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Exchange Server 2010 Administration Essentials : Understanding Exchange Server 2010 Organizations (part 1) - How Site-Based Routing Works

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The root of an Exchange environment is an organization. It's the starting point for the Exchange hierarchy, and its boundaries define the boundaries of any Exchange environment. Exchange Server 2010 organizations are nearly identical to Exchange Server 2007 organizations.

When you install Exchange Server 2010, you install your Exchange servers within the organizational context of the domain the server is a member of. The physical site boundaries and subnets defined for Active Directory are the same as those used by Exchange Server 2010, and the site details are determined by the IP address assigned to the server. If you are installing the first Exchange server in a domain, you set the name of the Exchange organization for that domain. The next Exchange server you install in the domain joins the existing Exchange organization automatically.

Like Exchange Server 2007, Exchange Server 2010 uses Active Directory site-based routing instead of routing groups and configuration containers instead of administrative groups. The use of site-based routing and configuration containers substantially changes the way you configure and manage Exchange Server 2010.

1. Using Site-Based Routing Instead of Routing Groups

With Exchange Server 2010, site-based routing is possible because Exchange servers can determine their own Active Directory site membership and the Active Directory site membership of other servers by querying Active Directory. Using Active Directory for routing eliminates the need for Exchange to have its own routing infrastructure (as was required with Exchange 2003).

2. How Site-Based Routing Works

Mailbox and Unified Messaging servers use site membership information to determine which Hub Transport servers are located in the same site. This allows the Mailbox or Unified Messaging server to submit messages for routing and transport to a Hub Transport server that has the same site membership.

When a Client Access server receives a user connection request, it queries Active Directory to determine which Mailbox server is hosting the user's mailbox. The Client Access server then retrieves the site membership of that Mailbox server. If the Client Access server is not in the same site as the user's Mailbox server, the connection is redirected to a Client Access server in the same site as the Mailbox server.

Normally, Hub Transport servers retrieve information from Active Directory to determine how they should transport mail inside the organization. When a user sends a message, the Categorizer running on the Hub Transport server uses the header information about the message to query Active Directory for information about where the server must deliver the message. If the recipient's mailbox is located on a Mailbox server in the same site as the Hub Transport server, the server delivers the message directly to that mailbox. If the recipient's mailbox is located on a Mailbox server in a different site, the message is transferred to a Hub Transport server in that site and then that server delivers the message to the mailbox.

Exchange servers determine site membership by matching their assigned IP address to a subnet that is defined in Active Directory Sites And Services and associated with an Active Directory site. The Exchange server then uses this information to determine which domain controllers, Global Catalog servers, and other Exchange servers exist in that site, and it communicates with those directory servers for authentication, authorization, and messaging purposes. Exchange 2010 always tries to retrieve information about recipients from directory servers that are in the same site as the Exchange 2010 server.

Tip

In Active Directory, you can associate a site with one or more IP subnets. Each subnet that is part of a site should be connected over reliable, high-speed links. You should configure any business locations connected over slow or unreliable links as part of separate sites. Because of this, individual sites typically represent well-connected local area networks (LANs) within an organization, and wide area network (WAN) links between business locations typically mark the boundaries of these sites. Sites cannot have overlapping subnet configurations. If subnets overlap, replication and message routing will not work correctly.

How IP Site Links Are Used

As Figure 1 shows, Active Directory sites are connected through IP site links. An IP site link can connect two or more sites. Each site link has a specific schedule, interval, and cost. The schedule and interval determine the frequency of Active Directory replication. The cost value determines the cost of using the link relative to other links that might be available. Active Directory replication uses the link with the lowest cost when multiple paths exist to a destination. The cost of a route is determined by adding together the cost of all site links in a transmission path. Administrators assign the cost value to a link based on relative network speed, available bandwidth, and reliability compared to other available connections. By default, IP site links always allow traffic to flow into or out of a site.

Message traffic between sites is routed over IP site links.

Figure 1. Message traffic between sites is routed over IP site links.

In large enterprises, message traffic might have to travel through multiple sites to get from the source site to a destination site. When transferring messages from one site to another site through other sites, a Hub Transport server always tries to connect directly to a Hub Transport server in the destination site. Because of this, messages are not relayed through each Hub Transport server in each site in the link path. Instead, they go directly from the Hub Transport server in the originating site across the link to the Hub Transport server in the destination site. If the originating server cannot connect directly to a Hub Transport server in the destination site, the originating Hub Transport server uses the link cost to determine the closest site at which to queue the message. This feature is called queue at point of failure.

The Hub Transport server can also use the site link information to optimize the routing of messages that users send to multiple recipients. Here, the Hub Transport server expands a distribution list and creates multiple copies of a message only when there are multiple paths in the routing topology. This feature is called delayed fan-out.

Understanding On-Premises, Online, and Cross-Premises Routing

Microsoft introduced Exchange Online with Exchange Server 2007. Exchange Online is what's referred to as a cloud service, meaning the service is provided via the Internet. Exchange Online allows you to outsource all or part of your Exchange services. Exchange Online differs from Exchange on-premises (the standard implementation) in several fundamental ways. With Exchange Online, the Exchange hardware resides elsewhere and users access their mailboxes over the Internet. However, administrators still retain control and management over the outsourced mailboxes.

In Exchange Server 2007, the on-premises and online Exchange configurations weren't tightly integrated. Starting with Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft corrects this deficiency by making it possible to manage both online and on-premises Exchange configurations using the same set of management tools. You can simultaneously connect to and manage both online and on-premises configurations in the Exchange Management Console.

Although Exchange Online has some advantages over an Exchange on-premises implementation, it has disadvantages as well. For users, Exchange Online provides:

  • Mailbox hosting

  • ActiveSync

  • Microsoft Outlook Anywhere

  • Microsoft Outlook Web App

  • Spam filtering

For administrators, Exchange Online provides:

  • Service Level Agreements

  • Storage quotas

  • Automatic backups

  • Automatic archiving

What Exchange Online doesn't provide is immediacy of access. Users must always be connected to the Internet to get their mail. Messages typically are routed and transferred across the Internet, which can cause delays. Exchange Online also does not have Exchange voice mail, custom transport rules, and some other features.

When you configure your Exchange organization, it's important to keep in mind that Exchange Online is not an all-or-nothing implementation. You can host some mailboxes online and others on premises—and Exchange Server 2010 makes it easy to manage mailboxes regardless of where they are located. Before you transition mailboxes off-site, however, you'll probably want to perform a trial with a limited subset of users while keeping mailboxes for executives and most managers in house. In fact, you might want to plan to always keep mailboxes for executives and other high-level managers in house.

Exchange Server 2010 uses cross-premises routing to transfer messages between on-premises and hosted mailboxes. If you send a message to a user with a hosted mailbox, your organization's transport servers will route the message across the Internet to the hosted Exchange server. If you send a message to a user with an on-premises mailbox, your organization's transport servers will route the message across your organization to the appropriate Exchange server.

Exchange provides features for migrating mailboxes from online to on-premises environments and vice versa. During the migration, a mailbox might exist in both locations temporarily. When Exchange completes the migration, the mailbox exists only in the destination environment. Outlook 2007 and later include an Autodiscover feature that automatically connects messaging clients to the correct Exchange server. This feature uses the user's SMTP e-mail address during automatic discovery to determine where the mailbox is currently located.

Normally, Autodiscover works very well. However, a conflict could occur if a user has a mailbox in Exchange Online and a mailbox in Exchange on-premises or a user has the same primary SMTP e-mail address in Exchange Online and Exchange on-premises. In these scenarios, the Autodiscover feature normally does not configure Outlook for the Exchange Online environment and instead uses Exchange on-premises. This occurs because Exchange on-premises has priority over Exchange Online when there is a conflict and the user's computer is connected to the Active Directory domain. To resolve the problem, delete the original mailbox from its original location as soon as possible after a mailbox migration. If a user needs both an on-line and on-premises mailbox, do not use the same primary SMTP e-mail address for both Exchange Online and Exchange on-premises.

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