iOS 6.1.2 released to Fix Exchange Calendaring Bug

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Apple released iOS 6.1.2 today to iPhones and iPads.  This update supposedly fixes the Exchange calendar bug that can result in increased logging in Exchange 2010.  This bug has been well documented by Microsoft and technology professionals like fellow MVP Tony Redmond.

The update is also supposed to address reduced battery life due to excessive network utilization.

I recommend installing this update on your iOS devices as soon as possible.  Hopefully it doesn't break something else. 

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Windows Server 2012 Deduplication is Amazing!

Saturday, February 16, 2013
The following article describes how to use Windows Server data deduplication on an Solid State Drive (SSD) that holds active Hyper-V virtual machines.

Coloring Outside the Lines Statement:
This configuration is not supported by Microsoft.  See Plan to Deploy Data Deduplication for more information.  Use these procedures at your own risk. That said, it works great for me.  Your mileage may vary.

A while back I decided to add another 224GB SATA III SSD to my blistering Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V server for my active VMs.  The performance is outstanding and it makes the server dead silent.  I moved my primary always-on HyperV VM workloads to this new SSD:
  • Domain Controller on WS2012
  • Exchange 2010 multi-role server on WS2012
  • TMG server on WS2008 R2
These VMs took 134GB, or 60%, of the capacity of the drive which was fine at the time.  Later, I added a multi-role Exchange 2013 server which took up another 60GB of space.  That left me with only 13% free space, which didn't leave much room for VHD expansion and certainly not enough to host any other VMs.  Rather than buy another larger and more expensive SSD, I decided to see how data deduplication performs in Windows Server 2012.

Add the Data Deduplication Feature
Data Deduplication is a feature of the File and Storage Services role in Windows Server 2012.  It's not installed by default, so you need to install it using the Add Roles and Features Wizard (as above) or by using the following PowerShell commands:

PS C:\> Import-Module ServerManager
PS C:\> Add-WindowsFeature -Name FS-Data-Deduplication
PS C:\> Import-Module Deduplication

Next, you need to enable data deduplication on the volume.  Use the File and Storage Services node of Server Manager and click Volumes.  Then right-click the drive you want to configure for deduplication and select Configure Data Deduplication, as shown below:

Configuring Data Deduplication on Volume X:
So far, this is how you normally configure deduplication for a volume.  You would normally configure deduplication to run on files older than X days, enable background optimization, and schedule throughput optimization to run on at specified days and times.  It's pretty much a "set it and forget it" configuration.

From here on I'm going to customize deduplication for my Hyper-V SSD.

In the Configure Data Deduplication Settings for the SSD, select Enable data deduplication and configure it to deduplicate files older than 0 days. Click the Set Deduplication Schedule button and uncheck Enable background optimization, Enable throughput optimization, and Create a second schedule for throughput optimization.

Enable Data Deduplication for Files Older Than 0 Days

Disable Background Optimization and Throughput Optimization Schedules
Click OK twice to finish the configuration.  What we've done is enabled data deduplication for all files on the volume, but deduplication will not run in real-time or on a schedule.  Note that these deduplication schedule settings are global and affect all drives configured for deduplication on the server.

You can also configure these data deduplication settings from PowerShell using the following commands:
PS C:\> Enable-DedupVolume X:
PS C:\> Set-Dedupvolume X: -MinimumFileAgeDays 0
PS C:\> Set-DedupSchedule -Name "BackgroundOptimization", "ThroughputOptimization", "ThroughputOptimization-2" -Enabled $false
This configuration mitigates the reason why Microsoft does not support data deduplication on drives that host Hyper-V VMs.  Mounted VMs are always open for writing and have a fairly large change rate.1  This is the reason Microsoft says, "Deduplication is not supported for files that are open and constantly changing for extended periods of time or that have high I/O requirements."

In order to deduplicate the files and recover substantial disk space you need to shutdown the VMs hosted on the volume and then run deduplication manually with this command:
PS C:\> Start-DedupJob –Volume X: –Type Optimization
This manual deduplication job can take some time to run depending on the amount of data and the speed of your drive.  In my environment it took about 90 minutes to deduplicate a 224GB SATA III SSD that was 87% full.  You can monitor the progress of the deduplication job at any time using the Get-DedupJob cmdlet.  The cmdlet shows the percentage of progress, but does not return any output once the job finishes.

You can also monitor the job using Resource Monitor, as shown below:

Process Monitor During Deduplication
Here you can see that the Microsoft File Server Data Management Host process (fsdmhost.exe) is processing the X: volume.  When the deduplication process completes, the X: volume queue length will return to 0.

Once deduplication completes you can restart your VMs, check the level of deduplication, and how much data has been recovered.  From the File and Storage Services console, right-click the volume and select Properties:

Properties of Deduplicated SSD Volume
Here we can see that 256GB of raw data has been deduplicated to 61.5GB on this 224GB SSD disk - a savings of 75%!!!  That leaves 162GB of raw disk storage free.  I could easily create or move additional VMs to this disk and run the deduplication job again.

The drive above now actually holds more reconstituted data than the capacity of the drive itself with no noticeable degradation in performance.  It currently hosts the following active Hyper-V VMs:

  • Domain Controller on WS2012
  • Exchange 2010 multi-role server on WS2012
  • TMG server on WS2008 R2
  • Exchange 2013 multi-role server on WS2012
  • Exchange 2013 CAS on WS2012
  • Exchange 2013 Mailbox Server on WS2012
  • Because real-time optimization is not being performed, the VMs will grow over time as changes are made and data is added. The manual deduplication job would need to be run as needed to recover space.
  • Since the SSD actually contains more raw duplicated data than the drive can hold, I'm unable to disable deduplication without moving some data off the volume first.
  • Even though more VMs can be added to this volume, you have to be sure that there is sufficient free space on the volume to perform deduplication.
For even more information about Windows Server 2012 data deduplication, I encourage your to read Step-by-Step: Reduce Storage Costs with Data Deduplication in Windows Server 2012!

I hope you find this article useful in your own deployments and I'm interested to know what your experience is.  Please leave a comment below!

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Exchange 2010 SP3 and Exchange 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yesterday Microsoft released Service Pack 3 for Exchange 2010.  You can download Exchange 2010 SP3 here.

We had been told at MEC 2012 that Exchange 2010 SP3 would be required for Exchange 2013 interoperability, and it is. Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that we now need to wait for Exchange 2013 Cumulative Update 1 to complete the coexistence story.  Exchange 2013 CU1 is due Q1 2013 -- in other words, within 90 days or so.  I expect that it might be sooner.

Exchange 2013 CU1 includes a number of fixes that will make the coexistence story much better and smoother.  It will be worth the wait.  This will be the first update for Exchange 2013 using the new service strategy and we can expect new CUs every quarter.

The good news is that this gives us time to install Exchange 2010 SP3 in our environments prior to introducing Exchange 2013 to production.  It also gives us time to test coexistence in a test lab, or as stated on the EHLO Blog, "Customers can test and validate this update in a representative lab environment prior to rolling out in their production environments as an important coexistence preparatory step before introducing Exchange Server 2013 CU1."

Exchange 2010 SP3 updates the schema version to 14734.  The Exchange 2013 schema version is 15137.  You can run the following command from a CMD prompt to determine your current Exchange schema version:

dsquery * CN=ms-Exch-Schema-Version-Pt,cn=schema,cn=configuration,dc=domain,dc=local -scope base -attr rangeUpper
You can refer to the Exchange table in the TechNet article, "How to determine the current Active Directory or Exchange Server schema version", to determine your current schema version.

Even if you have no plans to migrate to Exchange 2013 yet, Exchange 2010 SP3 includes several important updates and fixes, as well as allowing you to install Exchange 2010 on Windows Server 2012.  This is really huge, since Windows Server 2012 is an amazing platform and Exchange can really benefit from SMB3.  And since Windows 2012 includes PowerShell v3, this means that Exchange 2010 should be compatible with that version and the Management Framework 3.0.

SP3 also includes a new Sent Items Management feature for Outlook Web Access. This provides control over whether an item that is "sent as" you, or "on behalf of" you, is copied to your Sent Items folder and to the sender’s Sent Items folder. Before Exchange 2010 SP3, messages that are "sent as" you or "on behalf of" you are copied only to the sender's Sent Items folder.

You can configure the Sent Items Management feature in OWA on the Options page.

Note that RU6 for Exchange 2010 SP2 was also released yesterday.  Exchange 2010 SP3 includes all those fixes, plus additional ones.  Refer to the EHLO Blog article and TechNet for details.

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Lync 2013 CU1 Released - With a Nice Surprise!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Lync 2013 Cumulative Update 1 (CU1) was released today and it includes a nice surprise -- the ability to hide offline contacts in the contact list.

The Lync 2013 client update is comprised of two separate updates, lyncloc2013-kb2760512 and msores2013-kb2767852.  Both updates are available in x86 and x64 versions. 

Now that Lync 2013 is an Office component, the version you chose should match the version of Office 2013 you have installed.  If you try to install the x64 version of an update when you have the x86 version of Office installed, you'll get an error:

Wrong Update Architecture

The update requires a reboot.  Once you login to Lync 2013 you can go to Options > Contact List, where you will find a new option, "Show contacts with away, offline and unknown presences in a separate group".

Lync 2013 Options > Contact Lists

This option is defaulted to off. When you turn it on Lync 2013 creates a new dynamic group at the bottom called "Away and Offline Contacts".  Anyone who is not available at the moment is moved to this group.  Your other groups only contain users who are online, as shown below:

If no one is online for a particular group, the group shows (0) members.  Pretty cool!

Another new option is the ability to select which client Lync 2013 uses for meetings -- The Lync 2013 desktop client or the Lync app from the Windows App Store.  

Here's the Lync MX client that is available from the App Store.

You can download the Lync 2013 CU1 updates here.

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