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Dealing with routing group master failure

Learn about the essential role of the routing group master in an Exchange Server routing group architecture and how to handle a failure.

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Bridgehead servers facilitate communications between Exchange Server routing groups by hosting the routing group connectors that tie multiple routing groups together. Although bridgehead servers are definitely important, there is another routing group component that is often overlooked -- the routing group master.

When you create a routing group, Exchange designates the first server in the routing group as the routing group master. Each routing group has its own master, which is responsible for maintaining link state information within that routing group. Technically, the routing group master role can be assigned to a bridgehead server -- but it is typically assigned to a different server.

The routing group master's job is to maintain link state information sent to it by bridgehead servers. Let's say that the WAN connection fails for a routing group connector that exists between two routing groups. Initially, only the bridgehead server is aware of the failure. It contacts the routing group master to inform it of the link state failure. (It will also inform the routing group master if the link comes back up or if a new routing group connector is created.)

Before I go on, you might be wondering why Exchange servers get link state information from a routing group master instead of the bridgehead server. Exchange is designed this way, because multiple servers within a routing group can potentially function as bridgeheads. Rather than risk having link state information scattered across multiple servers, Microsoft decided to make the routing group master responsible for storing link state information for the entire routing group.

Since the routing group master is responsible for propagating link state information across the entire routing group, if it fails, any other services (mailboxes, public folders, etc.) running on that server will also fail. So, it's obviously important to get it back online as quickly as possible.

This brings up two more questions though. First, how do you know which server is acting as the routing group master? Second, what do you do if you can't bring the failed server back online?

To determine which server is acting as the routing group master:

  1. Open the Exchange System Manager.

  2. Navigate through the console tree to Administrative Groups -> your administrative group -> Routing Groups -> your routing group -> Members.

  3. Right click on the servers one at a time. The server designated as the routing group master will have a checkmark next to the "Set as Master" option on the shortcut menu.

This answers the second question too. If you can't revive a dead routing group master, you can simply designate another server in the routing group to act as a routing group master by right clicking on the server and selecting the "Set as Master" command.

About the author: has served as the CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at

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