Exchange 2016: What’s New, and Is It Worth It?


Exchange 013016 has been out now for awhile, following a two-month technical preview. As with every new product version, there’s always something shiny and new to discuss. The new features and all the greatness it can bring to your messaging environment will be discussed and analyzed like a Monday night football game. However, when you pull back the shades from all the spotlight, you’ll hear administrators asking the same question, “What’s better now and what can it really do it to improve my environment?”

For those running Exchange 2013, do not expect to be wowed. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely improvements, but honestly Exchange 2016 is almost like a service pack. You get some new features with improvements to capabilities you already had, like increased Data Loss Prevention and improved searching. A simple upgrade path for those running multi-role servers, and you’re done! Now if you went with a multi-role approach, then you’ll find that your life is changed a little by the new architecture. With that said, the change isn’t too dramatic.

Where’s the Wow in Exchange 2016?

The biggest wow factor is for those upgrading from Exchange 2010. This is where all those new features that were advertised at Ignite 2015 in May makes an impact. Why, you ask? The difference between Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2016 is pretty huge. There has been significant changes starting from the architecture design down to the administration console, public folders management, and enhanced security. Simply put, it’s a brand new Exchange Server.

Show Me the Features!

Let’s break down what some of the new features and changes are in store when you upgrade to Exchange 2016.

Architecture. The biggest change with Exchange 2016 is the architecture. Exchange has almost taken a step backwards in time and gone to the one role approach, similar to how most Exchange 2000/2003 were deployed, which is the mailbox role. With Exchange 2007 and 2010, Microsoft broke out Exchange into roles and recommended deploying Exchange servers with individual roles. Starting with Exchange 2013, they changed that recommendation and re-introduced multi-role servers, but still allowed administrators to install Exchange with individual roles. Now with Exchange 2016, everything is in one server, and Microsoft does not even give you the option to install individual roles. This multi-role install includes all the Client Access protocols, transport services, and even unified messaging services. For those that are considering virtualizing Exchange 2016 or are upgrading from Exchange 2013, beware that your VM will be much larger than normal to compensate for the extra services. Before upgrading, I would strongly recommend you consult with your virtualization team to ensure there are enough resources. Note that you cannot do an in place upgrade to Exchange 2016 from Exchange 2010. The in-place upgrade option is only available for those running Exchange 2013.

Built-in Malware Protection. This was a feature that was first introduced in Exchange 2013 and continues for Exchange 2016. The malware protection scans all the sent and received emails within your organization.

Mail Flow. for Exchange 2010 upgrades, changes in mail flow include mail routing changes that now look at AD site boundaries and DAG boundaries. The default maximum size of a message in both the send and receive connector have been increased from 10 MB to 25 MB.

MAPI over HTTP. The default protocol that Outlook uses to communicate with Exchange is now MAPI over HTTP. If your mail client does not support this, then it will default to RPC over HTTP.

Improved searching. Enough can’t be said about Exchange needs to improve searching. Searching improved in Exchange 2013, but it got better with Exchange 2016. The searching component is based on SharePoint Foundation search. There is also the new Compliance Search for e-Discovery, which allows you to search up to 10,000 mailboxes in a one search.

Better collaboration. Exchange 2016 OWA users, along with SharePoint 2016, now gives you the ability to link or share documents from One Drive for Business rather than attaching the document to an email. You also have the ability to edit the file or view.

Expanding archives. Yes, this is a thing. When an archive mailboxes reaches 50 GBs, the archive mailbox expands. Under the covers, once the mailbox reaches a size of 50 GBs, another archive mailbox is automatically created and linked together to form a chain of mailboxes that acts as one logical mailbox. As archive mailboxes are added, the content is distributed across the mailboxes to even out the load. Keep in mind that auto expanding archives still don’t auto expand your storage backend. Make sure you have adequate storage to accommodate such growth.

Improved Data Loss Prevention. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) was first introduced with Exchange 2013 to protect and secure sensitive data based on compliance polices that you would set using various transport rules This feature was improved in Exchange 2016 by up to 80 new conditional types. Some improvements include being able to notify the user via a notification message that they have violated a transport rule.

Outlook on the Web. This is the web version of email formerly known as Outlook Web App (OWA). There are many changes on this front, starting with a new name to better support on mobile devices and tablets. The look and feel of Outlook on the Web is updated with an improved calendar look, improved searching, new themes an inline video player.

Managed Store. Existing Exchange 2013 users are already aware of the changes to the Managed Store. However for those still on Exchange 2010, this is new and worth noting. The Managed Store is the new process name for the Microsoft.Exchange.Store.Service.exe and Microsoft.Exchange.Store.Worker.exe. The Managed Store is written in C# and works together with the replication service. The Managed Store is also integrated with the Search Foundation, giving Exchange better searching capabilities.

Is Exchange 2016 Worth It?

So there you have it, the new features of Exchange 2016. In summary, the biggest changes are for those upgrading to Exchange 2016 from 2010. Coming from this version will require some advance planning considering all the new architecture changes, especially if you have a multi-role deployment. As with any upgrade, you will want to look at the features and benefits to see how they bring value to your organization. Those that are bleeding edge may want to upgrade right away, while others will sit back and wait for all the bugs to get fixed. Either way, you will need to properly plan and test. Good luck!