Microsoft just released the first public beta of Exchange Server 2003, better known by its code name, Titanium. Exchange 2003 has major improvements in several areas; to learn about the new product, go to http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/evaluation/ti/beta.asp. This week, however, I want to talk about the extensive suite of deployment tools included in the Exchange 2003 kit. These tools make planning and executing your migration to Exchange 2003 easier, particularly if you're still using Exchange 5.5 Server (with or without Active Directory—AD).
The goal of the Exchange 2003 Deployment Tools package is to give you a comprehensive set of tools that you can use to inspect your existing Exchange 2000 Server or Exchange 5.5 environment; these tools concentrate on things that might trip up your migration, such as errors in the Active Directory Connector (ADC) configuration or corrupt Exchange 5.5 directory objects that might choke replication. The Exchange 2003 Deployment Tools guide, which is included on the Exchange 2003 product CD-ROM, summarizes the tools. A quick scan of the document reveals several interesting tools, grouped into four main categories:
- The DSScopeScan toolset helps you figure out the scope of your deployment. These tools tell you what servers exist; what kinds of stores they host; which outbound and inbound connectors exist; how many users, public folders, distribution lists (DLs), and contacts exist; and so on.
- The OrgPrepCheck toolset is designed to run before you perform the new organizational preparation step (OrgPrep), which comes after the ForestPrep and DomainPrep operations but before you actually install Exchange 2003. These tools check to ensure that domain controllers (DCs) and servers have correct security policy rights and that the preceding preparation steps did what they were supposed to.
- The SetupPrep tools double-check network connectivity (including DNS), what version of Exchange 5.5 is installed (you need Service Pack 3—SP3—or later), and whether public folder replication is properly set up.
- The "everything else" tools check a variety of settings and objects. My current favorite is ADCUserCheck, which scans your Exchange 5.5 directory to locate accounts and mailboxes, then recommends a set of ADC connection agreements (CAs). You run this tool twice: once to get its recommendations, and again after you've set up the CAs to ensure that the setup is correct.
The Exchange 2003 Deployment Tools guide explains what each tool does and when you should run it. This information is a welcome addition to the tools; veterans of early Exchange 2000 deployments probably remember the skimpy documentation of the tools that Microsoft shipped on that product's CD-ROM. Microsoft appears to be determined to make migrations from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 simple and robust—a good idea, considering the number of sites facing the hard fact that Exchange 5.5's support lifetime is nearing an end.
The best way to prepare for migration is to prepare for it. This might sound a little too Zen-like to be useful, but it simply means that the easiest and best way to assess your messaging system's readiness for a migration is to use the assessment tools to see where things stand. Of course, as part of this process, be sure you do the standard housekeeping tasks we're all familiar with, such as looking for replication errors (and fixing any that you find); consolidating your connectors; cleaning mailboxes of unneeded mail; and removing unnecessary mailboxes, public folders, and public folder replicas.