With Exchange 2016 in public preview–and many folks already downloading the bits–it was time to sharpen our pencils and write a 2016 install series.
The goal of this series is to help you introduce Exchange 2016 into your existing 2010/2013 lab.
In this series we will:
- Review lab recommendations
- Review Exchange 2016 requirements
- Building the VM / OS
- Install Exchange 2016 prerequisites
- Extend the Active Directory schema
- Install Exchange 2016
- Configure a simple Exchange 2016 namespace
- Create and process a certificate request
- Move the database
- Move test users
Don’t try this in production
Exchange 2016 will not be released until later this year. You never want to test preview code in a production environment. Always use a lab.
Labs can be inexpensive. If your PC has enough RAM and disk space Hyper-V might be a perfect fit. Hyper-V comes included with Windows 8 and greater and it’s very feature rich. I ran a lab this way for some time.
If you don’t have the space then consider an external USB 3.0 or eSATA drive. I have a number of colleagues that run successfully this way. Some laptops let you swap out their optical drive for a secondary hard drive. Either way, internal or external, a second hard drive is a nice way to keep things organized. For an extra boost you may want to consider a solid state drive. I currently own a Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD and I am thoroughly impressed with it.
If you are going to run multiple Exchange servers from your primary PC then I would recommend one minor tweak–startup settings. If you are running a few VMs and have set them to start with the OS you could be in for an incredibly long boot process (even with a solid state drive). My recommendation–have those VMs not start with the host OS. You can do this by modifying the properties of each VM. Either turning off auto-start or setting a sizeable delay will do the trick.
If you have money to spend you may want to consider buying a refurbished server from an auction site. An HP DL 380 G5 with 16GB of RAM and a couple of hard drives goes for around $100 these days.
My current setup is a HP DL380 G5 with 2 quad core Xeon processors, 32GB of RAM and 700GB usable drive space. This setup currently runs a domain controller, one multi-role Exchange 2010 server, two multi-role Exchange 2013 servers, two Exchange 2016 servers, a file server, a Kemp Virtual Load Balancer and Windows 8.1. They all run 24×7 with resources to spare.
If your lab is in a crunch for resources you can often get away with dropping below the recommended hardware requirements. This is due to the fact you don’t have any user load. For example, a multi-role production Exchange 2013 server is recommended to run at least 8GB of RAM with additional memory per user. I run my Exchange 2013 lab servers at 4GB of RAM comfortably. Whether you do this is at your own risk. If you see Exchange performing strangely with cryptic system errors its probably choking on fumes. It either needs more resources or is in contention with another VM. If you do drop it down to 4GB make sure it actually is getting the full 4GB.
If none of these seem like a viable option check out this fantastic blog post from Exchange MVP Jeff Guillet. In this article Jeff explores three different server builds to help you balance functionality with cost.
Lab ready to go? Awesome!
Keeping it simple
Hopefully you have been using multi-role Exchange servers for some time. I haven’t been splitting out Exchange roles since the early 2010 days and even then I did so begrudgingly. Thankfully with Exchange 2016 this is no longer a possibility.
While multi-role was a strong recommendation in Exchange 2013, this is now mandatory in Exchange 2016. In the screenshot below you will notice the absence of Client Access role. This has been combined into the Mailbox role.
That said we will deploy a single multi-role Exchange 2016 server into our existing Exchange 2013 environment. In future series we will explore high availability and failover.
Server 2008 has been dropped as a viable operating system. Server 2012 is now listed as the minimum host operating system. This new operating system requirement is likely a result of the Resilient File System (ReFS) recommendation for all database and log drives. While not a hard requirement ReFS is a part of the preferred architecture.
The other benefit of 2012 are the advances in Windows Failover Clustering; the underlying technology for Database Availability Groups (DAGs). The addition of dynamic quorum in Server 2012 allows clusters to be more resilient to failure. You can read more on that here.
The host requirements are as follows:
- Windows Server 2012 or greater.
- .NET Framework 4.5.2
- Windows Management Framework 4.0
- Unified Communications Managed API (UCMA) 4.0
Active Directory requirements have changed. Primarily driven by Server 2003 going end-of-life back in July. Here are the new requirements for your lab’s domain.
- Windows Server 2008 Forest functional level
- Windows Server 2008 Domain functional level
- Windows Server 2008 Global Catalog servers
- Windows Server 2008 Domain Controllers
When Exchange 2013 was released it dropped support for Exchange 2003. Customers on 2003 had to migrate to either 2007 or 2010 before they could go to 2013. Similarly, Exchange 2016 drops coexistence with 2007. Organizations on 2007 will need to migrate to either 2010 or 2013 before they can jump to 2016.
The supported coexistence scenarios are as follows:
- Exchange 2010 SP3 RU11
- Exchange 2013 CU10
Unlike previous versions of Exchange the 2013 and 2016 admin tools can fully manage each others objects. The 2010 management tools will not be able to manage 2016 objects.
Similarly, how Exchange 2013 dropped support for Outlook 2003, 2016 will drop support for 2007. Outlook for Mac 2008 has also hit the chopping block. New client requirements are as follows:
- Outlook 2016
- Outlook 2013 with SP1 (& KB3020812)
- Outlook 2010 with SP2 (& KB2956191 / KB2965295)
- Outlook for Mac 2011 or later.
Building the VM
Before picking a hypervisor make sure it is part of the Microsoft’s Server Virtualization Validation Program. Our lab is running the free version of VMware ESXi 5.5.
On this hypervisor we have created a new virtual machine named EX16-01, assigned it 1 virtual CPU and 4GB of RAM.
The minimum for Exchange 2016 is 8GB of RAM. However, as I mentioned in a previous section I can run my lab comfortably with 4GB. If you are in a crunch for resources 4GB will work as long as Exchange truly is getting all 4GB and, its not in contention with other VMs. To make sure I am dedicating 4GB to this VM, I will click the Resources tab in the virtual machines properties. From there I will check the box to Reserve All Guest Memory (all locked). This ensures the hypervisor will not allocate our RAM elsewhere. If in doubt, and performance isn’t up to par, go with 8GB. Then reserve all 8 GB for Exchange.
We only plan to have a couple of databases in the lab so we won’t be using mount points. To keep our lab simple we will just use standard Windows drive letters.
We will configure four drives as follows:
|C:||50 GB||Operating System|
|E:||30 GB||Exchange Install Directory|
The database and log drives will start small. We don’t expect to have more than a few dozen test users. Nor do we expect any of those users to have any significant data.
We will be using fixed disks. Dynamically expanding disks are only supported in the VHDX format (Hyper-V).
We will format C: and E: with NTFS and L: and M: with ReFS per Microsoft’s guidelines.
We will keep the page file on the C: drive. Better to have it not contend with anything Exchange related when it comes to IOPS. With regard to the C: drive, keep an eye on free space. I have only spec’d for 50GB. If we let it get under 10GB we could end up thrashing the page file and causing an unnecessary increase in disk I/O. If in doubt bump the C: drive up to 60 GB or greater.
We will use a single network adapter for all client and replication traffic. This is based on Microsoft’s recommendation to keep things simple. Microsoft recommends to weigh the added complexity of separate networks against performance gain. With 2016 dropping its network utilization by 40% the scales are tipping heavily towards single network adapters.
Installing an operating system
Now that our Virtual Machine is configured its time to install the operating system. Mount your Server 2012 ISO and proceed with the install.
With the operating system installed:
- Install any HyperVisor integration components
- Configure a static IP
- Name and join the server to the lab’s domain
- Prepare and format additional disks
- Apply Windows Updates
- Enable Remote Desktop (optional)
The necessity for file-level antivirus has often been a topic of debate. Should you install antivirus you will need to add quite a few exceptions. Microsoft has no official document for 2016 at the time of writing. But the 2016 document will likely be incredibly close, if not spot on, to its 2013 counterpart. For more information on file level exclusions check this link.
Using this lab as an example, we would exclude the entirety of the E, L and M drives. We would also make exclusions for all IIS components on the C drive (system and content folders).
In our next article we will perform the Exchange 2016 schema updates for Active Directory. We will also tackle all mailbox server prerequisites.