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Admins get a glimpse of Exchange Server 2016

Exchange 2016 will get a face lift this summer as admins familiar with Office 365 stand to benefit from the 'cloud-first, mobile-first' mantra.

Exchange admins got a long-awaited glimpse into the future of Exchange Server 2016 this week.

The newest version of Exchange is tentatively scheduled for a beta release this summer with a final release in the fall or winter.

During an Exchange intro session at the Microsoft Ignite conference, presenters Jon Orton, Karim Batthish, Kip Fern and Allen Filush detailed the features and capabilities admins can expect. Here are some of their more noteworthy quotes and Microsoft's plans for the Exchange 2016 release.

"The story of Exchange 2016 begins in the cloud." – Jon Orton, director at Microsoft

Many of the features in Exchange 2016 should be familiar to admins since they were first introduced in Office 365, Orton said. Microsoft has since learned how organizations used those features and improved them based on end user feedback before being packaged in the on-premises release, he said.

This approach to delivering features follows the "cloud-first, mobile-first" strategy introduced at last year's Microsoft Exchange Conference; Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reiterated this as the company's focus during the Ignite keynote. 

"It's a revolution and refinement of Exchange 2013." – Karim Batthish, group program manager at Microsoft

A number of capabilities in Exchange 2016 became available in Exchange 2013 but have evolved since that release, Batthish said.

Admins will notice that Exchange 2016’s architecture is simpler. Microsoft combined the mailbox and Client Access Server roles, which are building blocks to build and deploy Exchange in the data center, he said.

Another major change is the addition of the Get-MailboxServerRedundancy command, which exposes what knowledge a database availability group has and determines which servers are more urgent for being fixed or resolved, he said.

Exchange 2016 will also support BitLocker, which provides additional protection for data at rest, as well as enhancements for hybrid setups, he added.

"We have this mantra: An attachment is an attachment is an attachment." – Kip Fern, senior program manager lead at Microsoft

All attachments should be treated the same, Fern said. Exchange 2016 and Outlook will include access to what Microsoft calls classic attachments and new attachments.

There will be two main infrastructure options for document collaboration, Fern said. One option is fully on-premises with documents stored in SharePoint 2016. The other option is hybrid, which has a similar setup to the on-premises option but SharePoint documents are stored in the cloud, he said.

End users can continue to email attachments as they have always done, but new attachments will be stored in SharePoint for easier collaboration, he said.

One other notable feature is that Outlook Web App (OWA) is now "smart enough" to know an organization's limits for servers. If a file exceeds limits, OWA will suggest sending the file as a SharePoint file or block adding the file as a classic attachment and only send it as SharePoint file, Fern said.

"We've built intelligence into the addressing experience." – Allen Filush, product marketing lead for Outlook

One of the newer features in Outlook is an address book that knows the people you commonly work with and a refined search that includes just the people you care about, Filush said.

The idea of intelligent email also drove the idea of delivering Outlook across all mobile devices. There's been an increase in the number of people who open mail on their mobile devices, but most people defer everything else until they get back to their desk, he added.

This was the idea behind the creation of Outlook for iOS, which includes two new tabs. The first is Focus, which lets end users choose which email messages they care about the most, and the second is Other, which lets end users choose which messages they don't really care about. These new options help end users focus on what's important, Filush said.

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