Along With Exchange Server 2010 SP3 Update Rollup 5 and Exchange Server 2007 SP3 Update Rollup 13, Microsoft released Cumulative Update 4 for Exchange Server 2013  – also known as Service Pack 1 – just moments ago. Although much more detail will follow in the days to come, below is already a short summary of what’s new and what’s changed in this release. In the upcoming weeks we’ll definitely be taking a closer/deeper look at these new features, so make sure to check back regularly!

Goodbye RPC/HTTP and welcome MAPI/HTTP

With Service Pack 1, the Exchange team introduced a new connectivity model for Exchange 2013. Instead of using RPC/HTTP (which has been around for quite a while), they have now introduced MAPI/HTTP. The big difference between both is that RPC is now cut away and therefore allow for a more resilient / lenient way to connect to Exchange. HTTP is still used for transport, but instead of ‘encapsulating’ MAPI in RPC packets, it’s now transported directly with the HTTP stream.

To enable MAPI/HTTP, run the following command:

Set-OrganizationConfig –MapiHttpEnabled $true

As you can see from the cmdlet, deploying MAPI/HTTP is an “all-or-nothing” approach. This means that you have to plan the deployment carefully. Switching from ‘traditional’ RPC/HTTP to MAPI/HTTP involves users restarting their Outlook (yes, the dreadful “Your Administrator has made a changed…”-dialog box is back). Luckily, the feature will – for now? – only work on Office 2013 Service Pack 1. Anyone who isn’t using this version will continue to use RPC/HTTP and will not be required to restart. Just keep it in mind when you upgrade your clients so that you don’t create a storm of calls to your helpdesk…

Anyway, because the feature is disabled by default – and because it traditionally takes a while before new software gets deployed – I don’t expect this feature to be widely used any time soon though.

Exchange Admin Center Command Logging

This is one of the most-wanted features ever since Exchange 2013 was released. Previously the Exchange 2010 logged all the cmdlets that it executed when you performed a task through the Management Console. However, because of the move from the EMC to the new web-based Exchange Admin Center (EAC), this feature disappeared which caused a lot of protest.

Now, in SP1, the feature – somewhat – returns and gives you the ability to capture the cmdlets the EAC executes whenever you’re using it. The feature itself can be found in the top-right corner of the EAC, when clicking the question mark button:

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Support for Windows Server 2012 R2

Another long-awaited and much-asked-for feature is the support for Windows Server 2012 R2. This means that you will be able to deploy Exchange 2013 SP1/CU4 on a server running Microsoft’s latest OS. At the same time, the support for Domain Controllers running Windows Server 2012 R2 was also announced. This effectively means that you no longer have to wait to upgrade your Domain Controllers!

S/MIME support for OWA

Another feature that existing in Exchange 2010, but didn’t make the bar for the RTM release of Exchange 2013 is S/MIME support for OWA. Now, however, it’s available again.

The return of the Edge Transport Server Role

It looks like the long lost son made its way back into the product. The Edge Transport Server role, that is. Although – honestly – the Edge Transport Server isn’t a much deployed server role – at least not in the deployments I come across, it is a features which is used quite a bit in hybrid deployments. This is mainly because it’s the only supported filtering solutions in a hybrid deployment. Any other type of filtering device/service/appliance [in a hybrid deployment] will cause you to do more work and inevitably cause more headaches as well.

This is definitely good news. However, there are some things to keep in mind. First of all, the Edge Transport server doesn’t have a GUI. While this is not much of an issue for seasoned admins, people who are new to Exchange might find the learning curve (PowerShell-only) a little steep.

General Fixes and Improvements

As with every Cumulative Update, this one probably also contains a bunch of improvements and fixes. More information to the download and the updates can be found here.

Support for SSL Offloading

Now, there’s also support again for SSL Offloading. This means that you are no longer required to re-encrypt traffic coming from e.g. a load-balancer after it decrypted it first. Although many customers like to decrypt/re-encrypt, there are deployments where SSL Offloading makes sense. Additionally, by offloading SSL traffic you spare some resources on the Exchange Server as it no longer has to decrypt traffic. The downside – however – is that traffic flows unencrypted between the load balancer and the Exchange Servers.

DLP Policy Tips in OWA

Data Loss Protection was one of the new features in Exchange 2013 RTM and was very well received in the market. It allows you to detect whenever sensitive data is being sent and take appropriate actions if so. Although DLP policies worked just fine in OWA, you wouldn’t get the Policy Tips (Warnings) as they were displayed in Outlook 2013. These tips are – in my opinion – one of the more useful parts of the DLP feature and that’s why I find it great they’ve finally added it into OWA. Now, you’re no longer required to stick to Outlook to get the same experience!

DLP Fingerprinting

As mentioned above, DLP allows you to detect whenever sensitive information is sent via email. However, detecting sensitive information isn’t always easy. Until now, you had to build (complex) Regular Expressions which would then be evaluated against the content being sent through Exchange. With the DLP Fingerprinting feature, you can now upload a document to Exchange which will then use that document as a template to evaluate content against. It is a great and easy way to make Exchange recognize certain files / type of files without having to code everything yourself in RegEx!

The DLP Fingerprinting feature can be found under Compliance Management > Data losse preventsion > Manage Document Fingerprints

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A more detailed overview of what DLP Fingerprinting is, has already been published on the EHLO Blog from the MS Exchange team: http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2014/02/25/data-loss-prevention-in-exchange-just-got-better.aspx

Rich text editing in OWA

Outlook Web App is already one of the best web-based email clients available. In search of brining more features to OWA to make it even better, the Exchange team now added also some – maybe less visible – but very welcome improvements to OWA. The rich text editing features is one of them.

For example, you have now more editing capabilities and you can easily add items like tables or embedding images:

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Database Availability Group without IP (Administrative Access Point)

Leveraging the new capabilities in Windows Server 2012 R2 (Failover Clustering), you can now deploy a DAG without an administrative Access Point (or IP Address). This should somehow simplify the deployment of a Database Availability Group.

Deploying Service Pack 1

The process for deploying Service Pack 1 isn’t different from any other Cumulative Update. In fact, Service Pack 1 is just another name for Cumulative Update 4. Basically, upgrading a server will do a back-to-back upgrade of the build which means that any customizations you have made to configuration files will most likely to be lost. Make sure to backup those changes and don’t forget to re-apply them. This is especially important if you have integrated Lync with Exchange 2013 as this (still) requires you to make changes to one of the web.config files!

After you have upgraded the servers, I would suggest that you reboot them. Because the way Managed Availability works, you might sometimes find the Frontend Transport Service not to work as expected for a while. Typically a reboot solves the ‘issue’ right away.

Other views

By the time I published this overview, some of the other MVPs already put some thoughts out there. Make sure to check them out:

Tony Redmond: http://windowsitpro.com/blog/exchange-2013-sp1-mixture-new-and-completed-fixtures

Have fun with it and make sure to check back in the following days as I’ll be zooming in into some of the features I discussed in this article!

-Michael

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