high availability model for back-end components (databases), and load balancing for the client-facing endpoints (for services such as Outlook Anywhere, Outlook Web App, ActiveSync, Exchange Web Services, etc).
There are many changes under the hood that improve the performance, stability and functionality of Exchange in HA deployments. Included in RTM:
- DAGs will be created without an IP address and administrative access point by default.
- Replay Lag Manager will be enabled by default.
- Database failover times are reduced by 33% compared to Exchange Server 2013.
For more information read my Introduction to Exchange Server 2016 Database Availability Groups.
Exchange Server 2016 Connectivity and Integration
MAPI-over-HTTP was introduced in Exchange Server 2013 although it was disabled by default. In Exchange Server 2016 MAPI-over-HTTP is being prioritzed as the Outlook client connectivity protocol and RPC-over-HTTP is now de-emphasised, indicating it will be phased out in future versions of Exchange.
Mobile connectivity gets some sync and calender improvements with a new ActiveSync version 16 rolling out in Exchange Online and planned to be included with Exchange Server 2016. Also included in the new release:
- Integration with Office Web Apps Server for document preview and editing capabilities in OWA.
- REST APIs for mail, calendar and contacts (first introduced in Office 365) will be available in Exchange Server 2016 in a later Cumulative Update
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