The Exchange Server 2016 Preview has been out for almost a month and I’m just now getting around to taking a look at it. I attended Ignite back in May 2015 when they announced Exchange Server 2016, and I have to say it has some pretty neat features coming with it. The main points I remember are being able to mix Exchange 2013 & 2016 servers into the same pool behind your load balancer as they will be able to up and down proxy to the appropriate version where the mailbox is stored (I believe this will require Exchange 2013 CU10 when it is released). Also the back-end server is now just one role, the Mailbox role, and it combines what was left of the Client Access and Mailbox roles from 2013.

As far as client facing features, the ability to “attach” a document that is saved out on a SharePoint library or OneDrive share to an email without actually sending the document is pretty neat. Documents being sent through email over and over and being stored in mailboxes makes up the majority of space taken up in databases. Being able to send a link to the document more intuitively will hopefully curb this behavior in the future.

If you’ve installed any version of Exchange 2013, then the installation of 2016 is not going to be a big change. I already had a lab set up with one domain controller and an Exchange 2013 CU8 server. I spun up a new Server 2012 R2 server and installed the necessary prerequisites:

I like to prepare the schema and AD from my Exchange server, so first I need to install the Remote Tools Administration Pack:

Install-WindowsFeature RSAT-ADDS

Next, I need to install all the roles and features on a Server 2012 R2 server for the Mailbox role:

Install-WindowsFeature AS-HTTP-Activation, Desktop-Experience, NET-Framework-45-Features, RPC-over-HTTP-proxy, RSAT-Clustering, RSAT-Clustering-CmdInterface, RSAT-Clustering-Mgmt, RSAT-Clustering-PowerShell, Web-Mgmt-Console, WAS-Process-Model, Web-Asp-Net45, Web-Basic-Auth, Web-Client-Auth, Web-Digest-Auth, Web-Dir-Browsing, Web-Dyn-Compression, Web-Http-Errors, Web-Http-Logging, Web-Http-Redirect, Web-Http-Tracing, Web-ISAPI-Ext, Web-ISAPI-Filter, Web-Lgcy-Mgmt-Console, Web-Metabase, Web-Mgmt-Console, Web-Mgmt-Service, Web-Net-Ext45, Web-Request-Monitor, Web-Server, Web-Stat-Compression, Web-Static-Content, Web-Windows-Auth, Web-WMI, Windows-Identity-Foundation

Finally, install .NET Framework 4.5.2 and the Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API 4.0 (Core Runtime 64-bit).

Next, unpack the installation files. To prepare the schema and Active Directory, the following three commands needs to be ran (will require Schema Administrator, Enterprise Administrator, and Organization Administrator permissions):

.\setup.exe /PrepareSchema /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

.\setup.exe /PrepareAD /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

.\setup.exe /PrepareAllDomains /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

Finally, let’s start the installation by running setup.exe from the extracted files. The installation GUI has not changed from Exchange 2013 with the exception of the Server Role Selection screen, which now only gives the choice of Mailbox, Edge, and Management Tools:

Here I chose the Mailbox role, and off the installation goes:

After the installation was completed and one reboot later, I went to set up my usually shortcuts and configure the management shell how I want it. When I went to search for Exchange to find all the program shortcuts, I noticed a new one for the Administrative Center:

This is simply a shortcut to the ECP pointing to localhost, but nonetheless interesting as I think this may have been placed here for people who may be looking for an administrative console but don’t know it’s all in a Web interface now.

After setting up my virtual directories and getting a certificate from my internal CA, I fired up Outlook 2016 on a Windows 8.1 client and made sure my mailbox was still connected to my Exchange 2013 servers (here it’s behind the name email.ust.com):

In my simple lab, I just have a DNS entry for email.ust.com to point to my dual role CAS/Mailbox 2013 server. For the 2016 server, I purposefully left my internal URLs to the server name (UST-EX2016) and did not make any DNS changes. I moved my mailbox to the Exchange 2016 server, and after closing and reopening Outlook, I was now connected to new server:

Without making any DNS changes I was able to connect to the new server (and also no “Administrator has made changes” prompts either). A quick look at my Exchange servers in PowerShell shows that, for now, Exchange 2016 is carrying version number 15.1.

Unfortunately I do not have a SharePoint server in my lab to look at the new attachment features, but maybe I could get one stood up to check them out. As far as the Administrative Center goes, there do not appear to be any major changes there. Overall Exchange 2016 does not appear to be a major change from Exchange 2013 and has a very familiar look about it.

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