My situation, where to go? Exchange 2010 vs 2013 vs 2016

My current situation is, i've got a mixed Exchange 2007 and 2010 enivonrment. Many users relying on their Exchange 2007 mailbox server, and 2010 users, theirs.

There is no DAG. There's no redundancy. If Exchange 2007 goes down, 2010 is still up at least for those users, and the 2007 users are goign to be waiting on Veeam to restore their livelihood.
Challenge I have is, upper management wants to get everyone migrated to Exchange 2010 because 2007 is "old" and needs to go away.
Well, my contention against that is that, if we move everyone from 2007 to our 2010 single server, then we have no DAG, so now we’ve got a single point of failure.

This has already been demonstrated when at one point in time, databases in 2007 went down a while due to an Admin accidentally removing said databases, and so those users were without a mailbox until their restore. Nobody in 2010 was affected by that, obviously, because their databases were on a different server.
So I think that supports my argument against putting all of our eggs in one basket.

We also have plans to have O365 hybrid, and our current 2010 server is having performance issues that I’m getting tired of supporting.
So this all which leads me to my ultimate question:  So where should I go from here?      

I could make a case to keep 2010 and try to setup some redundancy/dag, which we’d obviously need MORE SPACE for, and I think faster disks are needed (This is a virtual machine shop in VMWare).  

Or, should I make the case to get 2013 or 2016 Exchange setup, and migrate to that, and then go the O365 hybrid route?      
If 2013 or 2016 is the best option, then do I need 2 of those servers to have redundancy and eliminate the single point of failure? We have about 2,000 mailboxes.
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Will SzymkowskiSenior Solution ArchitectCommented:
If you remove the Exchange 2007 server and add another Exchange 2010 mailbox server and separate the mailboxes you now have all your users on Exchange 2010 on 2 different database servers. However that is just an example. If you want to go to Exchange 2013 (which is my recommendation) you can then setup a net-new Exchange Server/s Deployment for Exchange 2013 making sure that you setup all of the recommended best practices for this.

This allows you to migrate the 2007 mailboxes over to 2013 directly as well as the 2010 mailboxes  and also allowing to be in the same environment with all 3 versions of Exchange. Once you have moved the mailboxes over to 2013 you can remove 2007/2010.

At this point you have a pretty recent version of Exchange but it has been out long enough to ensure that a lot of the bugs have been fixed. When you are using Exchange 2013 you have an easier route to go to ExO or O365.

Also after Exchange 2016 has been out for a little while you can then easily integrate this into your 2013 environment seamlessly.

I would however wait for Exchange 2016 to be out for a little longer before jumping into production with it.

Another good point is if you do not already have CAL's for Exchange 2013 if you have to purchase them then they will be for 2016 which is the latest version . At that point they can be downgraded and used for 2013 in the meantime and when you are ready to go to 2016 you will already own the CAL's.

In regards to O365 or ExO that really all comes down to cost and feature set. The thing with those services is that you pay for everything and you less administrative control. so you need to take that in to consideration as well when thinking about going to a Host solution.


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Jason CrawfordTransport NinjaCommented:
There were some excellent improvements with 2013, and I think you could make a solid argument.  Be sure to point out that with the new stateless design of the CAS role, client access high availability can now be achieved for free through public DNS round robin.  There shouldn't even be an argument about putting all your eggs in one basket with a single server, and if price is a concern you should push to move 100% to Exchange Online.  If an option to stay on-prem in a DAG exists, why not use the opportunity to step up to a newer version.
garryshapeAuthor Commented:
Thanks Will.
So, say I'm going with 2013 to migrate 2007 and 2010 to it, would it be best to first implement redundancy with 2013?
I'm assuming that requires, 2 servers right? Two Exchange 2013 servers: 1 for primary and the other as a fallback?
Or with potentially a couple thousand more users being migrated, would it be best to have 3 Exchange 2013 servers: Two to split the Mailbox servers load, 1 for other roles besides mailbox?
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Will SzymkowskiSenior Solution ArchitectCommented:
a single exchange server (depending on the specs of the server) can handle thousands of mailboxes. Obviously to have DAG setup you need two or more mailbox servers (up to 16). So yes you have redundancy with Two servers in a DAG. because they are a Even number you will need to use a FWS as well.

If there is ever a need in the future to add more  redundancy for whatever reason you can simply add these mailbox servers to the DAG.

You should in fact create and configure your Exchange 2013 environment before you start moving over ANY mailboxes or services for that matter. This way you can ensure that everything is in place and will be working once the mailboxes have been moved to 2013. This would include the DAG setup as well.

As you move mailboxes over it will then make a copy on the passive mailbox database.

Also never load balance using DNS. DNS in itself is not a load balancing protocol. You will either want to use a layer4 or layer7 load balancer.

Layer4 = will be server aware
Layer7 = will be service aware

garryshapeAuthor Commented:
Awesome, thanks so much.
I began to setup a CAS Array in addition to the DAG for 2010, which I'm assuming is still needed for 2013. But couldn't proceed much farther due to lack of space issues.

Also did you use a calculator for your capacity planning? Or off the top of my head would 30GB of Memory and 4 CPU's be sufficient?
I don't know how disk/LUNs play a role in Exchange 2013 performance, but my feeling is that they are affecting 2010, just don't know enough about storage to pinpoint the culprit.
AmitIT ArchitectCommented:
I can see Will already gave you some good suggestion above. However, in your situation, I might plan to go directly to 2016. In 2016 best feature is, you can keep 2016 at backend and use your 2010 or 2013 as frontend. Which was not case with earlier version. Secondly, you will get latest Exchange version.

Exchange 2016 comes with only two roles: Mailbox and Edge. No more confusion. Use Exchange deployment assistant from MS from Migration to 2016.

I am personally not big fan of 2013. 2016 is designed properly after MS learned mistake they made in 2013.

As far as Office 365 in hybrid mode. From my experience, until you are a super expert in Exchange technology then only go for hybrid. Supporting hybrid is complex. Better you stick to on-premises or move fully to Office 365.

Let me know, if you need more info.
garryshapeAuthor Commented:
Thanks 2016 looks interesting but I do have about 5,000 mailboxes at 1.5TB usage to worry about as far as migrating. From what I understand I'd have to get rid of Exchange 2007 first before bringing 2016 in.
My understanding is that the best approach would be:
Add 2 new Exchange 2013 servers, set them up as a DAG, and then migrate 2007 and 2010 users to them.
Otherwise, the option is to migrate 2007 users to 2010, then migrate then add 2016 and migrate users a second time...? Not sure if that's right but that's what I'm deducing.
garryshapeAuthor Commented:
Would I do 2x Exchange 2013 servers and use one as a passive?
Or if you have a DAG between 2x EX2013 servers, can both be used simultaneously?
I'm thinking I'd have 2x Exchange 2013 servers splitting the load of users, but also serving as a failover for one another...?
Will SzymkowskiSenior Solution ArchitectCommented:
Yes you can host active mailbox database on both DAG members. You would then have the passive copy on the other node. This is the more appropriate method so that you do not have one server only holding the passive database and not doing anything. Split them between both DAG members.

I would also hold off on Exchange 2016 until it has been main stream for 8 months.

garryshapeAuthor Commented:
Ok, thanks a ton. Wish me luck. I won't need as much though since you guys have helped me a lot!
I just made the leap from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2016 this past Monday.
I migrated 2000 mailboxes without issue.

I built out 2 Exchange 2016 servers. Wanted to test using one as a frontend server which seems to be working out well. And all my users for now are on the 2nd server. Yes i miss the good'ol 5.5 days. :)

After everything calms down I will be looking at setting up redundancy or splitting the college between the 2 servers.

But so far i have no issues with 2016. It seems solid but it's only been a few days.
Oh almost forgot... Exchange 2016 is so new that your backup software may not support it fully. I use Backup Exec (latest version) and can backup the whole server. I can't do brick  level restores yet. I am told that feature will be out in the next feature pack for Backup Exec.
garryshapeAuthor Commented:
Thanks I really appreciate it.

I've been ruminating over this and I'm confused on one thing.

Those Outlook clients that are on Outlook 2010, they're all pretty much connecting directly to the Exchange 2010 CAS/MBX server (call it, as far as the "Server Settings" go in the Mail profile "Account Settings"...
Or they're connecting to a if they're on one of the newer databases (since the cas array was created well after most DB's were created, lol. don't ask...)

When I migrate them to a multi-role Exchange 2013 (CAS/MBX) server, do we need to manually update their internal Outlook client as far as what URL/server it connects to?
I'm assuming it's best to have a Load-balancing URL, that load balances between the 2 node DAG of Exchange 2013 servers as they are multi-role CAS/MBX, so we'd need to manually create an internal URL for that Load balancer, and manually update their Outlook clients to connect to that for their server?
if your people are running Office 2010 or later, Outlook will auto discover their mailbox server. Just make sure to update your internal MX records for the new mail server.

If you are getting rid of the IP's on the old server then all IP's both internal and external will need to be updated. Don't forget your firewall. I ran both servers side by side. So I had to create MX records on my internal DNS. On my Sophos appliance all i did was add the IP's of the new server.

I have yet to get into load balancing. That's the next item on my list to look at.
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