In the last three posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) in this series I have focused on bringing up the Windows Server Essentials Experience role on a Server 2012 R2 machine, the idea being that Essentials provides many of the same tools and services as did SBS.  Implementation of the Essentials role does provide a “way forward” for those organizations that want a similar experience to SBS but on a “modern” platform.

Of course, one of the big features of SBS was the inclusion of Exchange as part of the package.  Microsoft wants you to go to O365 but there are many organizations that can’t, for whatever reason.  So, now we will look at how to incorporate Exchange into your Essentials environment.  Keep in mind that you will have to purchase separate Exchange licenses to go down this route, Exchange is NOT bundled in any way with Essentials.

I’m going to be installing Exchange 2016 as it is the latest and greatest.  There are lots of good tutorials and how-to’s on the Web, two that I have referenced are here (Paul Cunningham, MVP) and here (msexchange.org).  You MUST do your reading before you attempt the install as there are lots of things you need to be aware of.  Installing Exchange has never been a “Next, Next, Enter” proposition and that is even more true with 2016.

I will be installing on a 2012 R2 VM that has been joined to my domain (the server with the Essentials Role is the DC) and the VM has been patched completely up-to-date.  Following Paul’s recommendations I will do the following:

1.Ensure .NET framework 4.5.2 is installed on the VM

2.Install the RSAT-ADDS feature on the VM.

3.Ensure the account I’m using is a member of Enterprise and Schema Admins in the AD.

 

And you should have the IIS role enabled so ensure that is in place.  You will hit all sorts of install blocks if IIS is NOT installed.  Use this cmdlet to enable the role and the required bits and pieces:

Install-WindowsFeature AS-HTTP-Activation, Desktop-Experience, NET-Framework-45-Features, RPC-over-HTTP-proxy, RSAT-Clustering, RSAT-Clustering-CmdInterface, RSAT-Clustering-Mgmt, RSAT-Clustering-PowerShell, Web-Mgmt-Console, WAS-Process-Model, Web-Asp-Net45, Web-Basic-Auth, Web-Client-Auth, Web-Digest-Auth, Web-Dir-Browsing, Web-Dyn-Compression, Web-Http-Errors, Web-Http-Logging, Web-Http-Redirect, Web-Http-Tracing, Web-ISAPI-Ext, Web-ISAPI-Filter, Web-Lgcy-Mgmt-Console, Web-Metabase, Web-Mgmt-Console, Web-Mgmt-Service, Web-Net-Ext45, Web-Request-Monitor, Web-Server, Web-Stat-Compression, Web-Static-Content, Web-Windows-Auth, Web-WMI, Windows-Identity-Foundation

Run it from an elevated PowerShell prompt:

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If some of the features are already installed that’s okay, the script will install the rest.

You also need to install the Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API 4.0 Core Runtime 64-bit (whew!).  Install it from: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=260990.

Next ensure the .Net framework is in place:

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.Net is installed!

From an ELEVATED PowerShell prompt install RSAT-ADDS:

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And check the account that you are using is member of the required groups:

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You also have to check the Domain Functional level which MUST be at least Server 2008.

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Now you have to extract the Exchange setup files to perform the next steps.  I have the ISO from my MSDN subscription so I mount the ISO and I see there is an application file called EXCHANGE2016-X64.  I run it as an Admin and it gives me the option to extract files to a location of my choice which I have done.

Now the fun starts!

First step is to upgrade the AD schema to support Exchange 2016.  To do this you run the following from an elevated command prompt:

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Obviously you run this from the directory that you extracted the Exchange set up files into, in my case it is E:\TOP\Ex2016.

NOTE:  The following steps assume you want to perform all of the install at the command line.  You can also simply execute the setup command and then run the install from inside the graphical installer and answer questions as you go along.  The choice is yours, the end result is the same.

The commands can take some time to run so be patient!  You should see output similar to the following:

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Next command is very important:

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You are setting the OrganizationName for your Exchanger server. Once set it is cut in stone so pick something you can live with!  Also, note that in this example we are installing into a clean AD that has had no prior Exchange servers.  Please read Paul’s blog notes if installing into an AD that has already had Exchange.

Like the previous command, this one takes some time to run.  You will see output similar to the following:

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Note the comments in the Red box!

We now have to install the Mailbox Server role.  This is the primary role required for Exchange to function.  Installing this role pretty much “installs” Exchange.

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This will really take some time so sit back and relax!

If you see errors returned you can fix the indicated error (the error messages are very descriptive) and re-run the command until all is cleanly installed.  You will see errors if you missed any of the pre-req’s listed at the beginning of this post.  (I did! Smile, that’s why I’m calling this point out!)

Ooops …

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Funnily enough, I also hit an error where the WMSVC service failed to start which also caused the installation to abort.

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I discovered another post on Paul’s blog that pretty much described the problem.  I had to delete the existing WMSVC certificate and recreate as Paul describes in order for the installation to continue.  I suspect that my one or two “failed” installation attempts messed something up with the cert.

Anyway, once I fixed the blocking issues the installation ran as expected but it did take quite some time to complete, so be patient!

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Once the machine is rebooted Exchange should be available for use.  Searching for “exchange” from the Start screen reveals these choices:

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Exchange 2016 is a very different beast from earlier versions and the big differences are apparent right here.  While the Exchange Management Shell is still a locally run Powershell app and the Exchange Toolbox is still what you expect, the guts of managing Exchange is now totally web-based as is evidenced by the Exchange Administrative Center’s very “IE-ish” logo.  Clicking on the Admin Center link takes you to https://localhost/ecp:

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And once you login:

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If you have seen Office365 Exchange then the above will look very familiar as it is the same interface that is seen online.  The really nice thing is you can now manage Exchange from any browser of your choice from any device (just like with Office365)!

Here is Chrome from my desktop PC:

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And from browser on my Samsung Galaxy tablet:

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In the next post in this series I’ll look at configuring Exchange in conjunction with Essentials.

Non-profit? On SBS? Can’t go to O365? Here’s what to do! (Part 4 – Exchange)
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