Exchange Server 2016 and 2013 Cumulative Updates Released
Microsoft released cumulative updates (CUs) to Exchange Server 2016 and Exchange Server 2013 this month.
Released today are Exchange Server 2016 CU3 and Exchange Server 2013 CU14, both available at the Microsoft Download Center (although the link to CU14 was a bad one at press time). These releases are notable for IT pros as they are bringing "updated functionality" along with the usual hotfixes. Organizations that use Exchange Server in "hybrid" environments (that is, in conjunction with Microsoft's services) are required to install this quarter's cumulative updates, or have the prior quarter's cumulative updates in place, according to Microsoft's announcement.
Microsoft also sent a warning that Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 3 will be falling out of its "extended support" phase in about seven months. It hits that milestone on April 11, 2017. At that point, the product won't get any more security updates from Microsoft. The announcement suggested that organizations should be planning a move to "Exchange Server 2013 or Office 365" at this time.
Exchange Server 2016 CU3
With the CU3 release, it's now possible to run Exchange Server 2016 on Windows Server 2016. Windows Server 2016 is currently at the Technical Preview 5 release stage, but Microsoft has promised to show off the finished product at its Ignite event coming this month. It plans to sell Windows Server 2016 in October of this year. Exchange Server 2016 was first released in October of 2015 but it has lacked Windows Server 2016 product support all of this time. The wait is now over with the release of Exchange Server 2016 CU3.
It's actually a requirement to install CU3, or a later cumulative update, if an organization wants to run Exchange Server 2016 on Windows Server 2016. However, it looks like organizations hoping to unlock new capabilities right away will have to wait.
"Exchange [Server 2016] does not currently support any new functionality provided by the updated operating system [Windows Server 2016] except for improved restart support in the Windows Installer," Microsoft's announcement stated. It's not clear when the new capabilities may be arrive.
Microsoft is saying it will be "a seamless installation experience" to install Exchange Server 2016 on Windows Server 2016. However, organizations will need to have a "Forest Functional Level" equivalent to Windows Server 2008 R2 or later in their computing environments to meet the requirements of Windows Server 2016's domain controllers. Microsoft is also offering caveats about an organization's malware scan settings:
The Exchange team recommends the Exchange installation and setup log folders be excluded from scanning in Windows Defender and other Anti-Virus software. Exchange noderunner processes should also be excluded from Windows Defender.
Failure to make those malware scan adjustments could result in sluggish installs and performance issues, the announcement warned.
Exchange Server 2016 CU3 contains updates to an organization's Active Directory schema. Those updates install automatically for IT pros that have the right install permissions.
Microsoft's announcement pointed to just a couple of new functionality improvements in Exchange Server 2016 CU3. Bandwidth performance is improved because passive high-availability copies "no longer need to coordinate with their active counterparts in order to perform index updates." Also, CU3 will update the contacts and presence information for users of the Skype for Business unified communications product.
Exchange Server 2013 CU14
Organizations hoping to run Windows Server 2013 on Windows Server 2016 are out of luck. "Exchange Server 2013 will not be supported on Windows Server 2016," Microsoft's announcement flatly stated.
Exchange Server 2013 CU14 "does not include updates to Active Directory," Microsoft's announcement explained. However, organizations should run "PrepareAD" before applying CU14.
.NET Framework 4.6.2 Required in March
Microsoft will be requiring the use of .NET Framework 4.6.2 when running Exchange Server on Windows Server 2016. Microsoft also is planning to expand that requirement to its older Windows Server products, too, staring in March. Here's how Microsoft's announcement explained the matter:
.Net 4.6.2 will be required for Exchange Server 2016 and 2013 on all supported operating systems in March 2017. We advise customers to start evaluating requirements to move to .Net 4.6.2 now.
In other words, Microsoft is putting out the full-speed-ahead message for Exchange Server and .NET Framework 4.6.2. That's a switch from Microsoft's messaging back in February when it was warning Exchange Server users not to install .NET Framework 4.6.1. Microsoft unlocked .NET Framework 4.6.1 support for Exchange Server in June.
Microsoft's favoring of .NET Framework 4.6.2 for use with Exchange on all supported Windows Server editions appears to be fresh information. For instance, Microsoft's "Exchange Server Supportability Matrix" document didn't show that information for the .NET Framework at press time.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.