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Microsoft Releases Public Preview of Exchange Server 2016

The first public preview of Microsoft's next-generation e-mail server became available on Wednesday.

Previously available only through Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program (TAP), the Exchange Server 2016 preview is now publicly available to download here. Because it is still in the preview stage, this release is for use only in non-production environments. Microsoft is expected to release the final version of Exchange 2016 later this year.

Microsoft has already shared a few details about Exchange 2016 in April and at its Ignite conference in May. The company's announcement of the public preview on Wednesday underscored a recurring theme from those earlier disclosures: Exchange 2016 will draw on the changes and improvements that have already been rolled out to Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 product. This is in keeping with Microsoft's "cloud-first" approach to its server products, in which updates to on-premises products are often released first to their cloud-based counterparts.

"This version of Exchange is special because it was born in the cloud," Microsoft said in its announcement. "From the depths of the mailbox store to the most visible parts of the Outlook web UI, the bits that make up Exchange 2016 are already in use across millions of mailboxes in Office 365. For the past several months we've been working to package up these capabilities and deliver them on-premises. This preview milestone is an important step in that process."

Microsoft also reiterated that it will simplify the architecture in Exchange 2016. As previously described here, Microsoft has removed the client access server (CAS) role for Exchange 2016 and incorporated it into the mailbox role. These changes are aimed at reducing server count, lowering maintenance costs, streamlining migrations and improving Exchange 2016's ability to recover from failure, Microsoft said.

Other improvements outlined in Microsoft's announcement include those related to:

  • Archiving: "Exchange 2016 now automatically provisions auxiliary archive mailboxes when the size of a user's archive mailbox reaches 100 GB," Microsoft said. "Thereafter, additional auxiliary archives are automatically provisioned in 50 GB increments."

  • Outlook on the Web: The new Outlook on the Web (previously Outlook Web App) will work better on tablets and smartphones. It will also have new features such as "Sweep, Pin, Undo, inline reply, ability to propose new time for meeting invites, a new single-line inbox view, improved HTML rendering, better formatting controls, ability to paste inline images, new themes, and emojis."

  • Search and e-discovery: Microsoft has increased the speed of server-side search in Exchange 2016, while Outlook 2016 and Outlook on the Web will feature a "more intuitive search UI" that makes suggestions based on user history. The company has also made improvements to e-discovery functions, such as a revamped search architecture, better scalability and the ability to search "unlimited" mailboxes using a cmdlet.

  • Data loss prevention: "We are adding 30 new sensitive information types to Exchange, including data types common in South America, Asia, and Europe," Microsoft said. "We are also updating several existing sensitive data types for improved accuracy."

  • Reliability: Exchange 2016 is capable of 33 percent faster failovers than Exchange 2013, according to the company.

More information is available in this TechNet library article.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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