Although very little information has been made public about the next version of Microsoft Exchange Server there are still a few things that we may start to expect when it is officially announced.
To start with there is the small matter of the name. Some believe Exchange Server 2012 will be the name, while others think that Exchange Server 2013 is more likely. Given that some training companies have started creating their landing pages for Exchange 2013 training there is probably a little more weight on that side (do you think they may have some insider info?).
The Exchange 15 features I describe below should be considered speculation only, as they are all based on either:
- Leaks published by others
- Surveys from Microsoft
- General observations
Outlook Web App Offline Mode
Of the few leaked bits of information is this one reported by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, that OWA in Exchange 15 will have an “offline mode” thanks to the capabilities of HTML5.
Exchange MVP and Windows IT Pro columnist Tony Redmond wrote his own thoughts on this feature here.
Another part of Mary Jo’s article referred to a focus on collaboration not communication, with “team mailboxes” that integrate with SharePoint as a new feature.
Although we currently have the ability to share mailboxes in Exchange between multiple people they don’t provide any special functionality. What sort of improvements could Exchange deliver for teams?
Perhaps the SharePoint integration is the key in this. A mailbox that integrates smoothly with SharePoint workflows might be useful. Another possibility is that this will be the stepping stone that customers need to move them away from public folders for team workflows and into SharePoint, a move that Microsoft has been gently encouraging for several years.
Speaking of public folders, it seems they may still exist in Exchange 15, as they are included in a survey from Microsoft that I (and I assume many others) received for the Exchange 15 exam design.
Public folders may have a new twist though, with the exam survey referencing a skill of “Migrate to modern public folders”.
Depending on how you interpret that it could mean that public folders have undergone some improvements (which seems unlikely from what I heard about public folder development attention at Microsoft) or it may refer to a new platform for public folders (such as the team mailbox integration with SharePoint).
Or it could mean nothing at all.
Client Access Front End
The survey also mentions the “Exchange 15 CAS/CAFE”.
CAFE is presumably an acronym for Client Access Front End, which harks back to the Exchange 2003 “Front End server”, but in the context of today’s products, may have some similarities to Lync’s “Front End” server role.
I suspect that the CAFE is a way to formalise the use of CAS arrays, which initially were not promoted as a best practice for all Exchange 2010 deployments (even those without a CAS HA requirement) and only seemed to emerge as one sometime after the SP1 release date (and was recently reinforced here).
I could see CAFE configuration surfacing in the Exchange GUI management tools, or during Client Access server setup, and may include a capability to maintain a consistent configuration (e.g. external URLs and authentication settings on virtual directories) across multiple Client Access servers.
There is no doubt that the cloud (and Office 365) is going to be a big part of messaging in the near future. The recent announcement of new cloud certifications from Microsoft is a strong indicator of that, even if you still think the cloud is over-hyped.
Hybrid scenarios are mentioned in the Exchange 15 exam survey so it would appear that Exchange 15 admins will be expected to understand both on-premise and cloud integration scenarios.
There is also the general trend in activity by Exchange Server MVPs. The information that the MVPs have access to is under strict NDA (by the way, I’m not an MVP so none of what I am writing here breaks an NDA) quite a few of them have been pursuing Office 365 certifications recently.
Of course that may simply be the tendency of MVPs to seek certification in the very latest things, or that many MVPs happen to work for companies that keep up with the latest technology.
Data Loss Prevention
The exam survey mentions Data Loss Prevention (DLP) as a feature of Exchange 15. It seems that Exchange 15 may ship with pre-build DLP rules as well as having the ability to configure custom rules and policies.
Exchange Administration Center
There are several mentions of the Exchange Administration Center (EAC). I suspect that this is the evolution of the Exchange Control Panel and may extend into allowing more Exchange administrative tasks to be performed through a web-based administration panel, instead of only having the choice of the slow GUI console or the learning curve of PowerShell.
Interestingly Microsoft asked customers if they would be interested in something similar to this back in 2009.
Here are a few other brief items.
- Database Availability Groups will remain as the model for mailbox server high availability. The Exchange 15 exam survey doesn’t hint at any significant changes to these.
- Address Book Policies, introduced with Exchange 2010 SP2, are also included in Exchange 15
- Ability to configure Kerberos authentication for CAS is mentioned in the exam survey, suggesting that hardware load-balancing will continue to be a part of Exchange HA
- Workload Management Policies are briefly mentioned and may be an evolution of the client throttling polices in Exchange 2010
As I said this is all my own observations and speculations, not based on any insider information. However if even a few of these turn out to be true it does make me feel excited about getting my hands on Exchange 15 when it reaches public beta.