Maintaining Exchange on-premise storage during migrations

Now that Microsoft have announced that Exchange 2010 support will end in October 2020 a lot of organisations are moving to Exchange 2016, 2019 or hopefully Exchange Online.

For enterprise organisations , the migration topology will include two Exchange 2016 servers that are load balanced via an F5 , Citrix Net Scaler or my preferred choice a Kemp load balancer. Autodiscover services for the smtp domains will be transferred to the new virtual IP and the service will be provided by the new Exchange 2016 servers that will proxy access requests to Exchange 2010 hosted mail resources.

The new virtual IP for load balancing services will become the target for the Exchange Online migration endpoint.

The Exchange Online Hybrid wizard licenses the new Exchange 2016 servers as part of the Hybrid configuration process , the Hybrid license does not permit the hosting of mailboxes. One of the problems with Exchange server since Exchange 2013 is log file growth. This post will demonstrate a scheduled task i always create on Hybrid servers.

The task schedules Edward van Biljon script available to download HERE

These log files are mostly IIS log files and not Exchange database log files as no mailboxes are hosted on the Hybrid server. But if an organisation is moving thousands of mailboxes to Exchange Online and not clearing down these logs, then they will run into issues. I have often reclaimed 20 -30GB of disk storage from running this script as a scheduled task.

Drawing1

The next section to consider is Exchange Database logs. Most vendors like

  • Commvault
  • Veeam
  • Veritas

perform an excellent backup service and are typically scheduled to run outside of business hours. Exchange backups are critical to truncate logs and become even more critical in an Exchange DAG. I have worked on previous projects that migrated Lotus Notes or Groupwise to Exchange and the log files grew too quick and could not wait till the daily evening backup. This issue can also arise in Exchange Hybrid native migrations due to the volume of traffic being migrated.

Most Exchange backup vendors communicate with VSS , It is critical that Exchange truncates the mailbox database logs , as there will be corruption in the databases’ if Exchange cannot perform this task.

If there is a scenario where the Exchange database and log volume is running out of space , Microsoft have an excellent utility called diskshadow which has been around for a long time. So essentially we trick Exchange into thinking a full backup has been performed and here are the simple steps if an Exchange Server database was installed on the system volume.

DiskShadow

This process should only be used in emergencies, Business as Usual backup schedules should normally ensure Exchange volumes do not run out of space but during migrations from an Exchange 2010 to Exchange Online or Lotus Notes to Exchange on-premise or online , the log files fill up really quick and even more so if there 3 or more databases that are members of a DAG

The final option for reclaiming space is offline de-fragmentation databases to claim white space. And only choose this option when all mailboxes have been migrated as it can take a long time and requires downtime.

Exchange Hybrid Agent

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During one of my favorite sessions in Ignite last year, Microsoft announce a new feature : Hybrid Agent displayed in the image above. The next part of this blog is step by step screenshots displaying the configuration of Hybrid Agent on two Exchange 2016 CU10 servers.

First of all run this powershell command on all Hybrid servers.
Set-WebServicesVirtualDirectory -Identity “EWS (Default Web Site)” -MRSProxyEnabled $true

Most organisations route outbound external smtp traffic via a smarthost which can normally be an appliance like Cisco Ironports and do not permit outbound port 25 traffic from Hybrid servers.  I would suggest temporarily allowing smtp traffic outbound from the Hybrid servers until the Hybrid agent installation completes then block outbound port 25 again on the hybrid servers.

The next steps run through the Hybrid agent setup.

 

 

Now when attempting to migrate mailboxes note the change in the migration endpoint highlighted in the image below