Exchange 2003 SP1 brings us a lot of new features that customers have been requesting, as well as product fixes since Exchange 2003 was released. Here is a list of major features that SP1 is bringing with some descriptions. Please do ask questions on this as we can discuss this in more detail too :) There will also be documentation that will be released with SP1 that will go into a lot of detail on this stuff. This is not a complete list of features.
- Cross-site resource moves
This is probably the biggest change that we are getting. This functionality will allow us to do a cross-site moves of mailboxes, DLs, custom recipients and public folder directory objects between sites while your Exchange organization is still in mixed mode. This is intended to be used when moving objects from Exchange 5.5 sites.
Before, you were able to move mailboxes between Administrative Groups only when your organization was switched to native mode, so no Exchange 5.5 servers could be present.
There are several things that we must have to perform a good cross-site move, such as ADC has to be upgraded to Exchange 2003 SP1 version, there is a hotfix that has to be installed on Exchange 5.5 servers and we have to make sure that directory replication between 5.5 servers and SRS is functioning correctly. There are more details about all this but - it is absolutely essential that ADC and Dir Rep work correctly or else the cross-site move will fail. Large environments will have to wait until all of the replication after cross site move settles.
In case there is a question about distribution group memberships and email addresses - the cross-site moved objects will preserve the distribution group memberships and their original email addresses. Yeah - that is very cool :)
- Outlook profile update tool
This is a new tool that we have created to make the updating of Outlook profiles easier after the mailbox has been moved cross-site. This is a command-line tool that can then be deployed and scripted as such to make it easier to touch the registries on multiple clients (as the client registry is where we keep the client profile information). The use of profile update tool will be required for proper and supported configuration that will actually work after mailboxes have been cross site moved. If the tool is not run, the clients will have to create new Outlook profiles.
- Recover Mailbox Data (RMD) feature
The major advantage with the Recovery Storage Group (RSG) in Exchange 2003 RTM is that it provides greater flexibility when restoring mailboxes and mailbox stores, as you are no longer required to setup a separate active directory and recovery server. You can now simply recover to the same server or to any server in the administrative group.
In Exchange 2003 RTM, after you restore a mailbox store to the Recovery Storage Group, you must use the Exchange 2003 Exmerge utility to move the recovered mailbox data from the Recovery Storage Group to the regular storage group.
This is confusing, as it requires a separate tool. The Recover Mailbox Data (RMD) Feature in Exchange 2003 SP1 Exchange System Manager (ESM) will replace the necessity for Exmerge in the majority of recovery cases.
The new functionality allows you to either merge or copy the data from mailboxes restored to Recovery Storage Group, while using the user interface very similar to Move Mailbox. Mailboxes will be selected from within ESM.
Please note that even though the RMD functionality (the new way) can be compared with Exmerge functionality (the old way) - the RMD does not use Exmerge engine. So - there are no PST files involved and there is subsequently no 2GB limitation as you have with PST files. Also, there are still a few scenarios where Exmerge would be a better tool than RMD.
- ADCTools and Deployment Tools improvements
In the initial release of Exchange 2003, a common concern about using the ADCTools functionality to generate connection agreements for large or complicated environments was the lack of control over what connection agreements would be created. Whatever connection agreements were created by the ADCTools would replace existing connection agreements. Additionally, whatever connection agreements it created would immediately begin to replicate without providing any opportunity to review the new connection agreements first.
Changes have been made to ADCTools in Exchange 2003 SP1 to provide better control over the connection agreements that are created, including the ability to postpone initial replication until after connection agreements have been reviewed by the administrator. We are providing an XML file (that ADC will look for when creating new connection agreements) where you can configure the behavior of new agreements - if they will be enabled for replication immediately or not. We are also providing a script that can be used to bulk enable all connection agreements for replication at the later time.
As far as ADC itself goes - there are multiple changes that went into ADC that makes the cross-site resource move possible too, as ADC has a bunch of work in that area too.
- RPC/HTTPS improvements
In Exchange 2003 RTM, configuring the RPC/HTTPS Front End and Back End topology involved a lot of manual registry editing and was very hard to maintain as new servers were added or removed.
Exchange 2003 SP1 includes a ESM integrated User Interface (UI) that will allow you to easily select RPC/HTTPS front end and back end servers. The new UI will be visible on the properties of the server in ESM.
- Clustering changes
In versions before Exchange 2003 SP1, no matter how many nodes in the cluster you had, you could only have one instance of Public Folder store that was associated with the MAPI folder tree. In Exchange 2003 SP1, we have added the ability to have multiple MAPI Public Folder databases on the single multi node cluster. Seeing that Outlook 2003 cached mode puts a greater strain on folders like the Outlook Address Book, providing the ability to spread the load across multiple Public Folder stores in a cluster allows for a better client experience.
- Database engine changes
There have been several changes here:
- Transaction log replay has been greatly improved - we have seen great improvements in the speed of transaction log replay. This obviously does depend on the hardware quite a bit too, but the gains will be significant on any hardware when comparing with pre Exchange 2003 SP1 database engine.
- Built-in correction of -1018 errors - because of the different checksum model that has been introduced in Exchange 2003 SP1, the database engine is now able to correct a single bit database page checksum errors. In our experience, a lot of the -1018 errors we have seen were single-bit errors, so this should help.
- Domain rename and Exchange
Exchange 2003 SP1 Web Release will include the updated domain rename script that will allow for a domain to be renamed with Exchange servers in the organization. Please note that this is not a simple process and it does come with some strings attached even after SP1.