New hybrid Organization Config Transfer-feature (OCT) announced

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the Organization Config Transfer feature (OCT) in the Hybrid Configuration Wizard. The feature is expected to start showing up starting late June 2018. In an ongoing effort to improve the Wizard, I believe this is a step in the right direction. Ever since the HCW was first conceived, running the HCW resulted in a series of steps which you had to (manually) run through to ensure that the Exchange Online configuration matched the on-premises configuration.

For example, you had to recreate the retention policies and tags that existed in the on-premises organization if you wanted to continue to use them in Exchange Online (and not to lose them during a migration!). The same was true for other policies like the OWA Mailbox Policy or ActiveSync Policy.

With the OCT feature, the HCW will automatically take care of that and copy the settings of the following elements to Exchange online for you:

  • Retention Policy
  • Retention Policy Tags
  • OWA Mailbox Policy
  • Mobile Device Mailbox Policy
  • Active Sync Mailbox Policy

Note: in this version of the HCW, it will only copy “new” policies. These are policies that do not exist in Exchange Online. If a policy with the same name already exists in Exchange Online, or when you update the policy in the on-premises organization after it has been copied to Exchange Online, the OCT-feature will not “sync” the policy or updates thereof across. As per statement from Microsoft, this is something for the next version of the feature.

Some might say this is only a small addition to the HCW, and while it might not (yet) benefit existing Hybrid customers, it’s a welcome addition for any consultant working on getting customers across to Exchange Online as it makes life just a little easier!

I’m looking forward to what Microsoft has more for hybrid in the future. Remember BRK3155 at Ignite 2017? There was a ton of cool new stuff announced, but only little has been delivered so far… Let’s see what Microsoft might deliver for Ignite 2018 as, traditionally, there seems to be a sprint to get a lot of new features out of the door ahead of the annual conference of conferences.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

-Michael

Blog Office 365

Summary of announcements for Hybrid Exchange @ Ignite

Today, Microsoft has made some quite big (and important!) announcements around the work they are doing to improve the experience for Hybrid Exchange customers. These announcements were all “dropped” during session BRK3155 (How to thrive as an organization in Exchange Online), and – for most – came quite unexpected. If there’s one piece of feedback I would give Microsoft, it would be to better align the title of such sessions to their content!

This being said, with everything that was mentioned, I figured it would be a good idea to summarize it all (without going into too much detail) in a short write-up. As time permits, I will go into more detail on each of these items later this week.

If you’re not interested in more information about each feature, and just care about the headlines, here’s what was announced:

  1. Cross-premises delegation permissions (e.g. Send-on-Behalf, Calendar permissions, …) will be fully supported. Expected timeframe is Q1/2018. Fix for this is already rolling out in the service.
  2. Microsoft is working to solve the Automapping problem in hybrid deployments. Fix is being rolled out and (Private) Preview starting soon.
  3. In the future you will be able to remove the last Exchange server after having moved all mailboxes to the cloud. Plumbing for this has already started and expected to be released in the coming 12-18 months. Though with Microsoft, you never know!
  4. Microsoft is working on allowing you to move mailboxes cross-tenant. The capability to do so has been demoed in the session, but more work is needed to offer a more holistic approach. This is important, because cross-tenant migrations entail more than just moving mailboxes. There’s mail routing, there’s other workloads and – perhaps most importantly – there’s the need for proper governance. None of which was discussed (or showed) at this time. The timeline for this capability is the coming 12-18 months. This means that 3rd-party vendors (like QuadroTech, BinaryTree) are still very much needed to facilitate such scenarios today. Microsoft isn’t just there yet. Future will tell how useful Microsoft’s capability will be and how 3rd-party vendors will adopt to enhance the experience even further.
  5. To drive down complexity for hybrid deployments, a new hybrid solution backbone is being developed. This backbone which uses a “connector” will no longer require inbound connections (no more firewall ports to be opened) and is part of the solution for earlier new features. Think of the connector like an Azure App Proxy which uses the same principle (I wouldn’t be surprised that it’s a modified version thereof). Exchange Online will then, instead of using the “Public” Internet, route traffic to the connector through which it then makes its way to on-prem (outbound TCP443 connection). Timeline is in the next 6 months or so.
  6. Send-As permissions are a bit harder to solve. This will require item 4 to be solved (which will probably require item 5 to be done too). However, once that is done, this scenario will be covered as well. Today, however, the workaround is to explicitly define permissions in both EXO/On-Prem (it works!).

Other news – not necessarily hybrid related – that was announced in this session:

  1. Client Access Rules are coming to Exchange Online. These rules allow you to control how someone can access Exchange Online.
  2. new On Send events allow you to create add-ins which can fire when someone sends a message (e.g. DLP, content inspection, classification etc.). Currently only for OWA. Outlook clients coming (much) later.

There’s plenty of exciting stuff coming in the next few months. For now, we will still have to work with the limitations that exist, but if you are in the planning phase for Hybrid Exchange, it might be worth keeping these announcements in the back of your mind.

As things unfold over the coming weeks and months, I will be covering a lot of the details here, and in the Office 365 for IT Pros ebook. Make sure to grab your copy here!

Cheers,

Michael

Blog Exchange Hybrid Exchange

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.

Blog Exchange Hybrid Exchange Office 365

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,

Michael

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:
    hybridperm1
  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.

Blog Exchange Hybrid Exchange News Office 365

Speaking at IT/DEV Connections & UK UC Day

It’s been a while since I last wrote an article… Although there’s no excuses, I have been pretty busy lately…

First of all, I’ve been ‘heads down’ preparing version 2 of the “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals” ebook.
As Microsoft recently announced, there have been a LOT of updates and those need to be reflected in the book too!
New items include information on the new hybrid configuration wizard, modern authentication, Azure AD Connect and so much more… As Tony mentioned on his blog, we plan on releasing “v2” at IT/DEV Connections in September. If you are attending IT/DEV Connection,  Tony, Paul and I will be there too. Make sure to come and talk to us. We’d love to hear your feedback on the book.

This brings me to the conference itself. This year, I am lucky enough to be speaking there again. IT/DEV Connections is without a doubt one of my favorite tech conferences. It runs at a smaller scale than e.g. Ignite, but there’s a TON of great sessions, all led by even greater speakers! The fact that you aren’t overrun by ten thousands of other attendees allows you to interact with all the speakers. If not during the sessions, there are plenty of opportunities at the evening events or in hallway! You still have time to register, so if you are looking to attend a conference this ‘season’, IT/DEV Connections is what I would recommend. As usual, the conference is held in Las Vegas from September 14 – 17, in the beautiful Aria hotel.

I have two sessions this year. One about Identity Management and Authentication in the online Microsoft world. Although I still have a lot of work to do for my sessions (making sure I provide you with the latest information!), I can share with you that I will also be talking about Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport. This session is on Thursday at 8:30 AM.

The second session is somewhat different from what you’ve usually see me present about. On Wednesday at 11AM, I will be speaking about automation. The idea is not to be giving a theoretical session about how e.g. PowerShell DSC is supposed to work or what PowerShell is; other people are probably better suited for that! It won’t be a level 400 coding session either. I’m no developer and I’m also not a PowerShell guru! It’s rather a hands-on, real-world approach about how you can use all sorts of tools (mainly PowerShell though, but also e.g. Orchestrator) to automate simple and more complex tasks. The idea for this session grew from visiting customers all over the world and seeing how they automated service tasks, onboarding etc… By the end of the session you should have picked up some ideas about what can be useful to you and how to best approach and build it!

Later in September, I will be joining another fantastic line-up of speakers at the UK UC Day in Birmingham. This is the first time this one-day conference is held, but the organisation did not spare any efforts. A lot of speakers from IT/DEV Connections will be there and it’s good to see some speakers join us from the US too! This time, I will be speaking about hybrid deployments in all its glory. Single-forest, Multi-Forest, AAD Connect and many other things will be discussed. A high-paced session, but definitely for you if you are in a hybrid deployment, you are looking to configure a hybrid connection or you’re a consultant that deals a lot with hybrid!

ENow will be represented at both conferences as well! In the UK we are joined by the team of Essentials. Make sure to stop at our booth and have a conversation! We look forward to another great conference and an even greater Scheduled Maintenance party!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

-Michael

 

 

Blog Events

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.

Blog Exchange 2013 Hybrid Exchange News Office 365

The road ahead… New challenges!

Over the past twelve years I’ve gone through a series of jobs, from being a support agent at a helpdesk to being an Exchange consultant at Xylos today. All of the opportunities I have had and the customers I’ve worked with allowed me to grow as a consultant and as a person. I’m very grateful for the opportunities Xylos has offered me, but after having spent a little over six years working for them, I thought it was time for me to look forward and accept a new challenge.

As such, I’m happy and excited to announce that I will be joining ENow Software as of September 1st of this year as Product Director for their Exchange Monitoring and Reporting tools: Mailscape and Mailscape for Exchange Online. I look forward to working with all of the customers and getting feedback from the community to make the software even better than it already is today. Part of the reason why I chose for ENow is their unique approach and philosophy. ENow started out as a consulting company and continues to provide professional services which allows me to stay true to my “roots”.

I’m very excited about this new adventure as it allows me to combine the things I love to do along with the ability to contribute to a great piece of software. Over the past few months I have been working closely with ENow in order to build Mailscape for Exchange Online. So far, customers are thrilled with what they see and we have plenty more to come! (Did you know that Mailscape for Exchange Online was also nominated for the The Best of TechEd awards?)

In order to keep up with the ever-changing landscape in IT, I will continue to consult for ENow’s customers, albeit that I will spend less time doing so than I currently do. I strongly believe that staying hands-on with Exchange, Office 365 and everything related, will allow me to contribute better on a technical level but also allow me to better understand how our software should work with everything Microsoft does.

Of course, I will continue to blog here, speak at various tech conferences and be part of The UC Architects podcast. As a matter of fact, I’ll be speaking at Exchange Connections in September in Vegas where I will be presenting two sessions and a one-day workshop on deploying a Hybrid Exchange environment. If you haven’t signed up, I strongly suggest you do: after all IT/DEV Connections is one of the rare conferences where you get the chance to meet with real-world experts presenting no-nonsense and hands-on topics on various Microsoft technologies. This year’s edition has everything to make it even better than last year’s, including a new location: the beautiful Aria hotel/convention center.

Although I won’t officially be starting until September, feel free to reach out to me regarding Mailscape or ENow’s software in general. I’ll be more than happy to assist you with any questions you have. As always, you can follow me on twitter (@mvanhorenbeeck) or send me an email on michael.van.horenbeeck@enowsoftware.com!

-Michael

Blog