My Exchange MCM Plaque

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I was surprised to receive an Microsoft Certified Master plaque today via UPS.  It was accompanied by a letter from Christina Yoshida, Director of Advanced Certifications for Microsoft Learning.

The welcome letter says, "Congratulations on earning your Microsoft Certified Master certification! Enclosed in this Welcome Kit are tools to acknowledge your new level of certification, the highest level of technical certification currently granted by Microsoft."

It includes a number of MCM benefits, those most important of which is access to the MCM community distibution list.
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Microsoft Exchange PST Capture Tool

Monday, January 30, 2012
It's time to harvest those PST files
PST files are the plague of most managed networks and the bane of most email administrators.  It also clearly demonstrates that if you don't have an email policy (and an email management strategy to back it up), users will follow the path of least resistance.

In the not-so-long-ago days, email storage was expensive and growing exponentially.  The common reaction to this was to enforce mailbox quotas to keep mailboxes from growing so large.  When you put a barrier in place it's human nature to try going around it, so when users run up against their mailbox quota they look for alternate ways to store their emails.

Enter Outlook PST (personal storage) files.  PSTs allow users to archive emails out of their Exchange mailbox into a discrete file.  There are several problems with this:

  • PSTs are not governed by company email retention policies or legal discovery
  • PSTs cannot be accessed from Outlook Web App (OWA) or mobile devices
  • PSTs are usually stored on local computer drives that are rarely, if ever, backed up
  • If users store their PSTs on a network drive you haven't really solved the storage issue, have you?
  • PSTs are normally not password protected.  Anyone who can access the PST can read the emails.
  • PSTs are typically difficult for end-users to manage
Now that storage is cheaper and more abundant, companies are looking to harvest those PST files back into Exchange so they can be managed by corporate retention and discovery policies.  Older emails can also be archived using native Exchange Online Archiving (aka Personal Archives) or other third-party solutions.

Today, Microsoft delivered the Microsoft Exchange PST Capture Tool 2 This new tool allows you to import the contents of PST files into a user's mailbox, into an Office 365 online mailbox, or directly into an Exchange Online Archive.  By optionally installing PST Capture Agents on target machines, administrators can determine where .PST files are located and who their file owner is via the PST Capture Console.

Read the Exchange Team blog, .PST, Time to Walk the Plank, to read a bit more and watch a video about the tool with Ann Vu and Ankar Kothari.  BTW, Ann was the one who came up with the "That's right. My theme is Super Sparkle Happy" Exchange t-shirts at least year's TechEd.  :)

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Blistering Fast Windows Server - Parts List and Video!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

UPDATE: I wrote an updated article, UPDATED Blistering Fast Hyper-V 2012 Server - Parts List and Video! which includes the new 3rd generation Intel Core I5 processor, faster RAM, and multiple SSDs -- All for under $1000! Check it out now!

Walk with me now, as we take a stroll down Geek lane.  :)

I decided it's time to replace my old Hyper-V server at home with a new one that's faster and can run more VMs.  I've decided again to build it myself from OEM parts so I can get exactly what I want at a right price.  This article contains my parts list and my reasons for choosing what I did.  Hopefully, this will help you with your own home lab.

I host my private cloud network on a Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V host server.  Hyper-V is perfect for my environment because it allows me to run workgroup applications (Exchange Edge Transport and IIS) directly on the host, as well as host my virtual domain servers.

My current Hyper-V server is an AMD x64 dual core rig with 16GB RAM and two SATA drives, one for the OS and another for VMs.  I built it about 3 years ago when I was on the Windows Server 2008 TAP and it has served me well.  But with Windows Server 8 and Exchange 15 right around the corner, I wanted to be sure I had the capabilities of running these new versions.

My Design Requirements
As with most customers, I have competing requirements for this new server:
  • Minimum of 4 cores
  • Windows Server 8 capable.  Hyper-V for Windows 8 requires hypervisor-ready processors with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), as reported by Microsoft at BUILD.
  • 32GB of fast DDR3 RAM
  • Must support SATA III 6Gb/s drives
  • Must have USB 3.0 ports for future portable devices
  • Must be quiet.  This server is sitting next to me in my office (aka, the sunroom) and I don't want to hear it at all.
  • Low power requirements
  • Small form factor
  • Budget: ~$1,000 USD
My RAM requirements drove most of this design.  Since this would be based on a desktop motherboard (server mobos are too big and ECC RAM is too expensive), I first looked for 4x8GB (32GB) DDR3 RAM.  Then I looked for a small mobo that would accept that much RAM, then a processor for that mobo.
Here's my parts list, including links to where I purchased each item and the price I paid:
Part Number
Intel Core i5-2400S Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 65W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I52400S

Intel BOXDH67BLB3 LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
Komputerbay 32GB DDR3 (4x 8GB) PC3-10600 10666 1333MHz DIMM 240-Pin RAM Desktop Memory 9-9-9-25
OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARX 2TB 64MB Cache SATA III 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
AeroCool M40 Cube Computer Case - Micro ATX, LCD Display, 2x 5.25 Bays, 3x 3.5 Bays, 4x Fan Ports, Black
Antec EA-380D Green 80 PLUS BRONZE Power Supply
ENERMAX UC-8EB 80mm Case Fan
nMEDIAPC ZE-C268 3.5" All-in-one USB Card Reader with USB 3.0 Port
Rosewill RX-C200P 2.5" SSD / HDD Plastic Mounting Kit for 3.5" Drive Bay

Total:  $925.91

[Update: See my comparison of Western Digital Caviar Black and Green drives. The trade off is ~$100 and more noise for better performance.]
I was a little worried about the Komputerbay RAM.  I've never heard of them before, but they offer a lifetime warranty and 32GB DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) RAM was $54 cheaper than what I could find at NewEgg.  In the end I'm very pleased with my decision.
I chose different sources for the best price.  NewEgg is my go-to vendor for most items.  They charge sales tax in California, but I have a ShopRunner account that gives me free 2-day shipping on all these items.  Amazon was the smart choice for the bigger ticket items since they don't charge tax and I could get them delivered with a 30 day free trial of Prime 2-day shipping.  Not to mention the fact that I had a $500 Amazon gift card that I won at TechEd 2011 from my good friends at Vision Solutions!  TigerDirect was the only source for this great AeroCool micro ATX cube computer case.
All the items were delivered the same day and started putting it together that night.  Careful assembly took about 90 minutes and everything went together perfectly.
It's a Geek Christmas!

All the parts freed from their cardboard prisons
The only other item I added was a dual port Intel PRO/1000 MT Server Adapter that I already had.  I also used L-bend right angle SATA cables instead of the two that came with the Intel motherboard, due to the short clearance between the PSU and the back of the drives (I knew this going in).
The innovative AeroCool M40 micro ATX case opens up likea book for easy access.  The power supply, hard drives and DVD drive(s) are in the top half and everything else is down below.  It includes a nearly silent 120mm front fan and has room for one more on the top rear section and two 80mm fans on the bottom rear section.  I added a single silent 80mm fan on the bottom to push warm air out.  The case temperature has never gone above 26.4C and it's completely silent.
View from above showing the Antec PSU, the 3.5" and 5.25" drive cages and the unused PSU cabling

View from the hinged side, showing motherboard placement

I'm using the OCZ 120GB SATA III SSD drive for the operating system and pagefile, Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise for now.  I'll upgrade the server to Windows Server 8 when it goes RTM.  In the meantime, I'll build and test beta versions as VMs.  I have to say that this SSD drive was one of the best choices for my new system.  It's blistering fast!  Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 installed in just 6 minutes!!  Take a look at the video below to see that it takes only 20 seconds to get to a logon screen from a cold start, and half of that time is the for the BIOS POST!

The Intel I5 4-core Sandy Bridge processor has amazing graphics built in.  I'm able to run Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Aero theme at 1920x1080 HD resolution with no difference in performance.  It's possible to overclock this system, but it's plenty fast for me and I value stability over speed.  I love the fact that it draws only 65W!  This not only saves electricity, it keeps the case cool which lowers the cooling requirements.
The bottom half with the case split open. The I5-2400s CPU came with this huge low profile CPU cooler.

As a desktop motherboard, the Intel DH67BL motherboard came with drivers that did not work out of the box with Windows Server 2008 R2.  I downloaded the latest drivers from Intel and most installed fine.  The only items I had trouble with were the built-in Intel 82579V Gigabit network adapter and the integrated Intel HD Graphics drivers.  Intel "crippled" the NIC driver installer so that it won't install on a server platform.  See this article which explains how to re-enable it.   The video driver installed most of the way, but the installer crashed when trying to register a DLL.  It was able to install again fine after a restart.
I also used a Western Digital Green 2TB SATA III drive for storage of my Hyper-V VMs.  I've always used Western Digital drives and I've never had a problem with them.  The WD Green line saves power, runs cool and quiet, and delivers 6 Gb/s performance.
Photo of the completed server.  I placed a DVD on top to for scale.

This is by far the fastest server I've ever worked on, bar none.  I'm extremely happy with it.  I haven't bothered running any benchmarks* on it – I just know that it's fast enough for my needs and has plenty of RAM so I can run more VMs.
I hope this article helps you to build your own home lab server.   Please let me know if you have any questions.
* There are lies, damn lies, and benchmarks.

UPDATE: I wrote an updated article, UPDATED Blistering Fast Hyper-V 2012 Server - Parts List and Video! which includes the new 3rd generation Intel Core I5 processor, faster RAM, and multiple SSDs -- All for under $1000! Check it out now!

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Exchange 2010 Microsoft Certified Masters (MCM) Training & Certification Overview

Friday, January 27, 2012
Are you interested in becoming an Exchange Microsoft Certified Master?  You think you have what it takes?  Join Exchange MCM Program Manager David Bjurman-Birr for a detailed online overview of the program for potential candidates and their sponsors.

Session Objectives:
  • Understand the goals and offerings of the Exchange 2010 MCM program
  • Understand the program value proposition
  • Plan preparation for Exchange 2010 MCM


  • Program Mission & Vision
  • Program Contents
  • Training Experience
  • Application & Preparation Process
  • Pricing Model
  • Value Proposition
  • Q&A

For additional information:

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Exchange 2010 support for host-based failover clustering and migration

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some Exchange-supported virtualization platforms, such as Hyper-V and VMware include features that support the clustering or portability of guest virtual machines across multiple physical root machines.  Examples of host-based failover clustering and migration include Hyper-V Live Migration and VMware ESX vMotion.

Microsoft support for host-based failover clustering and migration virtualization with Database Availability Groups (DAGs) depends on the Exchange 2010 service pack level.  Per the Exchange 2010 System Requirements:

With Exchange 2010 RTM:

Microsoft doesn't support combining Exchange high availability solutions (such as DAGs) with hypervisor-based clustering, high availability, or migration solutions that will move or automatically failover mailbox servers that are members of a DAG between clustered root servers. DAGs are supported in hardware virtualization environments, provided the virtualization environment doesn't employ clustered root servers, or the clustered root servers have been configured to never failover or automatically move mailbox servers that are members of a DAG to another root server.

With Exchange 2010 SP1 (or later) deployed:

Exchange server virtual machines (including Exchange Mailbox virtual machines that are part of a DAG), may be combined with host-based failover clustering and migration technology, as long as the virtual machines are configured such that they will not save and restore state on disk when moved, or taken offline. All failover activity must result in a cold boot when the virtual machine is activated on the target node. All planned migration must either result in shutdown and cold boot, or an online migration that makes use of a technology like Hyper-V Live Migration. Hypervisor migration of virtual machines is supported by the hypervisor vendor; therefore, you must ensure that your hypervisor vendor has tested and supports migration of Exchange virtual machines. Microsoft supports Hyper-V Live Migration of these virtual machines.

In summary, Exchange 2010 SP1 or better supports hypervisor migrations such as Hyper-V Live Migration and VMware ESX vMotion for DAG member servers.  Host-based failover cluster migrations, such as Hyper-V Quick Migration, is supported only if the virtual Exchange DAG server is restarted immediately after the quick migration completes.  Exchange 2010 RTM is not supported with either migration technology.  RTM only supports the native Exchange high availability features present in DAGs.

Other Exchange Server 2010 roles (CAS, Hub Transport, Edge Transport, and Unified Messaging) fully support host-based failover clustering and migration because they do not employ native Exchange high-availability solutions.

For a list of the virtualization platforms supported by Exchange, visit the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program website.
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First look at the TechEd 2012 Backpack

Monday, January 23, 2012

Here's a first look at the backpack being designed for TechEd North America 2012.  This photo of a prototype bag comes courtesy of the TechEd North America Facebook page.

It has an interesting non-canvas look to it and the logo gets a little lost on the back.  Comfortable looking shoulder straps for hours of huffing swag around, but the handle looks a little lightweight.

TechEd 2012 is THE Microsoft technology event of the year.  It's held worldwide throughout the year in North America, Europe, Australia, India and Africa.  This year TechEd North America will be held in Orlando, FL from June 11-14, 2012.  Register now for $200 savings!

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Who are the Exchange MVPs and MCMs?

Friday, January 13, 2012
Legendary Exchange guru Tony Redmond wrote an article on Windows IT Pro magazine about Exchange MVPs.  You can read his article here.

Tony is also an active Exchange MVP and has been for many years.  He discusses the number of MVPs (Exchange and others), demographics, and what it takes to be an MVP.  It's an interesting read.  I knew that the number of Exchange MVPs was shrinking (used to be around 300 at it's peak I've been told), but didn't know it's down to 106.

If you're interested in seeing who my fellow Exchange MCMs are, visit the Meet the Microsoft Certified Masters and Microsoft Certified Architects site.
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How to Reset Exchange 2010 MWI

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Exchange 2010 has native message waiting indicator (MWI) support.  This feature enables the MWI light on your business phone when you receive a new voicemail in Exchange 2010 Unified Messaging (UM).  When a voicemail is received by the UM server it sends a SIP command to the PBX to tell it to turn the MWI on.  MSExchange Unified Messaging event 1343 is logged if diagnostic logging is turned up on the Exchange 2010 UM server:

(BTW, have I ever mentioned how much I hate typos in event logs?  Succesfully?  Really?)

Exchange 2010 reads the Voice Mail search folder to know if there are any unread voicemail messages.  If there are, it sends the SIP message above.  Simply marking a voicemail as unread should enable the MWI and cause the event to be logged.

The Voice Mail search folder is created when you UM enable a mailbox.  Exchange Web Services (EWS) is responsible for creating this search folder.

Sometimes Exchange 2010 is unable to read the Voice Mail search folder due to corruption.  I've seen this happen when mailboxes are migrated from Exchange 2007, which has no native MWI support, and third-party MWI software is used, such as Geomant MWI for Microsoft Unified Messaging.  In this case you need to delete and recreate the Voice Mail search folder from Outlook.

Note: You cannot delete the Voice Mail search folder using OWA since it treats it as a protected folder.  You must delete it using Outlook 2007 or 2010.

But what happens if you delete the Voice Mail search folder?  Well, bad things happen in MWI land.  You'll notice that there are no 1343 events logged for that user anymore and the MWI light will not change.  If it was on, it stays on.  If it was off, it stays off.  The fix is to have EWS recreate the folder.  You cannot create this special search folder manually, you need EWS to do it.

David Sterling, a Senior Software Development Engineer on the Microsoft Exchange Web Services Team, wrote an excellent post about the Voice Mail search folder and how to recreate it.  Fellow MCM Keif Machado and I spent quite a while trying to get it to work at a customer before we discovered that it only works in Exchange online mode.

Here are the steps to delete and recreate the Voice Mail search folder to fix MWI:
  1. Make sure that Outlook is running in online mode (Not Cached Exchange Mode).  In online mode Outlook will say "Online with Microsoft Exchange" in the status bar, not "Connected with Microsoft Exchange".
  2. Delete the Voice Mail search folder in Outlook.  This only deletes the search folder, not the messages.
  3. Dial into Outlook Voice Access to access your old voicemails.  You need to enter the "voice mail" command, even if OVA says you have no new voicemails.  When you do this, EWS will recreate the Voice Mail search folder in Outlook.  Hang up.
  4. Reconfigure Outlook to use Cached Exchange Mode again and restart Outlook.  Since the OST header still matches the mailbox database header, Outlook will use the same OST and will resync your emails quickly and easily.
Now test MWI functionality by marking voicemails as unread in the Voice Mail search folder and by leaving a new voicemail.
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