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So lately I’ve had a few customers ask ..

“How come I haven’t heard about this tool you’re talking / showing me until now?”

This was in regards to a performance analysis tool a customer found particularly useful. He went on to wonder out loud. “

“Shouldn’t there be like a master list of Microsoft utilities or tools we can / should be using on our Exchange environments?”

So I took this as an opportunity to start building such a list. So below is a list of utilities, where to get them, when you may need to use them, and the version or versions they are applicable to. Enjoy!

 

*Note* this list will evolve over time. Obviously as a Microsoft employee I am only going to highlight our utilities, it’s a legal thing I try to avoid Smile If you have a suggestion for something that should be on it that I’ve missed, please send me an email or leave a comment!"

VSSTester Script – Exchange 2010 – validate the proper operation of Exchange 2010 VSS writers and collect relevant troubleshooting information.

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/scriptcenter/VSSTesterps1-script-4ed07243

MFCMAPI – Any version – This is an excellent tool to look directly into a mailbox or OST file to view item level attributes and settings. Handy for things like finding hidden items, finding mailbox stored settings that appear in outlook, deleting persisting rules or alerts.

http://mfcmapi.codeplex.com/releases/view/104434

Experfwiz – Exchange 2007 & higher (soon to be 2013 as well) - Powershell based script to create counter logs or data collect sets on the server to collect only the exchange relavent objects and counters.

http://experfwiz.codeplex.com/releases/view/91486

PAL – Any version – This powershell based tool will parse your previously collected perf data and review it against a collection of XML configuration files that other PFE’s in Microsoft have managed and kept updated. The tool will then spit out a beautiful HTML report with graphs, charts, and tables of your data compared to our best practice recommendations. Great for proving performance / sizing issues and gathering ammunition to bring to management if you need help in justifying a hardware purchase or scale out! *NOTE* newer versions of this tool are x64 only!

http://pal.codeplex.com/releases/view/51623

OffCat – outlook 2003 and higher – This tool will aid support technicians in finding common misconfigurations in your full Outlook clients

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36852

Network Message Analyzer – Any version – This next gen version of the old school “Net Mon” tool makes collecting network traces and packet captures much easier than in the past. want to confirm that the pesky Outlook client is constantly losing network connectivity? this is the tool for you.

https://connect.microsoft.com/site216/Downloads

Microsoft Script Center Repository – Any version – Looking for a script or automation tool to speed up a repetitive process? Looking for an easier way to capture some data and maybe email you a report of it? This is the place to be. It has many of these types of community generated scripts from users looking to help others with similar needs. Some of the contributors are local gurus, MVP’s and even Microsoft Employees and PFE’s! Great thing about this is that it’s more than just Exchange script here, it spans all MSFT technologies

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/scriptcenter/site/search?f%5B0%5D.Type=RootCategory&f%5B0%5D.Value=Exchange&f%5B0%5D.Text=Exchange

Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer – All versions – This site also known as “EXRCA” is now embedded in the Exchange 2010 Admin console. We’ve expanded it’s scope and use now to include integration / testing with hosted (O365) environment as well as the above mentioned Message Header analyzer.

https://www.testexchangeconnectivity.com/

Autodiscover Self Test – Exchange 2007 and up – Great internal only test script to see if AutoD is working in a non-internet facing site where the EXRCA tool can’t be used.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/provtest/archive/2010/08/13/exchange-server-2010-sp1-beta-hosting-deployment-part-9-autodiscover.aspx

Exchange Client Network Bandwidth Calculator – Any version – This (still Beta) tool allows you to be able to created some rough numbers on the amount of bandwidth a set of clients, both mobile and full clients could place on your infrastructure as things like versions change and concurrent use varies.

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/office/Exchange-Client-Network-8af1bf00

CalCheck tool – Outlook and Exchange 2003 and higer – Command line utility to run against a mailboxes calendar to look for issues related to permissions, free/busy publishing, and auto booking. Now 2010 has a component built-in to handle this as well (Understanding Calendar Repair & EHLO blog post on CRA)

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=28786

Datacenter Switchover Troubleshooter – Exchange 2010 – Great PPTX to walk you through the process and ensure you’re following the proper steps along the way!

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Exchange-2010-Datacenter-09a81fc6

Log Parser Studio – Any version – Great UI based utility with some canned queries to parse IIS logs. Want to see your top 20 EAS users?

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/office/Log-Parser-Studio-cd458765

Exchange Legacy API Scanner – Exchange 2010 – This tool scans servers looking for dependancies that are no longer supported in 2010. Great for look ahead remediation

http://exapiscanner.codeplex.com/

Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer – Scans your entire topology to ensure you meet the organizational and AD prerequisites to deploy a certain version of Exchange

2010 – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=11636

Exchange Deployment Assistant (EXDeploy) – Ever wonder what all the steps and things to worry about were on how to deploy a clean or upgraded version of Exchange? Here is your walkthrough! Nice since you can save it in PDF format as well for offline reference!

2013 – Exchange 2013 Deployment Assistant

2010 – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/exdeploy2010/default(EXCHG.150).aspx#Index

Exchange Mailbox Server Calculator – 2010 / 2013 – Great tool generated directly from the product group themselves (Ross Smith IV specifically and company) to assist in trying to define sizing guidance for this critical role. Understand this calc is only as good as the data you input. The more accurate your collected data, the greater chances you’ll have at a stable and properly loaded Exchange server. A 2013 version of this tool is hopefully going to be released in the near future (TBD)

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Exchange-2010-Mailbox-Server-Role-/

2013 – http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2013/05/14/released-exchange-2013-server-role-requirements-calculator.aspx

Exchange Processor Query Tool – This tool will query the machines you plan on using for the above mailbox calc and get the proper values for the SPECint ratings section

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Exchange-Processor-Query-b06748a5

Microsoft Connectivity Analyzer Tool – Any version – Connectivity issue analyzer for the top most common issues. Install and run locally!

https://testconnectivity.microsoft.com/?tabid=client

Exchange Server User Monitor (ExMon) – Exchange 2000 and higher – Awesome tool to see exactly which mailboxes are pulling the most load against your servers. Could be used to define who may be a good fit for client throttling.

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=11461

Exchange Server Profile Analyzer – Exchange 2007 – To accurately collect existing messaging profiles (sent / recv per day, average mailbox size, etc.) This data is incredibly important for use in the mailbox calculator. Comes in 32

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=10559

Public Folder Replication Troubleshooter – Exchange 2003 – Guided walk through (GWT) for attacking Public Folder Replication issues

http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2012/11/12/public-folder-replication-troubleshooter.aspx

PST Capture tool – Exchange 2010 & 2013 – Centralized tool to collect, capture and import network based PST’s into mailboxes or Exchange server based archives

http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2013/02/22/time-to-go-pst-hunting-with-the-new-pst-capture-2-0.aspx

LoadGen – Exchange 2010 – utility to be able to simulate load (client load) on a CAS/HUB role server before actually installing exchange to verify the resources allocated or installed to the server will be sufficient.

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=20322

JetStress – Exchange 2010 (soon to be 2013 as well) – utility to be able to simulate load (client load) on a Mailbox role server before actually installing exchange to verify the disk subsystem exposed to the server will be sufficient.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff706601(v=exchg.141).aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=4167

TCPView – All versions – displays all TCP and UDP endpoints on a system. Great for verifying a certain kind of traffic or connection is or is not taking place.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897437.aspx

PortQry UI – All versions – Tool for testing ports or access to a remote system. Can that system accept Port 25 SMTP traffic? Confirm it here

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=24009

EAS Troubleshooter script - all versions – Great PS1 file to assist in parsing the IIS logs and finding potential issues. Also aggregates a lot of the data on mobile devices admins need these days

http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2012/01/31/a-script-to-troubleshoot-issues-with-exchange-activesync.aspx

Report CAL information script – Exchange 2010 – Portion of code to report exactly how many licenses of each type you should have. Easy auditing utility.

http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/68321b75-ab3d-4e04-9fe1-6a42de23b67f

“Hey Chad, how come I see two IP addresses in Failover Cluster Manager (FCM)? Then only one is “online” and the other is “Offline”? Is there an issue with my DAG?”

Well let’s get some context here. This large customer has a stretched dag that spans two geographic and AD sites. This DAG (per Microsoft best practices) has two internal private IP’s for the MAPI networks at each location. For some additional reading, follow the linked rabbit hole below!

Understanding Database Availability Groups

So this stretched DAG is up and running successfully, replication is firing away from their primary datacenter to their DR datacenter with no issues. Everyone is happy and copy and replay queue lengths are low. Along comes their server monitoring team running around with their arms in the air screaming the Exchange 2010 sky is falling!

“There is an issue with your Exchange cluster, what would you like us to do to it for you?”

The correct answer here used (and much credit to my customer) was “Nothing”. Although Exchange DAG’s utilize Failover Cluster features of Windows Server 2008, it’s not as integrated as it was in the 2007 CCR days. Although Exchange leverages part of FC within Server 2008, it’s primary management method should always be the EMC or EM Shell. My token line about this is “If you’re in FCM, you’ve got some serious issues. Exchange DAG clusters should always be managed from EMC or EMS unless you’re doing a DC switchover and/or being assisted by Microsoft Support services (premier)”

So what are we looking at here?

DAG_IP

So the server team sees a resource “Offline” and panics. This image you see above is normal and  expected. Now the cluster “Owner” in any DAG case is the PAM or Primary Active Manager. The two IP’s we see above are going to be selected between based on which node of the stretched cluster is currently the PAM. In this example one of the nodes on the 10.84.189.X network is the PAM. How can we verify this? Easy sauce..

Get-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup A0000-DAG0102-V –Status | FL Name, *Prim*

If this node listed from the output fails, a new PAM will automatically be elected. If this node is on the same side of the stretched DAG, the DAG IP used listed above doesn’t change. If the selection / promotion process chooses a server on the far side the online / offline IP listing above would flip flop. There can only be one online IP for the DAG at anytime.

“Should I move my PAM to one datacenter over the other?”

Good question. Do you run an active / passive (Primary / DR) kind of scenario? do you have poor network connectivity to the other side of the stretched dag? Then maybe. Best case scenario with any Cluster management in Exchange is let the mechanisms manage themselves until it’s absolutely necessary to intervene.

First off, I’d like to apologize for the large gap in blog posts. Even 6 1/2 months in I am still trying to get a complete handle on all things PFE, thus the gap.

In all the areas our customers present issues with, we in premier field engineering are only second to our PSS (Premier support services) & CTS (Consumer technical support) in the level of detail and volume of odd issues. The following blog post outlines one such issue.

Background..

mixed Exchange 2003 & 2007 server environment. Large number of users 50k +. Clients using a mix of Outlook 2003 and 2007 in accessing the mailboxes. This particular group of users that experienced the calendaring item “corruption” was on exchange 2003 and have recently moved to Outlook 2007 Sp2. The reported issues were as follows..

Calendar reminders either not triggering or unable to be cleared
Calendar items mysteriously being removed from the calendar, even off of the meeting organizers
Opening a reminder and the calendar item itself is completely blank including subject / attendees / etc..

After some initial triage we found this to be an issue only with Cache mode clients. Once we moved the users to Online Mode, the issues immediately disappeared. We tried then creating a new local OST and even a new profile with immediate issues reappearing. This initially led us to think this was an issue with the way the OST file was being created with Outlook 2007 sp2. We had them do some initial testing with some SP3 clients to rule out a patch or bug that could have been fixed. An interim work around was to leave any users reporting the issue in online mode until the root cause could be located. The only issue with this is there was a portion of the affected users that were mobile and although an interim “manual” syncing of certain folders worked, it introduced additional steps the users had to perform which was deemed unacceptable.

During this investigative process one way the client was trying to resolve this issue was using the MFCMAPI tool. They were able to manually deleted the reminders which couldn’t be dismissed by the end users, but couldn’t address missing items in the local OST that were there when viewed using OWA. This meant they had a partial fix, but even this fix was a long manual process which wasn’t feasible in the long run.

Then we tried to look at some of the commonalities of the affected users. Did they all work for one department? did they all use the same Outlook client? Did they all use a similar type of mobile device and tried modifying mail (more specifically calendar) items from mobile devices? Now I have to give this customer a lot of credit here. They published some internal best practices documents to try and minimize possible causes of mailbox corruption (reduce delegates, don’t use more than one version of outlook for mailbox management, don’t use mobile devices for calendar item management, etc..) After some more analysis we found ALL the affected users were in one data store on one server. They then moved the mailboxes to another store on another server and the users no longer had the issues.

NOTE: Some of them did have to recreate their OST local cache, but once complete all was well

After the mailstore was empty, they noted they couldn’t delete the database as it appeared to have some orphaned items in it. they forced the maintenance cycle on the database which then allowed them to finally and permanently delete the EDB and STM files.

Case solved.

Finally got around to updating my cert listings (thanks for the idea @sharepointnerd) and figured i’d pop it in here!

The official MSL transcript

 

In case you haven’t noticed, or have found my site for the first time, we’re working with a new URL boys and girls!

I’ve got the old URL (csolarz.WordPress.com) finally redirecting over to my own namespace (Solarz.net)! I know, its taken me some time from the original spaces.live.com blog to the wordpress hosted one to this, it’s final resting place :-)

All new content will only be published here on this instance of the WordPress site, so if need be.. update your favorites/bookmarks! Consider yourselves warned. The site’s focus will also be shifting somewhat soon, details to follow.

,,

Well it appears that Lync 2010 (A.K.A. – new OCS product) has finally hit the RTM phase of it’s life cycle. I can’t wait to download the final bits and test it in a lab environment along side a Exchange 2010 server with Office 2010 clients!

What IS Lync anyway? The home Lync site describes it as..

  "Microsoft Lync Server 2010 delivers complete presence, instant
messaging, conferencing and enterprise voice capabilities through a
single, easy-to-use interface that is consistent across PC, browser, and
mobile device. Administrators benefit from a single, consistent
management infrastructure, new capabilities to increase availability,
and interoperability with existing systems"

The announcement and the prodcut is also descibed on the Microsoft Unified Communications team blog

Sound interested? enterprise VOIP / IM and more? Don’t want to pay for the infrasturcture to support it? Have you checked out the Office365 suite yet?

 


“so I have 3,000 mailboxes in a single, multi domain forest. When I go to recipient configuration I only see a subset of them all? What gives Chad?”

Great question!

By design the exchange management console only shows recipients from the currently connected to domain. To change this you need to change the scope of the filter. This allows you to change and see the entire forest contents or just another domain.

Don’t forget though there is a default limit to the number of items displayed for that filter set. Out of the box this is 1,000 objects. This too is customizable but it may affect performance.

Mike, a student of mine came and asked, I really like using XP mode in Windows 7 for application compatibility, but having to do the setup and config over and over again is really a pain the butt. Anyway I could speed the process like a sysprep?

 

Absolutely. You are dealing with a VM, a VHD in particular. He then made the XP mode setup, but did some very basic customizations and did NOT add it to the domain. Then he copied the VHD file off to a central place for later distribution.

on the following machines he just installs Windows Virtual PC and installs the necessary patch. next he creates a new VM from scratch and then just points to the local copy of the VHD he’s made from earlier and BAM. all that is left is to join it to the domain.

Is there a better way? Sure MED-V is a better solution but this is a quick win, with no costs.

So the transition from Spaces.live.com to WordPress.com is complete. Those of you who keep up with this blog will have to update your bookmarks at some point. Now the old Http://csolarz.spaces.live.com will keep redirecting here but only for so long. Make sure you bookmark the new URL of Http://csolarz.wordpress.com accordingly.

Would you like to see a specific item added to the site or feature / widget? Speak up – this blog is OURS!

Csolarz@solarz.net or comment to this post.

 

A student of mine tipped me off to a hew “Hybrid” platter / SSD combo drive. It’s an intuitive drive that learns what your most used files are and will keep them on a 4gb dedicated flash chip. This has supposedly come with amazing results and I’ve seen some videos on them and they show that it’s only about 10-15% slower than a SSD but 25% of the cost of an SSD.

 

Momentus Hybrid Drive!