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A Collection of Random Thoughts
Thursday, January 20, 2005
The Future of Exchange: part deux
Another article about the roadmap for Exchange appears in NetworkWorldFusion. There is some additional information in this article that doesn't appear in the previous one. Such as:

Exchange supposedly will be able to be split into 6 distinct roles via a wizard. Those roles are
1. Bridgehead server
2. Edge server
3. Mailbox
4. Client access server
5. Unified messaging server
6. Legacy server to host public folders. (Wow - does that mean Public Folders will be a thing of the past?)

Read the entire article here.

The Future of Exchange
A new article was published on CNET News.com yesterday that details some of the plans for the next version of Exchage. Although it's still too early to tell what will still be in the final product, this outlines what the current plans are. It will be interesting to see how the voicemail and faxing capabilities are integrated, and will also be worth seeing how current competition reacts.

I'm also excited about the capability to choose "roles" for servers. I suspect this will make administration easier for many, although I haven't seen any sort of list yet that details what the actual roles will be. The ability to support 64-bit computing should also promise to be a good feature.


Friday, January 14, 2005
What a mess....
Alright, I'm on a rant today. Here's the subject of my current rant. http://searchexchange.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid43_gci1043858,00.html?track=NL-368&ad=501419

I guess part of the problem here is that the author of this article chose to quote a non-Microsoft employee. Ok - let's be fair; it's probably not the easiest thing in the world to get an official quote from Microsoft, but I think it would be nice to verify the information you gather.

So what's my big problem with this article? Well, 2 things come to mind. Let's take a look at the article a little closer, shall we?

First, Microsoft rules out a new Exchange data store. Whooooaaaaa! Stop the presses! Whaddya mean? Hasn't the plan always been to put Exchange on a SQL database? To be honest, I don't understand what the added benefits would be. SQL replication or log shipping? Maybe, but there is no guarantee those features would even be enabled or supported. SQL would have to be re-written to be optimized for e-mail (not a trivial thing here), and I suspect it would take a couple of iterations to make it work optimally. Part two of this conversation is: Why does everyone think that JET (EASE) is so bad? Possibly part of the misconception comes from everyone associating JET with Access, which does in fact use a Jet database, but it is based on the Jet Red version. Exchange 4.0 and 5.0 used Jet, but it was Jet Blue. There is no comparison between Jet Red and Jet Blue - they are so totally different it isn't even funny. Exchange 5.5 used yet another revision of Jet, referred to as ESE (Extensible Storage Engine), ESE97 to be exact. It has been optimized for Exchange, and works pretty darn well. Ok - this perhaps wasn't always the case, as Exchange 5.5 was more prone to corruption, but with ESE98 (the version that Exchange 2000 and 2003 uses), this is much less of an issue. Plus, you have to remember that 99.9% of the time (a figure I made up on the spot of course), corruption is caused by hardware issues, such as bad memory, or a failing RAID controller. Corruption in the stores that is actually caused by Exchange is much less common. Exchange 2003 SP1 even has a new feature called ECC (Error Correcting Code) Checksum, which is designed to further prevent potential problems by automatically correcting certain errors.

OK - second problem I have with the article is the misinformation presented by Brien Posey, based on the following:

Exchange Server 2003 Enterprise Edition is designed for up to 38 GB, although performance takes a hit when you go beyond that, he said. But Microsoft has let IT administrators run a lot of parallel information stores to compensate.

I guess I must have missed the bus on this one, because I have never seen or heard anything like this. Others I know have commented similarly, but this is just flat out wrong. Exchange is designed to scale into the Terabytes, should an administrator so desire. Of course, the server hosting such a store would have to be properly sized, but that's another story. The only recommendation I have ever come across for database sizing indicate that you should size your databases based on your restore window. In other words, if you have SLA's that dictate your restore time can take no longer than 6 hours, then you need to size your databases to meet that SLA. That of course depends a lot on the backup hardware (DLT, SDLT, LTO, backup to disk, snapshot, etc.) and also to some degree depends on the software used to back up the information stores. BackupExec, for instance, will probably be able to have a higher throughput than say, NTBackup, which is built-in to Windows.

Now as the database grows, the disk I/O that it consumes does go up. Larger files need more I/O. At which point, however, do you say "performance takes a hit". What are you comparing performance to? Is it from a user perspective, or from a server perspective? Are the databases stored on a RAID 5 volume, a RAID 1+0 volume, a RAID 10 volume? Is Exchange being allocated a dedicated spindle/volume? What type of disks? 10,000 rpm? 15,000 rpm? DAS, NAS or SAN? These are all variables that must be taken into consideration. Of course if you are running a 100gb database on a 3-disk RAID 5 volume, odds are your users aren't going to be happy. But you also haven't done your homework on disk sizing. There just isn't any reason to make a blanket statement like that. The same rule is still true when using multiple databases. Many people are aware that Exchange 2000 and 2003 allow you to host multiple databases on the same server (a welcome change, I might add). In fact, you can have up to 20 databases on a server (4 storage groups, 5 databases per storage group). This is all well and good, but it also dictates proper server sizing. I don't see much benefit of creating 20 databases that are housed on the same RAID volume, and I would expect that the disk I/O would be even greater than 1 gigantic database. Maybe I'm off base there, I dunno. What I'm trying to say is that the same proper server sizing procedures apply here.

Anyways, I think I've reached the end of my rant. As always, I'd appreciate your comments.

Thursday, January 06, 2005
New Anti-spyware tool from Microsoft
Microsoft has released a public beta of their new anti-spyware tool. More information about it can be found here:
I've already downloaded and installed it (I've already got several others installed including Ad-aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, Spyware Blaster among others). So now let's see how easy it is to use.

The installation itself was fairly straight-forward. For end-users, accepting all the defaults will work just fine. My only complaint: the scheduler is enabled by default to run at 2:00 am. During the install, I did not enable the daily scan (there is an option not to), but yet when I went into the scheduling portion of the app, it was enabled and set to run daily at 2:00 am. Perhaps this will be fixed in a more recent release, but I typically don't run any anti-spyware scans on a daily basis. I do have Spybot's resident IE scanner, and I also enabled the Microsoft Anti-spyware shield. So on to the gory details. What did it find? I was intrigued to know if it would find anything that the others didn't.

To it's credit, it did in fact find some additional spyware. Although none of it is what I would consider truly malicious (some of the really nasty ones start creating pornographic links on your desktop among other things), it was interesting to see that it did find them. I also was impressed that with each instance of spyware found, you have the ability to report it to a "community".

Bottom line is that this looks to be a useful tool. I'll be watching to see how the product progresses. Also yet to be determined is if Microsoft will end up charging for the software once it is released.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
RPC/HTTP Problems anyone?
Everyone that has tried to implement RPC/HTTP knows that it isn't particularly easy and can be rather time-consuming. Kudos goes to Microsoft for making it much easier with Exchange 2003 SP1. Even though the requirements are many, the documentation is actually pretty good about detailing what the requirements are.

If you happen to be one of those people that just can't make it work, here is an additional tip that I found in the newsgroups this past week. Basically, rpcproxy.dll gets registered as a web service extension in IIS (the actual web extension is RPC Proxy Server Extension). rpcproxy.dll is located in the c:\windows\system\rpcproxy directory. If the RPC Proxy Server Extension required files is pointing at the wrong file name/path (in this case, it was pointing to c:\windows\system\rpcproxy.dll instead of c:\windows\system\rpcproxy\rpcproxy.dll), then configuring everything else will still result in RPC/HTTP not working. Fortunately, the fix here is as simple as adding the correct file/path to the required files, then removing the incorrect one.

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