A closer look at the “Minimal Hybrid Configuration” option

Just a few weeks ago, Microsoft announced a new feature in its line-up of hybrid Exchange capabilities: the Minimal Hybrid Configuration option. With the introduction of this new capability, Microsoft seems to have responded to a long-standing question from customers who can now move mailboxes to Office 365 without the need to deploy a ‘full’ Hybrid configuration.

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Exchange Hybrid Deployments and cross-premises Full Access permissions

Nothing but excellent news in the hybrid Exchange realm these days! Microsoft recently updated the support statement for cross-premises permissions in a hybrid deployment. As of now, Full Access delegate permissions are supported cross-premises. I know many customers will be delighted to hear this as this has been a big ask for quite some time now.

It’s important to understand that the support only applies to Full Access permissions, as stated here. Other permissions like Send-As, Receive-As or Send-on-Behalf are still not supported. Note that Microsoft is in the process of updating its documentation; you should see a more consistent message across TechNet over the next few days!

Although full access permissions have been reported to work intermittently, no cross-premises permissions were supported previously. As such, you could not rely on them working either. From what I understand, the plumbing was already in place for a while but the intermittent results were partially due to the Outlook client not honoring them quite as one would expect. Provided you have the November 2015 update to Outlook 2013, you should no longer run into any problems.

As you move mailboxes to Office 365, permissions are migrated along. If you already had permissions assigned before the move, there is nothing you need to do. Although the permissions were also migrated previously, you had to move connected mailboxes at the same time so they would be hosted in the same organization in order for them to work. Not too long ago, I was talking to a customer who started out with a handful of mailboxes to move to Office 365 but ended up with a huge migration batch because of the interweaved permissions… As of now, this is no longer needed, making planning for migration batches a lot easier!

You should now also be able to add the Full Access permissions after mailboxes have been moved. This means you can give an on-premises mailbox access to a mailbox in Office 365 and the other way around without having to set the permissions prior to moving the target mailbox to Office 365.

In order to explain things more clearly, I have put together a Q&A. I hope this helps!

Until later,


What cross-premises permissions are supported in a hybrid deployment today?

Full Access only. Other delegate permissions like Send-As, Receive-As or Send-on-Behalf are not. There are no changes to cross-premises calendar delegation either. That continues to work the same way it did before.

Will the permissions work both ways?

Yes. On-premises mailboxes can access Office 365 mailboxes and vice versa.

What do I need to do to make this work?

Nothing, really. Just make sure you are using an up-to-date Outlook client. For Outlook 2013, this means you need at least the November 2015 Cumulative Updates. Needless to say, the more up-to-date you are, the better!

In order to add permissions for a recipient in the other organization, you can either use PowerShell or the Exchange Admin Center. Unlike the EAC in Office 365, you cannot use the on-premises EAC to grant an Office 365 mailbox access to an on-premises mailbox. For that you must revert to using PowerShell.

How do I add permissions to an Office 365 mailbox for an on-premises recipient?

Follow these steps to add Full Access permissions to an Office 365 mailbox for an on-premises recipient:

  1. Login to the EAC in Office 365 (Exchange Online)
  2. Navigate to recipients > mailboxes and then select properties of the mailbox you want to add Full Access permissions for.
  3. In the properties window, navigate to mailbox delegation
  4. Scroll down to you get to the Full Access From there, use the recipient picker (plus-sign) to add the on-premises mailbox you wish to grant permissions to:
  5. Click save.

How do I add permissions to an on-premises mailbox for an Office 365 recipient?

As mentioned earlier, you cannot use the EAC to add permissions for an Office 365 recipient. Instead, you must use the on-premises Exchange Management Shell. Don’t worry it’s quite simple!

Add-MailboxPermission –Identity <On-Prem_mailbox_to_give_permissions_for> -User <O365_mailbox_to_give_permissions_to> -AccessRights FullAccess –AutoMapping $false

For example:

Add-MailboxPermission –Identity onpremmbx@domain.com –User clouduser@domain.com –AccessRights FullAccess –AutoMapping $false

Unlike for permissions in the same environment, the AutoMapping feature is not supported. Hence why I specified the –AutoMapping $false parameter. I suspect the permissions to work without adding the parameter too!

What will my users see?

There is no difference in how Outlook displays an Office 365 mailbox over an on-premises mailbox you have access to. However, an on-premises user might get prompted for credentials when trying to access a mailbox in Office 365. This is because, in the back, the Outlook client must establish a connection with the Office 365 service first.

How that looks, depends on a number of things like the version of the Outlook client, whether you use Modern Authentication and whether or not they already have another Office 365 mailboxes in their Outlook profile.

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Azure AD Connect is now GA

Yesterday, Microsoft announced they released Azure AD Connect and Azure AD Connect Health to the public.
Azure AD Connect can be seen as the successor to DirSync/AADSync, with an added edge. It does not only allow you to configure directory synchronization, but the wizard also allows you to automatically setup and configure Active Directory Federation Services instead of having to go through the motions manually.

The GA of the tool has been long awaited and it’s great to finally see it become available for everyone. Make sure to check back in the weeks to come as I will more than likely be posting some articles on what’s new and how to deal with the tool.

You can read the original announcement here. If you want to skip the ‘boring’ stuff and get going straight away, you can get the tool from here.


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3rd-party federation solutions for Office 365 (part 1): Celestix ADFS Bridge

As mentioned before, the purpose of this article series is to explore 3rd-party federation solutions that work with Office 365 and which can be an alternative to a Windows’ built-in ADFS server role. In this first article however, I will be discussing a solution which is somewhat different from the others that I will be looking into.

In fact, this solution is not really very different from a regular deployment. The company behind this solution is Celestix, whom have made their name with similar approaches for TMG, UAG and before that ISA servers. This time around, they [Celestix] have made an ADFS appliance out of a ‘regular’ Windows Server 2012 R2 machine. Through a custom web page, which is built into the appliance as a service in Windows, you have the ability to easily configure ADFS and DirSync by following a couple steps in the “Quick Setup Wizard”. Under the hood, the wizard will configure Microsoft’s implementation of ADFS and DirSync for you.


(the appliance’s web portal)


For this article series, Celestix was so kind to send me a (test)example of their A-Series (3400) appliance which is targeted at small to medium-sized organizations. The appliance is built on top of an Intel i5 CPU with a total of 8GB of RAM. Based on my experiences in the field, this ought to be more than enough for most (smaller) environments. There’s also a larger model which – by taking a look at the specs – is targeted more at the enterprise level. The CPU is upgraded to an Xeon E3 and comes with 16GB of RAM. More importantly though, the big brother (A-6400) comes with 2 redundant hot-swappable hard drives and powers supplies, whereas its little brother doesn’t have any of that.

It’s safe to assume that an appliance would cost anywhere between $ 4,000 and $ 5,000 (but don’t hold me to that!). For that kind of money – even though it includes the license for Windows too – it would be nice to have had at least a redundant hard drive; just for peace of mind. But then again, not many vendors offer that with their entry-level models.


(unboxing the appliance)

Celestix also has a solution for the ADFS Proxy role, which is built into their E-Series “Cloud Edge” appliance. I haven’t tested that appliance myself, but I can only assume it operates in a similar way as the A-Series. If you want a highly available setup, you will have to purchase at least 4 devices –just like you would do for a regular Windows-based ADFS setup; 2 Cloud Edge devices (to replace the ADFS proxy servers) and 2 A-Series appliances for the ADFS servers.

It is true that you could setup a (virtual) machine yourself and go through the configuration just as easy –that is if you know the steps to execute. But on the other hand, the configuration of ADFS in Windows Server 2012 R2 has become quite easy to do. On top of that, Microsoft is putting quite a bit effort into making it even more easy through e.g. Azure AD Connect; a solution which lets you configure DirSync and AD FS through a wizard. And that solutions comes for “free”… (although nothing is truly free; there’s always some overhead to take into account). Another thing I’m a little “worried” about is the device’s ability to upgrade specific software components. Right now, the appliance is equipped with ‘regular’ DirSync (not AAD Sync). If you are not looking to configure a multi-organization hybrid deployment or if you don’t have multiple forests, this should not be a problem at this very moment. But on the other hand, Microsoft has already mentioned that AAD Sync is the successor to DirSync which means the latter will disappear at some point.

It will be interesting to see how Celestix will deal with the upgrade to AADSync on the same appliance. As you might know, there is no in-place upgrade and switching from the one to the other is (sometimes) a little daunting. The current guidance for the upgrade is to uninstall DirSync and then install AADsync, at least – that’s the theory! And we all know how theories work in real life… When I spoke with the Celestix folks, they told me they were already working on figuring out a way to deal with this and they are also working on a version of their appliance that comes with AAD Sync out-of-the box.

A good thing about this appliance – unlike most other appliance – is that you have full control over the underlying operating system: you can RDP into it at any time and make changes where needed – of course, within the guidance of the vendor! But when it comes to ADFS or DirSync, this means that you could implement custom ADFS Claim Rules or configure some filtering rules. Unfortunately, there is no web interface for that.

One thing which I didn’t particularly like is how one would deal with high availability – but that might be a personal thing. When purchasing multiple devices, the web interface allows you to start the Windows Network Load Balancin management interface to setup an array and include multiple appliances. While NLB might work just fine, I’m not particularly fond of it. Also, the web interface launches the Windows NLB console; there’s no built-in wizard which guides you through the setup. I would have loved to see this feature be developed a little more – for instance including a wizard which sets up Windows Network Load Balancing, or which includes additional health checks over the built-in TCP connection-based health check. It is do-able, there are even some code samples that you can find on the internet: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc307934(v=vs.85).aspx

I’m not saying it’s easy per se, but it would provide a lot of value for the audience which I think would benefit most from these kind of appliances.

Configuring AD FS & DirSync

Now that we’ve discussed the device a little, let’s take a look at home to start configuring it.

After having it connected to the network, I used the dial button on the device to do the basic networking configuration (assigning IP address etc). The configuration itself went fairly easy, but I was unable to connect to the device afterwards. It left me baffled for a moment, but after rebooting the appliance, I could connect to the web interface just right.


The first thing that I noticed is how clean the interface is. It’s particularly easy to navigate, and I had no problems finding what I needed. Through the Start menu-item, you can launch the Quick Setup Wizard where you immediately get the opportunity to join the machine to the domain.


Next up is a (mandatory) reboot, just like you would expect when joining a Windows machine to a domain:


After each reboot, the wizard will automatically continue where it left off. The next step is to start configuring ADFS. I chose to configure ADFS in the most simple way possible, using the built-in Windows Internal Database:


Oddly enough, the appliance does not allow you to generate a CSR. This means that you already have to have exported the certificate (with public key) before. It’s not a big deal, but it would have been nice if one could really work ‘from scratch’ here:




I chose the easy route: using Windows’ built-in database. The wizard also allows you to integrate with an existing SQL server – which is a requirement/recommendation for larger deployments:


Just like the wizard in Windows, you get a summary before firing of the wizard which will configure AD FS.
For those who have setup AD FS in Windows Server 2012 R2 before, you will notice that the wizard which Celestix uses is very similar: all the steps in this wizard are also the ones that you have to step through when configuring a Windows ADFS server.

It takes a few minutes to setup AD FS. Once this is done, you can go back to the wizard, which will then give you the option to configure “Office 365 Integration”. This means as much as: setup DirSync.


Next, you have to enter the Office 365 (Global Administrator) credentials, and you choose which domain you want to federate:


At this point, the appliance was giving me a hard time. It wouldn’t continue and displayed the following error message. As any administrator would do, I restarted it and was able to move on.


On the next page, I was able to specify some settings for DirSync. If you have setup DirSync manually before, I’m sure you will recognize them:


And that was it. After clicking “Next”, DirSync ran and I was able to successfully logon using ADFS:


The ADFS login-page. Just as you would expect:



What I particularly like about this solution is that it has some built-in reports. This can be very useful as the built-in AD FS roles does not come with that capability and looking for the right events in the Event Viewer can be time-consuming (unless you have already some reporting solution / PowerShell script that does that for you).

The first report is the ADFS Activity Report which gives you more information about the current authentication requests etc. I’ve simulated some failed logons and they showed up promptly (and correctly) in the interface:


The second report is more of a health statistics page. It will tell you if the required components are running and display some statistics about general usage.


The beauty of these reports are their simplicity. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to configure an alert when multiple failed logons occur. I was assured by Celestix that this is something they are working on for the future, and I welcome that. It would be really helpful if the right people in the organization would get a message when you might be under attack (or when just “more than usual” failed login attempts happen…).

In order not to go overboard with this article, there are some features (which are less important to the “ADFS Aspect” of the appliance) that I did not discuss. For instance, the web interface allows you to restrict access through the device’s Jog Dial (by configuring a password) and


I really liked the appliance, though I cannot speak to its performance and operations over time. Aside of some occasional hiccups (i.e. having to reboot the appliance through the wizard), I’ve had no problems configuring and getting it to work in a matter of a little more than one hour. Given that this is a v1-version, I trust these little wrinkles will sort themselves out shortly.

All things considered, some might find value in such an appliance, others might not. It all depends on what you are looking for. Personally, I don’t think there’s much value to be found if you are looking something to “replace” your AD FS servers with. However, if you take into account the (childishly) easy web interface and the built-in reports or if you have a small deployment and do not want the burden to manage additional servers, it might be a different story!

Stay tuned as in the next part of this article series, I will be discussing Okta for Office 365!

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Hybrid Free/Busy lookups might fail if Outlook Anywhere is disabled

Recently, I bumped into Jaap Wesselius’ article about an issue he encountered about Hybrid Free/Busy lookups failing. As this relates to Hybrid Exchange, I was – of course – intrigued and remembered that I (once) encountered a similar scenario, but could not remember how I resolved the problem back then.

After some digging, I came across the following KB article which describes the behavior of Free/Busy requests and why they might fail of Outlook Anywhere is disabled (blocked) on the user-level: http://support2.microsoft.com/kb/2734791/en-us?sd=rss&spid=13159

To make a long story short, if Outlook Anywhere is disabled at the user level, Autodiscover does not return the External EWS URL which is required to make the Free/Busy call.

The solution is as simple as the problem itself: re-enable Outlook Anywhere for the user and you would be fine. Of course, this might – depending on your environment – be a little challenging. This being said, however, I do suggest that you configure and (if possible) use Outlook Anywhere as it will make your life easier down the road (e.g. for migrations to Exchange 2013).

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Microsoft manages to ship yet another broken Cumulative Update…

A few days ago, Microsoft released Cumulative Update 6 for Exchange 2013 to the world. There used to be a time where Exchange server updates were fairly safe. However, pretty much like in every other Cumulative Update for Exchange 2013, this one also includes some bugs which break functionality in one way or another. While one would say that it starts to become painful for Microsoft, I’m starting to believe it’s more of a joke.

Exchange Server MVP Jeff Guillet was the one to first report the issue. As it turns out, the Hybrid Configuration Wizard in CU6 runs just fine, but some of the features (like initiating a mailbox move from the on-premises EAC or the ability to switch between the on-prem/cloud EAC) no longer work. Although the scope of the break is somewhat limited (it only applies to customers in a hybrid deployment), one could argue it’s an important focus area for Microsoft – especially given that it’s cloud-related. Microsoft has been trying really hard (with success, may I add) to promote Office 365 and get customers to onboard to “the service”. As such, I find it really surprising that it’s the n-th issue related to hybrid deployments in such a short time. In Cumulative Update 5, the Hybrid Configuration Wizard is broken and now there’s this.

Needless to say, you are warned about deploying Cumulative Updates into production. Pretty much every MVP which announced the Cumulative Update made the remark that you should better test the update before deploying it. I would say this is a general best-practice, but given the history of recent Exchange Server updates, I wouldn’t dare to deploy one without thoroughly testing it.

This brings me to another point: what happened to testing, Microsoft? I understand that it’s impossible to test every customer scenario that you can find out there, but how come that pretty obvious functionalities like these manage to slip through the cracks? If it were a one-time event, I could understand. But there’s a clear trend developing here.

Running a service like Office 365 is not easy. More so, the cadence at which the service evolves can be really scathing. On-premises customers have been struggling to keep up with the updates that are being released in the cloud, but it seems that Microsoft itself is having a hard time to keep up too.

On a final note, I’m wondering what customers with a hybrid deployment should do. According to Microsoft support guidelines, hybrid customers are requested to stay current with Exchange Server updates. But given that this is now two consecutive update that are causing problems, one might start to wonder if it’s not better to stay at CU4 as it was the last CU which did not have any hybrid issues…

I imagine that Microsoft is working hard on a fix for this issue, even during a holiday weekend… Let’s wait and see what happens early next week!

Until then, I would hold off on deploying CU6 and revert to using CU5 with the interim update which fixes the HCW bug or – if you don’t like IUs – stick to CU4/SP1.

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Hybrid Configration Wizard fails with error ‘Mail Flow Default Receive Connector cannot be found on server…’

Recently, I got asked to assist with a Hybrid Configuration Wizard which was failing with the following error message:

Updating hybrid configuration failed with error ‎’Subtask NeedsConfiguration execution failed: Configure Mail Flow Default Receive Connector cannot be found on server <server name>. at Microsoft.Exchange.Management.Hybrid.MailFlowTask.DoOnPremisesReceiveConnectorNeedConfiguration‎()‎ at…

Although the message might not reveal much information at first sight, it does contain everything we need to start troubleshooting. Typically, I would suggest you go and have a look into the Hybrid Configuration Wizard log files (located in the logging\Update-HybridConfiguration folder), but the only thing you would find there is the exact same error message.

First, we know that the HCW is trying to configure the hybrid mail flow and that it failed trying to modify the default connector that’s in place. More specifically, it was trying to modify the receive connector on the server that’s specified in the error message.

In this particular case, it wasn’t even able to find the Default Receive Connector. However, when you run the Get-ReceiveConnector -Server <servername>, the receive connector does show up. How is this possible?

The Hybrid Configuration Wizard looks at more specifics than just the existence of the connector. In fact, it will check that the connector’s configuration is valid as well. As such, it will check the bindings on the connector and expect that both bindings for IPv4 and IPv6 are present. So to check whether your existing connector is valid, you should run the following command:

Get-ReceiveConnector -Server <servername> | fl Identity,Bindings


In this particular case, the IPv6 bindings were missing. This was caused because IPv6 was disabled on the server (which shouldn’t be!). Re-enabling IPv6 and then either manually adding the binding to the connector or re-creating the connector solved the issue.

The morale here is that you shouldn’t disable IPv6 on an Exchange 2013 box. Even more so, it’s not supported if you do. I’ve seen companies that still disable IPv6 by default; maybe a remainder from earlier times where disabling IPv6 would actually solve issues instead of creating them. However, times have changed and the IPv6 implementation in Windows is much better now…

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