Work Folders in Windows Server 2012 R2

December 11th, 2013

The Work Folders functionality in Server 2012 R2 represents a significant enhancement over current technologies for data synchronization and accessibility. It provides the benefits of cloud-based solutions but still gives administrators the ability to control the technology’s settings and manage users’ data. Work Folders can be very useful for mobile users, especially in a BYOD environment.

Recently, I wrote a deep dive article about this cool technology, and it is published on Windows IT Pro site. Check it out here!

Exchange Server 2013 SP1 (aka CU4) is coming

November 21st, 2013
Great news on TechNet today. Microsoft announced that first SP1 is going to release first service pack with desired functional enhancements at the beginning of next year. Most important new functionalities that will be included in SP1 is following:
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Support
  • S/MIME support for OWA
  • Edge Transport Server Role
  • Various Fixes and Improvements
Also, we should see CU3 very soon. Start planning your upgrades and migrations, it’s about time. See more here: http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2013/11/20/exchange-server-2013-service-pack-1-coming-in-early-2014.aspx 

Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2012 R2 – Tie Braker for 50% node split

October 9th, 2013

Beside having ability to use Dynamic quorum for Failover clusters, clustering in Windows Server 2012 R2 is enhanced with one more very interesting functionality.
The cluster is now able to automatically adjust running node’s vote status in order to keep total number of votes in the cluster at odd number. This feature is called Tie breaker for 50% node split and it works together with dynamic witness functionality. Dynamic witness functionality is used to adjust the value of quorum witness vote. For example, if you have a cluster with even number of nodes and a file share witness, if the file share witness fails, cluster will use dynamic witness functionality to automatically remove the vote from file share witness.
However, since the cluster now has even number of votes, cluster tie breaker will randomly pick a node, and remove it quorum vote to maintain odd number of votes. If the nodes are evenly distributed in two sites, this will help to maintain cluster functional in one site. In previous Windows Server versions, if both sites have equal number of nodes and file share witness fails, both sites will stop the cluster.

If you want to avoid node being picked randomly you can use LowerQuorumPriorityNodeID property to predetermine which node will have its vote removed. You can set this property by using following Powershell command:

(Get-Cluster).LowerQuorumPriorityNodeID = 1

,where “1” is the example node ID for a node in the site that you consider less critical.
This will be very nice to use with DR scenarios.

MCT Summit EU – Helsinki, November 28-30 2013

October 8th, 2013

For all of you that are currently holding an MCT status, and also to all of you that are planning to achieve this status, I highly recommend that you consider visiting MCT Summit EU event.

On this event, you will be able to attend large number of sessions from both Infrastructure, Information Worker and soft skills fields. Event gives you great opportunity to interact with other MCTs and also with highly experienced speakers. If you plan to go for MCT status, it will be great that you attend soft skills track. It will give you great perspective on important things that every MCT should know.

Registrations for this event are open, and you can find more information, as well as register at following URL : http://www.mctsummit.eu/ 

I hope that some of you will be able to attend this!

Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Cluster – Global Update Manager

September 22nd, 2013

Pretty interesting new feature is implemented in Windows Server 2012 R2 failover clustering that allows you to manage how cluster database is updated.

Service responsible for this is called Global Update Manager. This service is responsible for updating the cluster database. In Windows Server 2012, you were not able to configure how these updates work, but in Windows Server 2012 R2 it is possible that you  configure the mode of work for Global Update Manager.

Each time the state of cluster changes (for example, when cluster resource is offline) all nodes in the cluster must receive notification about the event, before the change is committed to the cluster database, by Global Update Manager.

In Windows Server 2012, Global Update Manager works in Majority (read and write) mode. In this mode, when change happens to the cluster, majority of cluster nodes must receive and process the update before it is committed to the database. When cluster node wants to read the database, cluster compares the latest timestamp from a majority of the running nodes, and uses the data with the latest timestamp.

In Windows Server 2012 R2, Global Update Manager can also work in All (write) and Local (read) mode. When working in this mode, all nodes in the cluster must receive and process the update before it is committed to the database. However, when the database read request is received, the cluster will read the data from the database copy stored locally. Since all roles received and processed the update, local cluster database copy can be considered as a relevant source of information.

Windows Server 2012 R2 also supports the third mode for Global Update Manager. This mode is Majority (write) and Local (read). In this mode majority of cluster nodes must receive and process the update before it is committed to the database. When the database read request is received, the cluster will read the data from the database copy stored locally.

In Windows Server 2012 R2, default setting for Hyper-V failover clusters is Majority (read and write). All other workloads in the clusters use All (write) and Local (read) mode. Majority (write) and Local (read) is not used by default for any workload.

Using digital signatures in emails

September 1st, 2013

Implementing digital signatures in Exchange/Outlook environment is not a very complex. However, it requires that you understand how this technology work, and also must have some infrastructure background implemented.
Digital signatures actually protect the content integrity. They don’t provide any protection in a meaning that content of the message can’t be intercepted and read by someone else. However, if the content is altered during transport, digital signature will alert you on this.

When an author digitally signs a document or a message, the operating system on his machine creates a message digest which ranges from between a 128-bit and to a 256-bit number. It is generated by running the entire message through a hash algorithm. This number then is then encrypted by using the author’s private key, and then it is added to the end of the document or message.

When the document or message reaches the recipient, it will go through same hash algorithm as when it was digitally signed. Also, the recipient uses the author’s public key to decrypt the digest that is added to the message. After it is decrypted, it is compared to the digest that the recipient has generated. If they are the same, the document or the message was not altered during transport. Also, if the recipient is able to decrypt the digest by using the author’s public key, this means that the digest was encrypted by using author’s private key, and that confirms the author’s identity. At the end, the recipient also verifies the certificate that was used to prove author’s identity. During this check, the validity period, CRL, subject name, and certificate chain trust also are verified. Make sure that certificates that you use for digital signatures have valid CDP and AIA locations defined.

To implement digital signatures in internal communications, you just need to issue certificates based on the User template. This certificate template is present by default on each Windows Server CA. Of course, you can also use a custom template for this, or you can use smart card certificates for digital signature. This is actually pretty common if smart card infrastructure is deployed. You must issue certificates to all users that who use digital signatures, as authors (don’t need to have one just to read digitally signed message). You can issue the certificate without any user intervention if you use autoenrollment. Also, users must use an application that supports content signing. The digital signatures are ready to be used after the certificate is issued and configured in the application. Certificate for digital signature will be mostly automatically configured in Outlook, so the end user will not need to perform any configuration. If you want to use digital signature in OWA, you will need to install latest S/MIME controls. For mobile platforms and digital signatures, things are not so simple. At the moment, most mobile platforms do not support functionality of digital signature in an email (although ActiveSync does support it on protocol level).

However, if you want to send digitally signed content outside of your organization, you can experience CA trust issues. In this scenario, a recipient is not in the same domain as the author, so it does not trust a the CA that issued a the certificate for the digital signature. Although this kind of digital signature will still be valid from the aspect of content protection perspective, an application being used will probably generate a warning on the recipient side.

If you have a need to send digitally signed content to recipients outside of your organization, I recommended that you buy certificates from a public, globally trusted, CA.

Exchange Server 2013 CU2 is released

July 10th, 2013

For all of who wait for a first SP before you deploy new version of Exchange Server, think again. While Microsoft will still ship Service Packs for Exchange, they also decided to go with more frequent updates, released quarterly, in order to fix most significant bugs, but also to provide new functionalities.

Yesterday, Cumulative Update 2 for Exchange Server 2013 was released, and besides fixing some known (and unknown) bugs, it provides pretty much of new and enhanced functionalities. In these areas, Microsoft has provided new or improved functionalities:

  • Per-server database support
  • OWA Redirection
  • High Availability
  • Managed Availability
  • Cmdlet Help
  • OWA Search Improvements
  • Malware Filter Rules
  • CU2 can be downloaded here: Exchange Server 2013 CU2. As before, this is full install, rather then just an incremental upgrade, but you can use it for both purposes – green field installation or upgrade of existing Exchange 2013. Microsoft still didn’t publish release notes for CU2, but pretty good overview of what’s new can be found here.

    Some tips for troubleshooting AD CS

    July 7th, 2013

    In last few weeks I was troubleshooting some PKI deployments, based on Windows Server 2008 and 2012, so I decided to share some troubleshooting tips from the field.

    In first case, customer deployed a Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard edition, and configure CA role on it. Since 2008 R2 supports creating and managing  of  certificate templates, there was no need to deploy Enterprise. However, attempt to install ForeFront Identity Manager 2010 R2 CA files failed, because FIM setup wizard was looking for Enterprise or Datacenter on CA. We decided to do online upgrade to Enterprise version by using dism tool and that went fine. However, from that point CA role was not able to see any custom certificate templates from AD DS, nor it was able to create new, although it was officially running Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise. Solution was to fix things by using ADSIEdit tool. I ran ADSIEdit and then connected to configuration partition of AD DS and opened CN=Configuration | CN=Services | CN=Public Key Services | CN=Enrollment Services. In this key, right click the problematic CA name and choose to open Properties. Switch to Attributes and look for flags attribute. For Enterprise CAs this attribute should have value 10. In my case, this value was 2. After changing this manually to 10, and restarting AD CS, everything was fine.

    In second case, customer was having huge number of failed and pending requests on his CA, as a result of improperly configured autoenrollment. We are talking about 10000+ failed or pending requests. I had to clean up this mess, and I used fairly simple method to do this. If you execute this command:

    certutil –deleterow 01/06/2013 Request,

    as a result all pending and failed requests generated before June 1st 2013 will be deleted. Be aware however that this command can clean up around 2500 rows in one pass. If you have more requests to clean, command will throw an error after it’s done. Don’t worry about that, just re-run this same command few times, until all is cleaned up.

    Similar, if you have large number of expired certificates in your Issued certificate store on CA, you can use similar command to clean them up. Execute:

    certutil –deleterow 01/06/2013 Cert,

    and all certificates expired up to June 1st 2013, will be deleted.

    And if you need to delete some specific request, make sure that you find appropriate requestID and execute this :

    certutil –deleterow RequestID.

    After you clean up the mess on the CA, it’s a good idea to defrag the CA database. Same utility as for AD DS DB defrag is used, which is eseutil. Just run eseutil /d pathtoCAdbfile.

    Mail flow issues in Exchange Server 2013

    June 29th, 2013

    Ever since Exchange Server 2013 was released some users are experiencing pretty annoying mail flow issue, mostly manifested like messages stuck in Outbox or Drafts folder in Outlook or Outlook Web App.

    While this issue is still not officially confirmed by Microsoft, there are, however, several solutions that can resolve it. In this post, I will present solutions known so far to resolve this. Before you start, make sure that you have latest CU installed on your Exchange Server 2013.

    First, you should check if mail flow issue is maybe caused by performance issue on Exchange server. Sometime, if the Exchange server is low on system resources, it will stop some services. If you have performance issue with your Exchange, you will definitely have it recorded in Event Viewer, so make sure that you check that first.

    If you are fine with available resources and performance, but still experiencing mail flow issue, try to manually restart Exchange transport services. If you are running both CAS and MBX roles on the same machine, you have to restart these three services : Microsoft Exchange Frontend Transport, Microsoft Exchange Transport Delivery and Microsoft Exchange Transport Submission. This usually helps if you experience mail flow issue after your restart your Exchange server.

    DNS configuration on the Exchange Server is also pretty usual cause for mail flow issue. To make sure that you have proper DNS configuration, open Exchange Admin center, navigate to servers, and then select your Exchange server(s) and click Edit on toolbar. Now, navigate to DNS lookups, select your network adapter and manually enter the DNS server that your Exchange server should use for internal and external lookups. Most likely, it will be your local DNS.

    If this doesn’t help, you can also try to prevent your Exchange transport from using DNS IPv6. However, for this, you should edit Exchange transport config files. Navigate to your Exchange installation folder, open BIN directory and find following files:

    · Edgetransport.exe.config

    · Msexchagnesubmission.exe.config

    · MSExchangedelivery.exe.config

    To each of these files, you should add following line:

    <add key= "DnsIpv6Enabled"  value = "false” />

    Be aware, however, that EdgeTransport.exe.config  file already has the entry but it is sent to true, so you should just change it to false.

    After you do this, it is recommended to restart transport services, or the whole Exchange server.

    If you have your own solution for mail flow issue, not listed here, post a comment.

    Moving mailboxes from Exchange 2010 organization to Exchange 2013 organization – Part 2

    May 28th, 2013

     

    After you enabled Mailbox Replication Proxy service on the source Exchange Server, it is a good idea to test its functionality. You can easily do it by executing Test-MRSHealth cmdlet. Make sure that you have value True in each Passed row, for each test, and you’re good to go.

    Before actually moving a mailbox, you should prepare it for moving. Actually, you have to migrate a user object first and prepare mailbox move request. Luckily, Microsoft has provided a script for this. Steps for preparing an object move are as follows:

    1.       Open Exchange Management Shell on the destination CAS server and change the path to “C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\v15\scripts”

    2.       Type, $Local = Get-Credential and press Enter. When prompted, provide admin credentials for new (destination) organization. That is the org to which you move the mailbox.

    3.       Type $Remote= Get-Credential and provide credentials for source organization. By executing these steps we are actually storing credentials for administrators in both organizations. These credentials are used by the script in the next step.

    4.      Type:

    .\Prepare-MoveRequest.Ps1 -Identity “User UPN” -RemoteForestDomainController FQDN_OF_SourceDC -RemoteForestCredential $Remote -LocalForestDomainController FQDN_OF_LocalDC -LocalForestCredential $Local -TargetMailUserOU "OU=OUNAme,dc=domain,dc=extension"  – you should fill italic text with your own values
    (example : .\Prepare-MoveRequest.Ps1 -Identity Damir@dizdarevic.ba -RemoteForestDomainController dc-srv-01.dizdarevic.ba -RemoteForestCredential $Remote -LocalForestDomainController dc-srv-01.dizdarevic.local -LocalForestCredential $Local -TargetMailUserOU "OU=IT,dc=dizdarevic,dc=local" )

    5.       After you execute this PS script you should get the reply : 1 mailbox(es) ready to move

    Now, if you open Active Directory Users&Computers in destination domain, you should find user object created (and disabled, since we didn’t move password). If the object is there, we are ready to move the mailbox. We will do it in Exchange Admin Center in Exchange Server 2013.

    So, open EAC and perform following:

    Click recipients and then click the migration tab. Click New and choose Move to this forest option. In a wizard, click Add and select the user that you just moved. Actually, here you will see only users that are moved using procedure described earlier. Enter credentials for remote/source forest and confirm the name of migration endpoint – that is FQDN of the server where you enabled MRS Proxy service. After that choose the destination database for the mailbox and confirm the admin credentials. Start the migration batch. After that wait for a few minutes until status of user object becomes Synced. Then click Complete this migration batch and wait until the status of the object becomes Completed. And, you’re done!

    After mailbox is migrated, all you have to do is to set the password on the moved user account and to enable that account. After that, user can login in the new forest, and will have its mailbox content moved.

    So, as you can see, the process is not simple, but it can be done if you carefully follow the steps I provided. If you have troubles, let me know – maybe I can help.