A Point of View on Transforming Messaging Environment

POSTED BY : Director - Solutions
Thursday, August 22, 2013

Most of the enterprises have realized that Unified communication and collaboration is a gateway to overcoming business challenges. Considering continuous innovation in IT like internet area, Storage changes, user expectation & work pattern change, security & compliance, and consumerization, there is a significant demand to align enterprise with future-proof IT Architecture and drive socially enabled enterprise. Along with this there is overall pressure on CIOs to evaluate and embrace Cloud offering in alignment with business roadmap. These are few of the triggering factors for enterprise to simplify their IT and transform their IT spending. Messaging being building block for Unified communication and Collaboration, transforming messaging infrastructure to future-ready architecture should enable organization to achieve stated goals.

Every organization based on their size, industry, geographical location and many more similar parameter, have different expectation from their messaging infrastructure. This dynamic nature of expectations and requirement from messaging solution makes it void to have one solution fits all for messaging infrastructure. Whatever the requirement organization has, the deployment flexibility with Exchange makes it easier for organization to get the right solution for their business.

Organizations running previous versions of Microsoft's email and group collaboration flagship, such as Exchange Server 2003 or Exchange Server 2007 have realized that their existing messaging infrastructure is not future-proof and does not enable user to enjoy all new features current collaboration platform provides. The current release, Exchange Server 2010 and new release Exchange 2013, has some distinct architecture and feature benefits that business users are eager to enjoy.

With the deployment flexibility Microsoft Exchange provides, Messaging Transformation can be widely categorized into:
- Exchange on-premise
- Exchange on public cloud (Office 365)
- Exchange in Hosted environment
- Exchange in Hybrid mode

Why consider On-Premise Exchange 2010/2013 Transformation?

On-premises Exchange server is deployment method where Exchange server run on Server (Physical or Virtual) within organization premises rather than at a remote facility, such as at a server farm or cloud. This is still preferred method for organization demanding highest level of Data protection, typically for industries where organization needs to have ability to supervise and secure data on premise. An on-premise transformation is attractive for the following reasons:
- Infrastructure Control: Organizations that need to exercise control over their e-mail communications for compliance purposes will appreciate having full control of their e-mail platform. One key issue that remains for on-premise deployments is that organizations with multiple AD sites must also deploy additional Mailbox, Hub Transport and Client Access server roles in each AD site.
- Mature Technology: E-mail server technology is fully mature with ground breaking innovations at the peripheries rather than at the center (i.e. messaging and collaboration capabilities). Microsoft positions Exchange as the cornerstone of its unified communications portfolio, enabling businesses to integrate it with other Microsoft and third-party unified communication solutions.
- Customization: With Exchange Server 2010/2013 on-premise, organizations do have the complete range of customization options. Also organizations can use 3rd party application integration for organization specific requirements like dynamic signature, dynamic disclaimer, etc.. Also Exchange Server 2010 management shell enables organizations to automate routine checks or maintenance tasks.
- Lower TCO for long run: With Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 now it is possible to deploy all Exchange server roles on Virtualized environment. Also with significant architecture change dependency on complex SAN and Backup has reduced. Typically large organizations (over 5,000 mailboxes) will achieve a lower five year TCO through an on-premise deployment.

Why consider Exchange 2010/2013 on public cloud (Office 365)?

As per many organizations, maintenance and upkeep of their messaging system is the most intensive aspect of their I.T. operations. Issues, such as high availability, archiving, backup & restore anti-spam, storage management and many other considerations compound to make email not only the most business critical service at many organizations, but also the most complex services to manage. Microsoft Office 365 works on pay as you go model and provides two subscription options to organization:
- Dedicated Service Plan: When the organization subscribes to a dedicated plan of O356 / Exchange Online for enterprises, the email is hosted on dedicated servers that are housed in reliable, security-enhanced, Microsoft data centers. Messaging content is accessible to users on a wide range of devices from inside your corporate network or over the Internet. Dedicated O356 / Exchange Online gives users single sign-on access to email, calendar, and contacts from virtually anywhere, at any time.
- Shared Service Plan: When the organization subscribes to shared service plan of O365 / Exchange Online for enterprise, the email is hosted on servers that support multiple customers simultaneously. These servers are housed in Microsoft data centers and are accessible to users on a wide range of devices from inside a corporate network or over the Internet. Shared Service Plan does not allow enterprise to use functionality like Single sign-on.

Microsoft Office 365 provides solution for organizations that are looking forward for solution where Service Provider will provide all the functionality that end-users require in alignment with business requirement from security and compliance perspective without organization being worried about designing, deploying and managing infrastructure which provides high availability; comply with organization's legal requirements for data protection.

Transformation to Microsoft Office 365 is attractive for the following reasons:
- Technology Refresh: Organization which are running older version of Exchange Server and looking forward to get advantage of new enhancements like tips in outlook, text pre-view of voice mail, self-service through Outlook Webapp, rich outlook like experience for webclient, etc… available with Exchange 2010 / 2013 get advantage of all feature set available with Exchange 2010/2013 while migrating their end-users to Microsoft Office 365 without having large upfront investment.
- Worry-Free IT: Office 365 provides built-in anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam protection with financially backed uptime of 99.9%. Office 365 provides management console for day-to-day user management related operations and eliminates need for organization to have highly skilled IT staff.
- Easy to Deploy and use: Setting up Microsoft Office 365 does not require complex designing. It works best when organization is expanding rapidly as only thing organization needs to do to is, provision user using management console. This eliminates need to do architecture redesign to handle addition of users and ongoing need to do capacity planning.
- Complete collaboration suite: Office 365 is bundled with complete collaboration suite products like Lync Online and SharePoint Online which enables organization to enjoy benefit real-time presence information, instant messaging, and SharePoint lists in Outlook, without to have additional investment in designing and deploying Microsoft Lync and Microsoft SharePoint.
- Lower Capital Expenditures: Because it is a cloud service, Exchange Online provides the potential for substantial reductions in total cost of ownership by eliminating the need to purchase, deploy, upgrade, and manage hardware and software. Additionally, 24/7 IT-level phone support is included in the cost of most Office 365 plans. Because it is licensed as a per-user, per- month subscription, Exchange Online turns large, unpredictable capital expenditures into more predictable monthly expenses.

When to consider Exchange 2010/2013 in Hosted environment?

Hosted Exchange server is deployment method where Exchange server run on Server (Physical or Virtual) at a remote/third-party facility, such as at a server farm and continues to provide same rich Exchange features to end-users.

In hosted environment committed infrastructure availability will be provided by hosting provider and Exchange Server management responsibility remains with organization. There are two approaches to hosted messaging model:
- Complete hosting: In the complete hosting model all the HW and SW are owned by the hosting provider. The hosting provider also provides message Hygiene, security, back devices, power supply and rack space in their datacenter. The customers would rent these services and pay for the services on a monthly basis on a pay as you go model. In other scenarios instead of server HWs Virtual machines can be used. The exchange services can be hosted on these physical / Virtual machines. The Management of the Operating system and exchange servers is the responsibility the client or the out sourced company. The customer may use other datacenters for their disaster recovery needs.
- Co-location: In the Co-location hosting model the HW and SW would be owned by the customer. The hosting provider is responsible only for redundant power supply, physical security and rack space in their datacenter. The customers would rent only the datacenter services and pay for the services on a monthly basis. The Management of the Operating system and exchange servers is the responsibility the client or the out sourced company.

Transformation to hosted environment is attractive for the following reasons:
- Real estate constrain: Setting up Exchange 2010/2013 in hosted environment reduces cost pertaining to real estate. Also it reduces cost to manage such infrastructure.
- Availability and Physical Security: Messaging being critical part of enterprise, ensuring continuity is major aspect of management. Also it is important to deploy required physical security for messaging infrastructure. These constrains increases management cost drastically. By hosting Exchange servers in service provider environment, organizations can reduce such management cost.
- Disaster Recovery: It is also possible to have Disaster Recovery deployed in hosted environment to avoid capital investment for DR site.

Different industries today have different messaging deployment requirements driven by business challenge, government regulation, end-user demand etc.. For instance many industries today may have specific policies about which countries can host your data, or you may need to know exactly where data is located at all times. Such requirements rules out transformation of messaging services to Office365. However with the rich deployment flexibility Exchange 2010 & Exchange 2013 provides, organization can take advantage of deploying Exchange in Hybrid mode where organization can retain users who need to adhere to such policies on on-premise Exchange server and remaining users can be migrated to Exchange on cloud (Office 365).

In a hybrid user deployment, users provisioned in Exchange Online and users provisioned in the same domain in Exchange Server 2010 on-premises can see free/busy information and coexist with one another almost as if they were using the same deployment. In any Hybrid scenario, users on-premises or in the cloud continue to have the same great Exchange experience from the desktop, web, or mobile phone. Moreover, administrators can manage their user base as one and synchronize their on-premises Active Directory with Office 365 cloud services.

When to consider Exchange 2010/2013 in Hybrid environment?

The most common use of a hybrid deployment is during large migrations. For a company with thousands of users, migrating everyone in a weekend is not feasible. Hybrid deployments enable you to migrate users to the cloud at a pace that makes sense for your organization. In some cases, organizations choose to maintain a hybrid Exchange environment indefinitely. For example:
- Academic institutions may choose to deploy Exchange Online for their students while maintaining Exchange Server 2010 for faculty and staff on-premises.
- Manufacturing companies may choose to keep corporate office employees on-premises, using Exchange Server 2010, while supporting floor workers with the Kiosk Worker plans in Office 365.
- A group inside a larger organization can run a pilot of Exchange Online while remaining connected to users of on-premises Exchange Server 2010.
- An organization has legacy, email-enabled line-of-business applications that do not interact with online services. If some users rely on such applications, they can remain in an on-premises Exchange Server 2010 deployment while other users' data is moved to the cloud.
- Multinational corporations may have employees in subsidiaries that require data to reside in- country. Those subsidiaries may maintain their data on-premises while the rest of the organization moves its data to the cloud.

Jigar Rajendra Shah
Director - Solutions