Upgrade AD from 2008 R2 to 2016 with on prem Exchange 2013

Melissa Dyer
Melissa Dyer used Ask the Experts™
on
We currently have 3 domain controllers running Windows Server 2008 R2. We are using Exchange 2013 on premise (Version 15.0 (Build 1178.4)). I am planning the first step of adding a server running 2012 and promoting it to a DC on our way to getting the AD level eventually to 2016. I know that I will need to run adprep /forestprep and adprep /domainprep once I have the new server joined to the domain. My concern is with the effects this will have on Exchange 2013. In my research I have seen everything from "it can't be done"  to "it's easy and doesn't break anything". Can the experts weigh in on what the expected and/or potential problems I need to watch out for are? Is there anything I can do to minimize the potential problems? If one of you have a step by step to offer I would be forever grateful but any advice is welcome. Thanks!
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MichelangeloSystem Administrator / Postmaster

Commented:
AD level (domain and forest) support is about AD schema and not operating system. You want to upgrade your DCs only I suppose, so a schema upgrade is necessary.
Exchange 2013 requires at minimum 2008 R2 FFL (see here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/previous-versions/windows/it-pro/windows-server-2008-R2-and-2008/cc754918(v=ws.10) ).

In a nutshell: evolving your DOmain FFL does not impact “di per se” exchange 2013
Windows System Administrator
Commented:
I'd highly recommend skipping Server 2012 and just go straight to Server 2016. No need to put a Server 2012 server in as a DC when you could jump straight up to Server 2016.

For DFL & FFL, that's only done once all of your DC's have been upgraded to 2016, it can't be done before. So while adding a single 2016 server in will get you on the path, you'll need to upgrade all of your DC's to 2016 before you can look at upgrading your DFL & FFL.

If you're concerned, you could always go to 2012 DFL/FFL first and then go up to 2016 when you're happy there's been no issues.

As a side anecdote, I know my organisation currently runs Exchange 2013 for 99% of our mailboxes, and we're on DFL/FFL Server 2016 and we haven't seen any issues.
Michael B. SmithManaging Consultant

Commented:
This website defines the supportability matrix for all recent versions of Exchange Server: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff728623(v=exchg.150).aspx

As long as you are at Exchange 2013 SP1 or later, then a DFL/FFL of Server 2016 is supported (and everything less, down to Server 2003).
Melissa DyerSenior Network Administrator

Author

Commented:
Thank you all for your input. Hearing from somebody who was actually using 2013 on a DFL/FFL of 2016 has been very reassuring. Thanks!!

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