Exchange Server 2010 SP2 and Support for Hosting Exchange


With the release of Exchange Server 2010 SP2 later this year, we will add a new feature known as Address Book Policies. Following this addition, hosters who wish to deploy the standard on-premises configuration of Exchange and use ABP will be supported.

As you may have read in a recent post over on the Exchange Partner Marketing blog, our view on whether to host Exchange using Hosting Mode or the standard on-premises configuration is changing in response to feedback we’ve had from both hosters and customers. We recognize that the Hosting Mode configuration of Exchange we released as part of SP1 provides a more robust multi-tenant solution, but lacks some of the features available in the standard on-premises configuration. Many of these are key features which customers are asking for, like Exchange Unified Messaging. We want to enable our hosting partners to offer the same rich feature set that our on-premises customers are used to. As such, with the release of SP2 for Exchange Server 2010, we intend to broaden our support stance to include hosting the on-premises configuration of Exchange in a multi-tenant environment.

To be eligible for support, hosters will need to adhere to a few configuration guidelines; a framework we will publish in conjunction with SP2. The framework will outline the configuration challenges of hosting Exchange in a multi-tenant environment which need to be solved, and provide general direction for developing solutions in the most supportable way. Let’s consider a couple of examples:

  • As I mentioned earlier, the Address Book Policy feature is a key reason that we will be able to support hosters using the on-premises configuration if they are using SP2. The framework will specify that directory segmentation should be done using Address Book Policies, not by a series of Allow/Deny ACE’s on Address List objects.
  • For provisioning, the framework will specify that the creation of objects (such as a tenant organization or a mailbox) in Active Directory and Exchange should use our standard built-in tools, PowerShell cmdlets, and documented APIs. Code should not be written to create objects directly in Active Directory or Exchange, bypassing these standard tools.

An automation vendor or a hoster, should they choose to, will be able to build their own automation tools using this framework. The easiest and quickest route to support for most hosters, though, will likely be through engaging with a hosting automation vendor whose solution adheres to the guidelines. In order to help service providers quickly find the right automation software, in the SP2 timeframe we will publish a list of solutions which follow the framework (and thus are eligible for support). These solutions will be validated by Microsoft in much the same way that we currently validate load balancing solutions. I’ll hasten to add that this will not be a formal certification process, but instead will be an assurance to our customers that we have worked with the vendor and are satisfied that it conforms to the framework.

So, what does this mean for you today if you want to use the on-premises configuration of Exchange to host mailboxes for your customers in a multi-tenant environment?

  • If you need to deploy prior to SP2, we recommend that you work with an automation vendor and use their solution. Your vendor of choice will be your only source of support. Your vendor will hopefully have plans to update their solution for SP2 per the soon-to-be-published framework, at which time you will have a path to being supported by Microsoft once you’ve upgraded your infrastructure.
  • If you plan to deploy post SP2, and you intend to use an automation solution from an automation vendor, you should ensure your chosen vendor is working with us to validate their solution and deploy when that solution is ready.
  • If you plan on building your own solution using the standard on-premises configuration of Exchange, you should consider waiting for SP2 to ship and then develop your solution following the framework to ensure you receive the best level of support from Microsoft.

We hope this announcement is good news for those hosting Exchange, as it provides you with more options in your deployment and will help you obtain support when you need it.

We look forward to hearing your feedback and as you know, we do act on it.

Kevin Allison
General Manager
Exchange Customer Experience

Comments (20)
  1. Tom says:

    Just writing to be sure, will it now be possible to completly separate the customers so that LDAP clients can't see other customers without using /hosting?

  2. Does this mean you're adding UM support?

  3. Greg Taylor [msft] says:

    @ Tom – That's one of the issues the hoster or automation vendor will need to solve in their end to end solution. There are a couple of ways to do it – LDS instances for each tenant, or removing LDAP browse altogether and relying on the enhanced EWS features in clients such as Outlook 2011 to resolve names via EWS, removing the need for LDAP altogether. The framework will lay out issues the hosters or ISV needs to consider such as this one, and leave them to design a supportable solution to each.

    @ Andrew – UM is available in the Enterprise product – so if the solution contains UM, UM will be supported. ABP's work with UM, but any control panel vendor will have to ensure UM works as expected in their solution.

    Just so we're all clear – we will be outlining the issues and challenges that need to be solved – and suggesting how to solve them – it is up to the vendors creating control panel solutions, or hosters writing their own solutions to figure out the exact way to solve it, and ensure it works in their environment.

  4. Casey says:

    So where does this leave hosters that have built products utilizing /hosting?  This sounds almost like /hosting is going to be deprecated.

  5. Greg Taylor [msft] says:

    Casey, Exchange 2010 /Hosting mode is fully supported and will continue to be so.

  6. Sigurjon says:

    Will SP2 be released in public beta

  7. Patrick says:

    Is there a method for moving from a /hosting implementation to a on-premise with SP2? We've recently done a mulit-datacenter implementation of /hosting with a control panel implimentation. We're not in full production. So with the AD Schema changes for the /hosting is there a method we could use to switch back to the on-premise? This is kind of frustrating for thoes of us who have been trying to put up a solution following your guidelines…

  8. Greg Taylor [msft] says:

    Patrick, there is no direct in-place migration path if you decide to move from /hosting to Enterprise, but I would suggest you speak to the control panel vendor you have chosen to use, as most have solutions for both /hosting and Enterprise. With luck that side of it may be easier than the AD/Exchange side – which would for certain mean a new forest due to the different underlying architectures they use.

  9. MP says:

    As you are supporting this mode, will you be providing an option to disable the default of internal OOF being between tenants when in reality we only want only the external OOF.

    Thanks

  10. chameleo@netease.com says:

    If there any news about next generation Exchange Server?

  11. Charles says:

    So is that it for hosting mode?  If you ever want to see features like UM, Public Folders, or Federation provided to you customers you have to go with an on-premise install?  Incredibly frustrating to know that my Exchange 2010 product will already be lacking features that my direct competition will have because we came to market first with hosted mode.

  12. Greg Taylor [msft] says:

    @ MP – that is one of the problems anyone developing a solution will need to consider and solve. The framework is not the solution, it's a guide to help a hoster or vendor develop a solution. We are not making Enterprise Exchange multi-tenant or providing steps on how-to, we are providing guidance to software and solution developers to make sure they have considered all the challenges their solution needs to solve. Such as the OOF problem.

    @ William – We're not disclosing anything yet.

    @ Charles – /hosting mode with Exchange 2010 is still fully supported. We do understand your concerns and appreciate the feedback.

  13. MP says:

    OK Greg and I appreciate your reply. If anyone can direct me to a known method of managing OOF I would be very grateful. Thats pretty much our only issue with Enterprise hosting. Thanks…

  14. Mobay says:

    Good news! But why exactly are the features not build ontop of the /hosting mode instead of the "normal" mode, I did not catch that?

    Thanks!

  15. ryanwatson501@gmail.com says:

    @ Charles

    Totally agree. Very frustrating to hear that with SP2 you can have the features of /hosting without installing using /hosting, and there is no way for us that are using /hosting already to switch.

  16. Nik says:

    +1

    It would be great if /hosting would at least have the same features as SP2 on- premises will have.

  17. David De Vos says:

    We're on the edge of migrating our HMC4.5 platform to the "/hosting" platform of Exchange 2010.   So we prepared all the hassle of installing a new AD-domain, duplicating our useraccounts, creating migration scripts and testing all this very thoroughly.  

    If Exchange on-premise SP2 will allow hosting with all features included, while Exchange hosting mode is not …  we need to know this ASAP !!!  Please provide CLEAR information on what the near future will look like for exchange hosting.  

  18. Jacob says:

    Are there any updates on new service packs and feature enhancements for /hosting or is Microsoft planning on making everyone migrate to the on-premises install? I really would like to have the Unified Messaging role with the /hosting

  19. steven.clarke@hambs.com.au says:

    Is there a date for SP2 as yet?

    We have hosting 2003 with the as then supported configuration and now have a new customer using mac's and Outlook 2011 coming onboard soonish so need to go to 2010 to support them.  Up until now the original hosting arrangment on 2003 was suitable with 1 AD, mulitple OU's, separate invisible OAB's and multiple SMTP domains on 1 server was working well (even with iPhones!).

    This looks like the update we have been waiting for to finally make the move!

  20. Anonymous says:

    When is Exch. 2010 SP2 finally being released?  We admins. have been waiting all year!  

    Only 6 more weeks until Christmas…

Comments are closed.