Exchange 2013 Tech Preview – Public Folders

In the past two version of Exchange, public folders were thought to be excluded from release bits but this time around it not only seems as though they are
here to stay but changes have been made to not only the structure but also enhancements to high availability. In both Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010, public folders were available for use, but were administered via a separate management tool in the toolbox and not a participant of new clustering technologies including both high availability solutions in 2007 and 2010. At first glance, it looks like public folders are now stored inside of the same mailbox database that stores user data in what Microsoft is calling a “specially designed mailboxes to store both the hierarchy and the public folder content”. This limited information can be found here in the sharing and collaboration section.

Onto setup and configuration of this specially designed mailbox for public folders in Exchange 2013. In the EAC, you’ll notice on the left hand side that public folder administration is now integrated into the admin console (EAC).

It’s also worth noting that by default when logged into OWA as an end-user there is no public folder section. No public folder mailbox has been created at this point so we’ll check back after creation of the public folder mailbox and we add some content.

Selecting public folders in the EAC for the first time produces the below error.

After clicking ok to the error and selecting public folder mailboxes in the admin center, Exchange tells us that every public folder must reside in a public folder mailbox and before we can create a new public folder, we’ll need to provision a new public folder mailbox.

Clicking the plus in the admin center presents us with a dialog box asking for a name, organizational unit and mailbox database.

I have chosen to name the public folder mailbox pf_mbx and have placed it in the public folder mailboxes organizational unit that was created in Active Directory Domain Services and in the DB1 database that has been created in Exchange 2013.

After clicking, “save”, which is a change from “ok” or “apply”, the public folder mailbox is created and shown in the list.

Now selecting “Public Folders” in the EAC and clicking the plus we can create a new public folder. For the sake of testing I will name this public folder Test1 and leave the default path top level path of . After selecting save the new public folder is created in Exchange 2013 with the details provided below.

But now can we see this public folder in OWA? A refresh in OWA does not show any public folder access nor and the default OWA policy enables public folder access so what gives? Sign out and in to OWA also shows nothing new so lets mail enable the new public folder and try to email a message to it. To do this, we will head back to public folders in the EAC and select the Test1 folder. On the right hand side of the EAC in the details section we can select “enable”, under the mail settings section which defaults to disabled.

A warning appears confirming that we are certain we want to mail enable this public folder. Select “yes” to proceed.

After the public folder has been mail enabled, a test message was drafted in OWA and the Test1 address was pulled from the GAL and validated in OWA as show below.

Successfully deliver to the public folder takes place so we know that the public folder mailbox and public folder creation process worked as designed but how to view the public folder and content via OWA? OWA options shows no enable or disable check box for public folder viewing.

For now it looks as though there is no public folder access via the OWA client. I’ll revisit this when I stand up a Windows 8 client OS with the 2013 Outlook Tech Preview. Until then…

Exchange 2013 Tech Preview – New Administration Console

Say goodbye to the EMC and get familiar with the Exchange Admin Center(EAC).

After Exchange 2013 has been successfully installed you might try to access the Exchange Management Console from Exchange 2007/2010 like I did, but you will not find it. Instead, you will have to access the new Exchange Admin Center that seems to have been built on the logic behind the ECP in Exchange 2010.

To access the EAC (Exchange Admin Center), launch IE and navigate to https://localhost/ecp.. screen shot below

Upon successful login to the EAC, you are presented with new administrative interface which is very different from pervious versions of Exchange.

The EAC defaults to the recipients view after login and provides access to various different recipients types. Navigating through the Admin center seems to take on the same flow
as the ECP did by starting on the left to select the function or area of Exchange to manage, Then the sub menu for the function or area select, and finally the action or tasks to invoke against the selected object. The below image shows this with some very ugly red boxes.

Another thing that is very noticeable is the promotion of Office365 and Hybrid deployments in the new admin center. Both the very top navigation bar and the bottom of the navigation pane on the left  show built-in integration for cloud based and/or hybrid deployments.

While selecting the “Hybrid” option in the left pane brings me to a Setup page where I can enable and configure my organization across both on-prem and O365, selecting “OFFICE 365″ from the top navigation bar brings me to a help link on technet which has not yet been populated with data.

Lastly, one last item that jumps out is the built in integration for public folder management in the admin center rather than a separate console being part of the Exchange Toolbox as was the case in 2007/2010 Exchange environments.

Right away we notice the two items that we can perform administrative task on being

  1. Public Folders
  2. Public Folder Mailboxes

Microsoft has changed the way public folder work in 2013 to store content and hierarchy in something called a public folder mailbox. Not quite sure what that means yet but it does allow for public folders to leverage the built-in HA and resiliency that mailbox databases benefit from. Almost as if the public folders are now stored in a mailbox designed for folders and content and also not stored in a seperate database but contained in the same database as user mailboxes. I will be digging into this in more detail in another post but for now it doesn’t look like public folders are going away in this release of Exchange.

If you’re wondering, yes the Exchange Toolbox does still exist and contains the tools shown in the below screenshot. Where’s the ExBPA?

In a series of articles I will be digging into each area of Exchange 2013 to see how it differs from its predecessor. Oh and one more thing, right-click doesn’t seem
to work anywhere in the EAC….

What are your thoughts?