The Exchange Server 2013 Preview was released to the public in July, with the final version expected to ship early 2013. Three years in the making, this upcoming new version of Exchange Server incorporates a great many changes, tweaks and improvements made by a large team of engineers.

In this post I shall highlight four important changes in Exchange 2013 that administrators should be aware of when preparing for its arrival.

Exchange Administration Center

The most dramatic difference in Exchange 2013 is the Exchange Management Console, which will be replaced by the Exchange Administration Center (EAC). The EAC replaces the Exchange Control Panel (ECP) too, and is accessed from the same URL (http://<serverFQDN>/ecp). EAC is much more powerful in that it’s now optimized for on-premises, online, or hybrid Exchange deployments, and allows Exchange to administer it from multiple platforms.

Browsers supported by EMC include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome; you can see a detailed list of the supported combinations of browsers and operating systems here. Going for a fully web-based interface means that administrators can now deploy their Exchange Server in a secure datacenter that is physically hard to access and still perform their work as if it is down the hall in the server room.

Change in Architecture

Probably the most notable change in Exchange Server 2013 will be the reduction of server roles to just two: Client Access server and Mailbox server. The Mailbox role includes Unified Messaging, while the Client Access role handles authentication and proxy/redirection. This change reduces complexity for administrators, and is a reflection of the optimizations being enacted in the core Exchange engine. It is understood that an Edge Server role will not be available when Exchange 2013 is released, but will be released post-RTM with Exchange Server 2013 SP1.

There are many other changes under the hood too, which include a much reduced IOPS load (up to 50%), as well as optimization for multiple databases per volume in order to increase aggregate disk utilization. Moreover, available RAM is harnessed to improve search query performance and reduce IOPS, all of which translate to larger mailboxes at lower costs.

PowerShell cmdlets

Based on PowerShell version 3.0, PowerShell in Exchange Server 2013 adds more than a hundred new cmdlets. A number of cmdlets have been dropped in Exchange 2013, though they mostly have to do with a major change in how public folders are now handled (See below). One of the advantages offered by PowerShell 3.0 is its simplification that makes it easier to use even as it allows for more comprehensive management of servers.

Note that as PowerShell cmdlets are executed on Mailbox servers only, organizations would have to have an Exchange 2013 Mailbox server available to manage the environment. Regardless, it is evident that not only is PowerShell here to stay, but is set to play an even greater role in Exchange. 

Change in Public folders

Exchange 2013 completely changes how public folders operate, and now stores them in mailbox databases. This means that public folders can now take advantage of Database Availability Groups (DAG) for replication and high availability.

Another effect is that mailbox quotas do apply to them too, and a public folder that has grown too large will need to be moved to another mailbox. As a result, administrators will do well to more carefully plan their public folder deployment in Exchange Server 2013.

There are a great many other changes made to Exchange 2013, which is best experienced by checking out the preview version yourself. Download it here.


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