Why it will be easier to deploy Exchange Server 2016

There are three new deployment experiences admins should prepare for in the upcoming Exchange 2016 release.

As an Exchange Server geek at Microsoft Ignite this month, I was especially interested in hearing news about improvements and features in Exchange Server 2016.

While much of the information about Exchange 2016 features was about the end users' experience -- document-sharing capabilities with on-premises deployment of Exchange 2016 -- there were also a number of announcements regarding improvements to the Exchange Server 2016 architecture and management. Here are some of the features to expect during future deployment experiences.

Combined roles. When admins deploy Exchange Server 2016, they won't have to decide whether to deploy the Client Access Server (CAS) role and the Mailbox Role separately. There's only one option -- deploy the Mailbox Role. The new Mailbox Role in Exchange 2016 will also run the CAS services, which will help simplify Exchange 2016 architectures and coexistence scenarios.

During the setup process, admins will only have the following options from the graphical user interface:

  • Mailbox role
  • Management tools
  • Edge Transport role

Unlike Exchange 2013, Exchange 2016 can coexist with previous versions of Exchange Server without having to wait for an update. This is something no version prior to Exchange 2013, and hopefully no future version of Exchange, will have happen again.

Simplified coexistence. Configuring and administering coexistence will be easier than before. Exchange 2016 will support the N-2 version boundary; Exchange 2007 and earlier won't be supported for coexistence, but Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 will. Upgrades from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2016 will be essentially the same as going from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2013 was. The steps to do so will include:

  • Prepare the environment (e.g., Active Directory and servers)
  • Install Exchange 2016
  • Configure 2016 server URLs
  • Import certificates
  • Reconfigure load balancers to point to Exchange 2016
  • Configure database availability groups (DAGs)
  • Move mailboxes
  • Reconfigure mail flow to point to Exchange 2016

Up-Version proxy. In Exchange 2016, it will be possible for Exchange 2013 to "Up-Version proxy" to the next version. This means that if admins are currently running Exchange 2013, they have the flexibility to choose when and how to introduce Exchange 2016. They can choose to set up DAGs and move mailboxes prior to reconfiguring their load balancers to point to Exchange 2016 CAS services. The 2013 CAS will not have any trouble connecting to the Exchange 2016 Mailbox servers. From there, they can introduce Exchange 2016 CAS services into load balancers, along with existing Exchange 2013 CAS.

Exchange 2016 can also "Down-Version proxy" to Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2010, so admins would end up with Exchange 2016 and Exchange 2013 CAS services in the same load balanced configuration -- without affecting coexistence.

It's also recommended that admins slowly introduce Exchange 2016 into the load balancers with Exchange 2013 CAS, rather than an all-at-once cutover. Additionally, there isn't a requirement to have Exchange 2013 CAS to talk to a 2013 Mailbox server. This means it will be possible to remove legacy CAS roles prior to removing the legacy Mailbox roles during deployments. In the past, the legacy CAS role would be the last server to remove after all mailboxes were moved.

With the improvements that have been announced, will upgrades to Exchange Server 2016 be completely void of potential risk and peril? Absolutely not. Comparatively, admins likely will find the process easier than it was when in-place upgrades went away in the 5x era.

Check out the recorded version of Brian Day's deploying Exchange 2016 session (when it becomes available) for more information on the installation process.

About the author:
Richard Luckett is a consultant and instructor specializing in messaging and unified communications. He's been a certified professional with Microsoft since 1996 and has 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors. He's a Microsoft Certified Trainer with more than 15 years of training experience with the Microsoft product line and received the Exchange MVP award in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He's also an expert in deploying and integrating Exchange Server and Lync Server. He leads the Microsoft training and consulting practice at LITSG.

Next Steps

Admins get a sneak peek of Exchange 2016

Experts weigh Exchange 2016 features and capabilities

All eyes on the cloud at Microsoft Ignite

Dig Deeper on Exchange Server setup and troubleshooting