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How to Install, Configure, and Manage the Mailbox Role in Microsoft Exchange Server 2013

This chapter from Exam Ref 70-341 Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 (MCSE) shows you how to plan the mailbox role, configure and manage the mailbox role, deploy and manage high availability solutions for the mailbox role, monitor and troubleshoot the mailbox role, develop backup and recovery solutions for the mailbox role and public folders, create and configure mail-enabled objects, and manage mail-enabled object permissions.

The mailbox server role in Exchange 2013 hosts mailbox databases and other items, such as Client Access protocols, Transport service and Unified Messaging. All processing of a specific mailbox takes place on the Mailbox server hosting an active copy of the mailbox. Client connectivity is handled by the Client Access role, which can be co-located on the same server. But it only proxies the connections to Mailbox server components for further processing and rendering of the mailbox data being requested.

The Mailbox role is also expanded in Exchange 2013 to include Public Folders. Public Folders do not use dedicated public folder databases and are now stored in specially designed mailboxes store both public folder hierarchy and public folder content. This allows for public folders to take advantage of the existing high availability and storage technologies in use by mailbox databases.

With Exchange 2013, there is higher focus on service availability, easier management, and reduced costs. To achieve such goals, managed availability is introduced to provide internal monitoring. The internal monitoring of components is aimed at preventing failures, proactively restoring services, and initiating server failovers automatically or alerting administrators to take action. Automation, coupled with managed availability, is driven by the focus on measuring quality and the continuous availability of service to end users, instead of focusing on the uptime of individual components.

Simplification and automation have also been integrated in other database functions. When using JBOD configuration to achieve cost efficiency, disk failures in previous versions meant manual intervention to maintain healthy copies of mailbox databases. Automatic reseed functionality allows for automatic database reseeding on a spare disk on the same server. Failures affecting resiliency or redundancy, such as long I/O times or excessive memory consumption by replication processes, are addressed by automatically rebooting the server. While this might sound like a drastic measure, it doesn’t affect service availability because the assumption is that redundancy is provided using Database Availability Groups (DAGs) and other high availability features provided by Exchange 2013.

The network configuration of DAGs has also been simplified by automatically configuring DAG networks. DAGs can also distinguish between the Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) and Replication networks, configuring them automatically. This greatly simplifies the setup, thus protecting against errors when configuring DAG networks manually.

Objective 1.1: Plan the mailbox role

Deploying the mailbox role requires the careful planning of mailbox role components. Despite advancements in storage technologies and improved I/O characteristics, it’s detrimental to deploy mailbox storage without considering storage characteristics, such as disk latency. Capacity planning is also just as important. With 16 terabytes as the supported maximum database size, it could be tempting to maximize database size with larger Serial ATA (SATA) disks. When considering such extremes, it’s important to consider other dependencies, such as time to reseed after a disk failure, time to restore from backups when multiple copies of the database are neither deployed nor available, the ability to meet recovery time objectives in case of an outage or a disaster, and so on.

Planning for storage requirements

Exchange 2013 supports multiple storage architectures and physical disk types. Each feature offers different performance characteristics and has its benefits. Direct attached storage, for example, has no dependency on an external data network used by Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) or a dedicated storage network used by Fibre-Channel storage. Similarly, Solid State Disk (SSD) drives offer fast data transfers at a cost of much smaller storage capacities per drive. In general, Exchange 2013 is designed to achieve efficiencies by reducing costs, and the goal is achieved by shifting balance in code, reducing I/O footprint, and optimizing reads and writes, so multiple databases can be placed on the same physical drive. Using bigger SATA drives allows for such efficiencies to materialize.

Anyone with a few years of experience deploying Microsoft Exchange environments can attest that no single solution meets customer requirements, since every customer is unique and so are their design requirements. The Microsoft guidance on Exchange 2013 storage design aims to address most common configurations by providing best practices guidance. For example, single copy databases may be best protected by using a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) configuration, while JBOD might provide best efficiencies when at least three copies of a database exist in a DAG.

When configuring disks, it is important for you to understand how to create a supported layout. When configuring disk sector size, you must pay attention to nuances such as a 512-byte sector that is supported on Exchange 2013, while 4 kilobyte sector disks aren’t supported on any version of Microsoft Exchange server.

The placement of database and related files is another important consideration for a Mailbox server. Best practices suggest that the operating system, and the pagefile should be a RAID-protected volume separate from any Exchange data logical unit numbers (LUNs). The placement of the database and log files is also an important consideration. If you’re deploying a stand-alone mailbox database and protecting it with traditional backup systems, whether to separate database and log files on their own separate volumes depends on the backup methodology in use. Placing database and log files on the same volume is supported. Best practices, however, suggest that database files and log files should be located on separate volumes backed by separate physical discs in stand-alone configurations. When multiple copies of a database are deployed in a DAG configuration, the requirement changes to a single database and a log per volume.

When determining the disk size, the size of the database being hosted becomes one of many factors to consider. You’ll find that the Exchange Role Requirements Calculator accounts for other items, such as impact of content index, which now equals roughly 20 percent of the size of the database file. An additional requirement for space is used by the master merge process. You can benefit from a reduction in space required for the master merge if you choose to place multiple databases per volume. No restriction exists on the placement of an active copy of a database or on the same volume as a replica of a different database.

While considering all of these factors for a database or a set of databases that are going to reside on a given disk, it not only becomes important to stay within supportability guidance, but you must also stay within the design requirements laid out for a given environment. Factors such as the time required to recover a database in case of a disaster, can affect your ability to benefit from large supported database sizes. The best practice guidance from Microsoft also differentiates between stand-alone database configurations and a database protected by multiple copies in a DAG. For example, the recommendation is not to exceed 200 gigabytes for a database if it’s in a stand-alone configuration. But if you plan to setup multiple copies for a database, best practices accommodates up to 2 terabytes for any given database.

The transaction logs required to recover from a catastrophe also differ from one configuration to another. A stand-alone database configuration protected by traditional backups requires backups to protect transaction logs. Using circular logging doesn’t provide the capability to revert to a given point in time before data loss. In contrast, if multiple copies of a database are deployed in a DAG configuration, circular logging is the recommended best practice in the light of complementary functionality, such as lagged copy and single item recovery. Depending on how you choose to truncate logs has a direct impact on how much disk space you need to allocate for a given configuration.

Other important considerations for disk configuration are: partition type GUID Partition Table (GPT) vs. Master Boot Record (MBR), volume type (simple vs. dynamic), and File System—easy to remember because only the NTFS file system is supported for compression—which isn’t supported for Exchange database and log files. The other two features relate to the security of data on the disk. How should you secure database and log files from prying eyes in a highly secure environment? Two possibilities are Encrypting File System (EFS) and BitLocker. EFS isn’t supported for Exchange database and log files, while BitLocker is fully supported. The last feature to consider is file share support. NFS file systems are unsupported and shouldn’t be deployed to host database and log files. The Server Message Block (SMB) 3.0, introduced with Windows Server 2012, is supported only when configured in a virtualized environment. This configuration assumes SMB 3.0 file share is presented to a hypervisor host and a VHD disk is created on a given SMB volume. The VHD disk is attached to a virtualized Exchange server, and the disk is presented as block storage. It isn’t supported to present the SMB 3.0 share directly to an Exchange server, and host database and log files on it.

Planning mailbox role capacity and placement

Planning for the capacity of a mailbox role involves the consideration of a number of factors. These factors include the understanding of an existing messaging deployment if the planned deployment is a migration from a previous version, the understanding of user messaging profiles, and the desired mailbox size. The other factors to consider are desired resiliency and disaster recovery objectives, compliance and data retention requirements, data recovery objectives, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), organizational growth plans, and the use of third-party applications.

All of these factors help you determine the number of servers, server hardware utilization, server placement, and environmental dependencies, such as domain controller configuration and placement.

The user profile is one of the most important factors when determining compute resources required by a mailbox server. A software development firm with a staff of developers and support professionals located in a different geographic region might depend more heavily on an email system than a company developing locomotives where design professionals might frequently communicate via email, while production and factory workers might need limited access to emails. How many emails are sent on average by a given user category is as important as how big an average email is for any given category. This helps you determine processing, storage, and network resources required by a given mailbox server.

Determining a user profile when migrating from an earlier version of Exchange server is relatively easy, because you can use Exchange Profile Analyzer if you’re migrating from Exchange 2007. You can leverage performance counters if you’re migrating from Exchange 2010 to obtain detailed per-user statistics.

Another important factor is mailbox database size. How big of a mailbox is desired for a given user profile? Each job profile may have different capacity requirements. Compliance requirements can change these requirements drastically, however, challenging your storage requirements assumptions.

Another important consideration in mailbox server design is high availability and site resiliency requirements. For example, you might be required to provide all users with uninterrupted mailbox access despite the failure of a single mailbox server. This requirement means accounting for additional mailbox servers hosting mailbox database copies of all users. You also have to reduce the usable capacity of a given server to account for failover capacity. In a two server configuration, this could mean up to 50 percent of capacity needs to be reserved to help mailbox failovers. Similarly, in a three mailbox server configuration with each server hosting active mailboxes, the minimum reserved capacity can be as much as 33 percent.

If a requirement dictates that all mailboxes must be available in case of disaster at the primary site where all active mailboxes are located, you need to create a DAG that spans multiple sites, and place a mailbox server containing copies of mailbox databases at a secondary site. This impacts the requirement of additional hardware, an additional datacenter location and space considerations, and network requirements to accommodate database replication traffic. Other requirements include active user traffic in case of a failover, or activation in case of a disaster or outage at the primary site.

What if existing IT standards or procurement contracts with the vendor dictate using specific server hardware profile for mailbox servers? This might mean you need to scale out by deploying more servers if the given hardware profile can’t accommodate all of the planned mailbox resources.

Should you migrate or deploy Public Folder databases? This might impact storage capacity planning and the location of mailbox servers in a distributed environment to account for resiliency and user experience.

When determining the scale out vs. the scale up model, you need to account for the number of database copies, resiliency requirements, and tolerance to failure domains. In a scale up configuration, you are planning to have more mailboxes per server, which means bigger servers with more processing power and storage capacity, as well as a higher number of mailboxes impacted during failures. The scale-out model requires the same account of total resources divided into smaller chunks, resulting in a larger number of smaller servers deployed to the account for the given environment. This increases the numbers of servers, but reduces the impact on the number of mailboxes affected for given failure. The cost for smaller servers can also provide a cost advantage. Conversely, a larger number of servers in the scale out model also means more management overhead for IT to license, install, monitor, and maintain a higher number of servers. The datacenter footprint is also affected directly by your choice of the scale up vs. the scale out model.

No single design can accommodate all of the possible variations and different requirements for an Exchange deployment. This is why every successful Exchange deployment considers each of these unique factors based on the given requirements to select the most effective model for deployment.

When designing for storage capacity, the size of the mailboxes is only one of many factors. You need to account for the space required for a mailbox for its given capacity, including the database whitespace, a recoverable items folder size, content indexing, log space (if logs are stored on the same disk as the database), and an additional—usually about 20 percent—buffer, because you can’t fill the disk at 100 percent capacity and expect the system to function with no triggered alerts.

Disk I/O is another important consideration. While the Exchange 2013 code improvements have reduced I/O requirements significantly, you still need to account for proper I/O calculations to ensure the given disk not only has sufficient capacity to host the planned number of mailboxes, but also that the I/O for the given disk is sufficient to address all read-and-write requirements for mailbox data and related tasks, such as content indexing.

When using external storage such as iSCSI or Fibre-Channel storage, plan for aggregate I/O capacity of each storage channel. When using iSCSI, network bandwidth consideration is crucial. Fibre-Channel SAN is limited by capacity of underlying Fibre-Channel fabric. And, don’t forget transport storage, because transport components are now part of the Mailbox role. Transport capacity planning needs to account for queuing for active emails, shadow queues, and a Safety Net. To account for failures, you have to account for poison queue messages, messages queued for delivery to unreachable targets (failed database copy or an inability to reach the Internet destination for outbound messages), and messages stored as part of the Safety Net mechanism for transporting high availability.

Planning for memory requirements includes accounting for database cache, which makes up for a significant portion of server memory, content indexing, and other exchange processes that provide vital functions, such as background maintenance, managed availability, and other agents. If you deploy multi-role servers, you must also account for the additional memory required for Front-End server role components also sharing resources on the same server hardware.

To perform actual calculations for a given mailbox profile and other factors, Microsoft has documented formulas that can be used if you want to size the mailbox role manually. For more information about those published formulas, see: http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2013/05/06/ask-the-perf-guy-sizing-exchange-2013-deployments.aspx. Using the Exchange 2013 role requirements calculator is recommended, in order to avoid errors and calculate for all scenarios based on the provided input.

Planning for virtualization

In today’s IT environments, it’s difficult to imagine a datacenter with no virtualization in use, no matter at how large or small a scale. Some environments use virtualization for some workloads, and physical servers for another. Then, there are environments that deploy virtualized workloads for nearly anything that can be virtualized!

When planning for an Exchange 2013 deployment, you’ll most likely face a question of whether the Exchange 2013 servers can be virtualized. That question has no simple answer. Look at the many variables that affect the decision to virtualize Exchange 2013 servers.

Because Exchange 2013 supports virtualizing all server roles, you don’t need to determine whether a given server role is supported when virtualized.

Exchange 2013 is supported on any version of Windows Server with Hyper-V technology, or a Hyper-V Server. It’s also fully supported to virtualize Exchange 2013 servers using any third-party hypervisor validated under Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP). Some well-known virtualization platforms found on the SVVP validated list include VMware’s vSphere and ESX platforms, Citrix XenServer, and Oracle VM.

After determining the supported platform, the design discussions usually turn to features of the given virtualization platform to determine which features can be used in conjunction with Exchange server functionality to get the most out of the technology and platforms features being deployed.

The Live Migration of a virtual machine (VM) is a popular feature that every virtualization administrator wants to deploy and know if Exchange supports it. Live Migration enables administrators to move VMs from one hypervisor host to another to achieve better resource utilization and perform scheduled software or hardware maintenance. Exchange 2013 supports such functionality with Microsoft Hyper-V and other hypervisors.

The key to being supported when deploying such migration functionality is to ensure that the migration process for a VM doesn’t deploy snapshot-type functionality where a VM is saved to the disk and restored from it. The VM must remain online during the migration process, or the VM must shut down and perform a cold boot.

Another popular feature is snapshot functionality. Think of snapshot functionality as a point-in-time backup of your VM. For example, let’s say you’re planning to make significant changes to your environment and want to be able to revert to the current stable configuration in case of a failure. Your virtualization administrator may be happy to point out the ability to take snapshots and revert to them if needed. The virtualization administrator may not know the application specifics and complexities of using snapshots with Exchange. Exchange components, such as log shipping for database replication which are dependent on accurate time keeping and when the snapshot feature is used. The introduced time travel to the time passed by reverting to an older snapshot has undesired and unpleasant side effects. This can help understand why the snapshot feature isn’t supported for use with Exchange VMs. Using snapshots on Exchange VMs has some unexpected and most commonly undesired consequences. In most circumstances, these consequences can’t be undone, leaving you to deal with bigger issues than you bargained for.

While they aren’t a variation of the snapshot feature, differencing disks are a similarly interesting feature that promises to reduce disk space usage by creating a master or parent disk that contains common shared data, primarily the VMs operating system. By creating differencing disks, all changes are written to a differencing disk, which has its own issues. Take dependency on the parent disk, for an example. Even an accidental change to the parent disk invalidates the differencing disks that depend upon the parent disk. In the case of a change to the parent disk, you end up with Exchange servers that can’t boot anymore. While data might not be lost, the service to end users is certainly affected, at the very least. As you probably guessed by now, the snapshot feature is not supported with Exchange VMs.

Another great feature many modern hypervisors offer is guest replication. This feature replicates VMs to another host, local or remote, to provide the capability to start up replica VM if the hypervisor host with a primary VM copy fails. For Exchange 2013 VMs, the recommendation is to use DAG functionality, as well as other availability and disaster recovery features provided by Exchange server. Using hypervisor-based replication functionality with Exchange 2013 isn’t supported.

Maximizing resource usage with virtualization is a natural tendency. It often results in the oversubscription of processors, as well as memory overcommit using dynamic memory mechanisms. While modern hypervisors are continuously improving to provide better resource sharing, it cannot protect against intentional overcommit. When you have critical workloads, such as Exchange server roles in a VM, oversubscription usually has negative effects on such workloads. Unexpected behavior of Exchange server services is often observed when resource oversubscription is deployed.

Exchange 2013 code is optimized to strike a balance between the efficient use of memory and reducing the I/O footprint. To achieve these efficiencies, Exchange relies on a calculated cache for each database being hosted on the server, as well as the memory reserved for Exchange subsystems. When dynamic memory is in use, this can result in incorrect memory calculations and it can cause Exchange to start with less memory than is available. Not surprisingly, Microsoft doesn’t support the use of dynamic memory with Exchange VMs.

Processor oversubscription is supported, but the recommended ratio is 1:1, with a supported ratio of 2:1 over the subscription maximum. This means that for every physical processor core on a hypervisor host, no more than two virtual processors should be assigned to VMs running on the given host. This isn’t only limited to Exchange VMs running on the host, but it does include processors assigned to all VMs.

Hyperthreading is another advanced feature that can improve performance. An example of hyperthreading, as you can see in Figure 1–1, is when your system detects four logical processors when the system is configured with only one physical socket and two physical cores.

Figure 1-1

FIGURE 1-1 An example of a system with hyperthreading enabled

Hyperthreading is great for managing multiple workloads with the parallel execution of threads, but it isn’t designed to provide you more processing capacity than the system has. For example, the system referred to in Figure 1-1 has a CPU with a maximum speed of 2.4 GHz. The system has one socket, with two CPU cores and four logical processors. How much processing capacity does the system have? 2.4 GHz? 4.8 GHz or 9.6 GHz? The correct answer is 4.8 GHz, because the system has two physical cores, each capable of running at a maximum of 2.4 GHz. Four logical cores is an indication that hyperthreading is enabled on the system. This might allow four parallel threads to execute instead of two, making the system more efficient. But, as discussed earlier, it can’t provide more than 4.8GHz of maximum processing power.

When configuring processing capacity for virtualization environment and virtualizing Exchange servers, it’s supported to have hyperthreading enabled on the virtualization host. But, when sizing Exchange servers for your environment, you need to consider the actual processor cores available to the system and not the logical processor count.

When considering storage for VMs, the virtualization administrator has many options at their disposal to deploy appropriate storage for given VMs. Options include local storage, DAS, iSCSI storage, Fibre-Channel storage, NFS shares, and, beginning with Windows Server 2012, SMB 3.0 shares.

For Exchange VMs to be supported, the disks assigned to Exchange VMs must be a block storage. This means, you can’t map the NFS or SMB share to Exchange VM and store database and log files on it. The disk where Exchange related files are stored must be available to VM as a block-level storage disk. These disks must be visible through the disk management console or when you run Diskpart on the Exchange VM.

Hypervisors use different virtual disk formats to store data for VMs. These disks can be configured as fixed disks, taking up all of the allocated space on the host volume when they are created. For example, on a 500 GB host volume, a 50 GB fixed disk takes 50 GB of space on a host volume upon creation, leaving 450 GB of free space on the host volume, assuming nothing else is stored on it. This is true even though the disk isn’t initialized by the VM and no data is stored on it yet. Hypervisors also allow the disks to be configured as dynamically expanding disks. Dynamically expanding disks take little space upon creation and only expand in proportion to the actual data being stored on it. So, a dynamically expanding disk may only take 1 MB or less on the host volume upon creation. When the VM stores data on the disk, it expands to accommodate the data being written to it. While this might sound like the most efficient way to use disk space on host volumes, it comes with a performance penalty. When VM needs to store more data to a dynamically expanding disk, hypervisor needs to expand the virtual disk file as the data is being written to it, causing delays in responding to I/O calls from VM. The delays may be small and unnoticeable, or they can amount to noticeable thresholds, depending on the underlying storage architecture and the parallel I/O activity on the same host volume. This can have a detrimental effect on Exchange performance and is undesirable, so Exchange 2013 only supports fixed virtual disks.

Where you store these virtual disks it is also important for your deployment of Exchange servers to be supported. Virtualized Exchange 2013 supports virtual disks stored in the following scenarios:

  • Local or directly attached storage
  • Fibre-Channel storage presented as block-level volumes to the virtualization host
  • iSCSI storage presented as block-level storage to the virtualization host
  • iSCSI storage presented as block-level storage to the Exchange VM
  • SMB 3.0 share mappe to virtualization host

The virtual disks must be fixed virtual disks. When using SMB 3.0 share, it is not supported to map the share to Exchange 2013 VM and store database and log files directly to it.

Hypervisors such as VMware also support NFS shares to store virtual disks attached to VMs. But it isn’t supported to store virtual disks attached to an Exchange VM on NFS storage. While this might be a point of contention between Exchange administrators and virtualization administrators, it helps you understand why Exchange doesn’t support such storage.

Exchange requires various guarantees, such as Forced Unit Access, Write-Through, Write Ordering, and so on from storage, to maintain data integrity and system reliability. When storage is unable to provide such guarantees, the critical Exchange system and user data are at risk, which isn’t acceptable or desirable to any system administrator supporting such complex systems. NFS storage implementations, historically, haven’t met these guarantees, so it isn’t a supported solution for Exchange deployments.

The sum of all individual components makes up for a fully functioning system, but it doesn’t end there. What if the hypervisor host your Exchange VM is running on fails? The answer might sound as easy as deploying multiple instances of mailbox servers and creating DAG with each database having two or three replicas, providing there’s enough protection from failures. But, it’s just as important to account for all of the possible failure domains. Are your hypervisor hosts configured to have separate failure domains, so a failed router in one rack doesn’t affect a replica of your database? Are they in separate racks? Are they using separate phases of power, so a failure on one power line doesn’t affect all replicas at the same time? Are all disks used for all replicas separated, so single SAN failure doesn’t affect all the replicas of a given database? All these questions lead to one goal: failures are a fact of any IT infrastructure. Failures will happen, so account for all possible failure domains. Determine the cost of deploying a solution that can account for mitigating all possible failure domains, while staying within your design and budget guidelines. Strike the best possible balance to achieve highest possible availability by eliminating ill effects of single failures on your Exchange environment.

Designing public folder placement strategy

In Exchange 2013, public folders were given special treatment. Instead of using dedicated public folder databases in previous versions, public folders are now hosted on regular mailbox databases. By moving public folders to mailbox database, Exchange can now provide better resiliency by leveraging the same DAG architecture that regular mailboxes have enjoyed since Exchange 2010.

Public folders still maintain a hierarchy, however, the hierarchy isn’t stored in a public folder mailbox, known as the Primary hierarchy mailbox. Primary Hierarchy Mailbox is the only writable copy of the public folder hierarchy in the entire Exchange organization. An Exchange administrator can create additional public folder mailboxes, and each of these secondary hierarchy mailboxes contains a read-only copy of the public folder hierarchy. Both Primary and Secondary hierarchy mailboxes can contain public folder content.

Creating new public folder mailboxes is a function now moved to New-Mailbox cmdlet. When creating a new public folder mailbox, use the PublicFolder parameter. This is different from creating a new public folder. Once a mailbox to host public folders is created, you can create a new public folder by using the New-PublicFolder cmdlet.

When you create multiple public folder mailboxes, Exchange server automatically distributes users equally across public folder mailboxes for load-balancing purposes. In large environments, restricting the new public folder from the serving hierarchy is important because when users access a new public folder mailbox, which isn’t excluded from serving hierarchy, they might only see an incomplete public folder structure until the hierarchy synchronization is complete. Use the IsExcludedFromServingHeirarchy parameter when creating a new public folder mailbox to exclude it from serving an incomplete hierarchy to its users.

When hierarchy synchronization completes, the value of the IsHeirarchyReady parameter on public-folder mailbox properties is set to $true. This helps the administrator determine when an exclusion set on the public folder can be removed. While users can access public folder hierarchy from any public folder mailbox, because only one writeable copy of hierarchy exists, any new public folder creation or deletion request is proxied to the primary hierarchy mailbox.

Unlike regular mailboxes, the public folder mailbox is a shared resource accessed by multiple users simultaneously. Activity on a public folder has a direct impact on the server where the public folder mailbox is located. To avoid client connectivity issues, consider having multiple public folder mailboxes in the environment. If a certain public folder in hierarchy is heavily used, create or move the public folder to a dedicated public folder mailbox. Also consider restricting a heavily used public folder mailbox from the serving hierarchy.

In a geographically dispersed environment, create public folder databases in the location nearest to the user that access the public folder contents stored in them. This reduces round trips to remote locations that might be connected with slower wide area network (WAN) links and can introduce excessive delays, resulting in a poor Outlook client behavior and user experience. When deploying public folder mailboxes in close proximity to user locations, also consider changing the DefaultPublicFolderMailbox property on user mailboxes, so users can use their closest public folder mailbox to retrieve the public folder hierarchy.

When deploying public folders on Exchange 2013 servers, it’s important to understand that because Exchange 2013 servers don’t support legacy public-folder databases, there’s no co-existence. When migrating from Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2007, the recommendation is not to create any modern public folder mailboxes on Exchange 2013 until after all the user mailboxes are migrated to Exchange 2013.

Migration from older versions of Exchange server to new public folder mailboxes is a one-way process in the sense that you can roll back to legacy public folders by deleting all public folder mailboxes on Exchange 2013, setting the PublicFolderMigrationComplete parameter to false on a previous version of Exchange server. But, any data changed or added to the new public folder mailboxes doesn’t synchronize with legacy public folders and is lost when public folder mailboxes on Exchange 2013 are deleted during the roll-back process. This is an important consideration during the migration planning process from legacy public folders to new public folder mailboxes on Exchange 2013.

With new public-folder mailbox functionality, you can easily move a rapidly growing public folder and its contents to a different public folder mailbox. Because of the separation that can happen from using different mailboxes for different public folders, it becomes complex to account for all of the subfolders that belong to the public folder being moved. If you need to keep the data of all subfolders with the parent public folder being moved, you need to use the Move-PublicFolderBranch.ps1 script, provided with the Exchange 2013 server installation.

With a new mailbox architecture, the public folder mailboxes now automatically inherit the size limits from the mailbox database that they belong to. You must carefully evaluate mailbox sizes, including warning, send, and receive quotas that a public folder mailbox might inherit and change it for a public folder mailbox, if necessary. When changing public-folder mailbox quotas from database defaults, it’s important that the underlying storage has enough capacity to account for those exceptions and additional storage that public folder mailboxes might consume because of non-default quotas configured on them.

Because modern public folders are now similar in architecture as mailboxes and use the same underlying mailbox databases, it’s natural to think mechanisms, such as mailbox audit logs that work with regular mailboxes, would also work with public folder mailboxes. But, currently, mailbox audit logs don’t work on public folder mailboxes. This is important when you define goals for meeting auditing requirements for each of the messaging components being deployed.

It is also important to distinguish mailbox audit logging from public-folder access permissions auditing. Assigning permissions is an administrative action that moved to role based access control (RBAC) in Exchange 2013. This allows for auditing administrative actions when permissions on public folders are changed.

Validating storage by running Jetstress

Even though the I/O requirements were significantly reduced in Exchange 2013 when compared to previous versions, performing validation using proper testing tools is still as important to ensure the success of any Exchange 2013 deployment. Jetstress is used to validate all of the hardware and software I/O components, including storage drivers, disk firmware, and many other storage-related components. While Jetstress doesn’t actually verify details, such as whether a particular firmware version is present for a given disk, a successful Jetstress result validates the storage stack that is configured optimally to meet your design requirements. While it might be obvious, it’s important to point out that as any other tool, Jetstress is going to test what it’s asked to test for. If the provided user profile information and other test parameters are incorrect, the passing result might not be an accurate reflection of your production requirements and a failing result might not mean much in reality.

The installation of Jetstress is dependent on ESE libraries that are going to be used on production Exchange 2013 server. Also, Jetstress is run before Exchange server is installed on the server to be tested. This means, required ESE libraries must be obtained manually from installation media of Exchange 2013 server version that are going to be used to install Exchange 2013 on a given server. Jetstress should never be run on a server that has Exchange 2013 already installed.

When validating storage using Jetstress, all of the factors affecting the given storage should be considered. If shared storage, such as SAN, is planned, all concurrent I/O profiles on shared storage should be tested or simulated to achieve accurate pass/fail results. Testing single LUN on new SAN with no load may pass the test with flying colors, but it doesn’t accurately reflect the reality under which the shared storage is performing when in production. If multiple databases are planned to be located on the same volume, the test should account for it. If shared workloads other than exchange are expected to have I/O impact on the same volume, expected I/O from other applications should also be simulated during Jetstress testing. Freely available tools, such as Iometer, can be leveraged to test shared I/O on the volume, if needed.

When testing RAID subsystems, accounting for disk failures is also important. When a disk in a RAID array fails, access to the data stored on the array is uninterrupted. Performance of the RAID array is degraded until the failed disk is replaced and rebuild process is complete. Jetstress tests should account for both healthy operation and performance degradation during the rebuild operation.

While required storage performance characteristics don’t change when Exchange 2013 servers are virtualized, the factors that can affect storage performance certainly do! Virtualized environments might mean a shared logical unit number (LUN) hosting virtual disks for many VMs. Each VM have its own I/O requirements. During peak usage periods, this can result in concentrated I/O causing degradation in storage performance. When host-based failovers are configured, a failed host might mean additional resource usage on surviving hosts due to additional VMs now running on it. This also requires additional I/O on shared spindles. When testing virtualized Exchange servers for storage system performance with Jetstress, accounting for these additional factors is important.

When running Jetstress, how much time you allocate for testing is an important factor to ensure that test results are accurate. The tuning of test parameters might be required before running extended tests, so the recommendation is to run initial short 15-minute tests to determine the number of simultaneous threads an underlying storage system can support. Once the appropriate level of disk latency and IOPs are achieved using tuned parameters in short tests, longer tests should be carried out. Strict mode tests should be carried out for durations from up to six hours, and lenient mode tests should be carried out for durations greater than six hours. The strict mode tests storage for stricter maximum read and write latencies of 100ms. The lenient mode, in contrast, tests the storage against the maximum read and write latency target of 200ms.

Before performing any testing, you should also ensure that the test systems are configured optimally for an underlying storage subsystem. Factors such as server BIOS, storage controller firmware and driver levels, and hard disk firmware have a direct impact on the outcome of Jetstress and should be at manufacture-recommended and -supported levels. When SAN- based storage is planned, the same considerations apply to Fibre-Channel HBA drivers, Fibre-Channel switch firmware, and SAN controller operating-system levels.

When Jetstress tests result in a failure, it usually means one of two factors. A natural tendency is to look at a storage subsystem and tune or reconfigure it to ensure the tests pass. But it might also be the result of misconfiguration of Jetstress test parameters. Starting with the validation of test parameters and storage driver/firmware levels is the best first step toward remediation. If further tests still fail, this almost always means the storage has failed to meet the test requirements and must be remediated. Putting the solution in production is detrimental, assuming the failure is of the tool testing the storage, because Jetstress is a simple tool that directly relies on the test parameters and the storage subsystem being tested.

For the test to be successful, all three criteria being evaluated must pass. The three criteria are database IOPS target, I/O database read averaged latency, and I/O log write averaged latency. Database I/O target is derived by using IOPS requirements calculated per storage-sizing guidance.

Objective summary

  • Exchange 2013 storage doesn’t require fast disks. Optimal storage design for Exchange 2013 requires striking a careful balance of price, performance, and capacity.
  • Deploying newer functionality can replace traditional practices, such as deploying lagged copies of database along with single item recovery, which can address backup requirements of an organization replacing traditional backups.
  • What Exchange 2013 considers supported configuration may differ from what the vendor is willing to support. This applies to storage, as well as virtualization.
  • Placement of Exchange 2013 server roles isn’t always a strictly technical decision. Centralized deployments may work for a small company with a highly mobile workforce, but it might not be the best option for a large company with multiple international locations, each governed by different rules and compliance requirements.
  • While supported, not every environment can benefit from the high availability and resource management functionality modern virtualization platforms provide. Exchange 2013, when using database replicas, can ensure the integrity of data that HA provided by virtualization platform can’t due to lack of application awareness.

Objective review

Answer the following questions to test your knowledge of the information in this objective. You can find the answers to these questions, and explanations of why each answer choice is correct or incorrect, in the “Answers” section at the end of this chapter.

  1. Select supported disk configuration for Exchange 2013 deployment. The deployment must provide the best possible cost benefits for design consisting of large mailboxes for every user. The planned minimum mailbox size is 5 GB per user.

    1. Dedicated RAID5 configuration of 10 SSD disks per server.
    2. VHD files stored on 7,200 RPM 4 TB SATA disks, served by NFS storage array using dedicated 10 Gbps network.
    3. Dedicated RAID5 volume consisting of 15,000 RPM 1 TB SCSI disks on fiber channel SAN storage array.
    4. Dedicated RAID10 volume consisting of 15,000 RPM 1 TB SCSI disks on Direct Attached Storage.
  2. You need to determine the user profile for the existing Exchange 2010 environment that will be used to determine server and storage sizing for planned Exchange 2013 deployment. Which tool should you use to minimize administrative effort and meet the requirement?

    1. Exchange Profile Analyzer
    2. Performance Counters
    3. Transaction Log Files
    4. Exchange Log Analyzer
  3. You plan to create a new public folder mailbox on an Exchange 2013 server located at a remote site that’s connected to the main site using slower WAN links. You want to ensure users don’t get incomplete folder hierarchy. What should you do?

    1. Create a new public folder mailbox using the New-Mailbox cmdlet. Exclude the new public folder from the serving hierarchy using the IsExcludedFromServingHeirarchy parameter.
    2. Create a new public folder mailbox using the New-Mailbox cmdlet. Set the IsHierarchyReady parameter to $false to exclude the new public folder from the serving hierarchy.
    3. Create a new public folder mailbox using the New-Publicfolder cmdlet. Set the IsHierarchyReady parameter to $false to exclude the new public folder from the serving hierarchy.