Posted by Valentin Vasquez
, Senior Solutions Architect, E2E Complete
Customer questions relating to Exchange resource forests are becoming more and more common for our technical team. Organizations want to consolidate their existing Exchange environments to a single Active Directory (AD) forest running Exchange 2010
, while leaving their user accounts in their old AD domains.
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Merging multiple AD forests into a single forest is a VERY
complex undertaking, which requires transitioning workstations, laptops, servers, printers and all applications that interact within that AD environment. So it’s no wonder that customers shy away from that migration project
and go with a brand new build-out of an Exchange resource forest to run their messaging environment in a more centralized, consolidated infrastructure.
This may become an even more common method to deploy Exchange 2013
when it is released. However, there are some serious challenges related to linking active user accounts from one AD environment to a separate Exchange AD forest and successfully migrating all the email data intact.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the different steps that MUST be performed to do this manually and describe how our E2E Complete software automates this entire process.
specializes in email migrations
and it is quite often that we attend planning workshops with customers that are preparing for their transition to Exchange 2010
. During these meetings, a very common question that comes up is, “How fast can we migrate to the new environment?”
And it may sound tongue-in-cheek but our standard answer to this question is, “You can migrate as fast as you want.”
This usually comes as quite a shock to the project teams. However, as we explain the scalability of migration processing they come to understand that the theoretical limits for migration speeds are really only bound by the available bandwidth on their network and the speed of their servers. The more migration infrastructure (sessions and processing methods) you configure within your environment, the faster the data will get moved.
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The true gating factor is the practical limitation of migrating end-users, NOT
their mailbox data. Moving mailbox data is easy, moving end-users is hard. The change management aspects of a migration project, which include end-user training, desktop updates/refresh, communications, migration scheduling, help-desk support, among other things, are truly the limiting factors for how fast you can migrate email to a new platform.
But customers always want to know how they can perform an accurate estimation of their data throughput for a migration to see what their theoretical limitations are for the project. There are two important factors that I’ll describe in this post which are key to crystalizing a migration throughput estimate:
- Identify and Validate a Single Migration Speed Unit (for each source and target location)
- Perform a Migration Test in the Production Environment with Real Mailbox Data
There’s no getting around the need for Cross-Forest, or Inter-Org, email migrations
. They just happen. And in some cases an IT group has only a few days to plan out the transition. They are brought about by different events such as mergers & acquisitions, company divestitures, or just plain company partnerships when organizations want to combine their email environments onto a single platform. Whatever the reason for your migration project, you will need to address the same issues every time.
The cross-forest migration
process is quite complex and the Binary Tree E2E Complete
product can assist you to simplify and streamline the mailbox migration process. However, to begin with, you will need to synchronize the Active Directory (AD) forests, establish bi-directional data flow between the domains, and prepare the environment for the mailbox migration process.
What options are available? Are there solutions which can ensure the success of the AD transition?
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Many organizations are investigating the cloud as a possible solution offering for some of their on-premises IT services. Cloud environments like Microsoft Office 365
are not just for small businesses. There are very real financial, technical, and logistical reasons why companies of all sizes, particularly the big ones, choose to migrate to a cloud infrastructure. And it turns out that e-mail is the first toe that most organizations decide to dip into the cloud as a business validation case.
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What are these companies trying to validate during their first foray into Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud solution
? Well, there’s no surprise in this one. They want to know if the cost savings are really there. In a cloud infrastructure model, one of the main points to validate is that it takes less head count to maintain the solution environment because you are essentially ‘outsourcing’ those tasks to Microsoft. The objective is to reduce cost and complexity. And the fact that fewer people are now required to maintain the same level of service, while other IT resources are repositioned to more strategic business needs, means that there should be obvious cost savings. But how long does it take to reposition those folks? During the migration to the cloud is there a way to more quickly realize those cost savings?
Posted by John Alumbaugh
- Director of Consulting Services at CloudStrategies LLC
John oversees all services related client activities and is responsible for growing CloudStrategies consulting business. In addition to helping clients migrate from legacy infrastructure into modern cloud infrastructure, John is responsible for setting consulting business strategy, and is actively involved in day to day consulting with hybrid coexistence deployments. John is a US Navy Veteran with more than 20 years of IT infrastructure experience and is an all-around propeller head card-carrying gadget geek.
Lessons Learned for a Streamlined and Successful Migration to O365
Since our beginnings as a company, Cloud Strategies has focused solely on the Microsoft online experience, previously BPOS and now Office 365. Over the past few years there are a number of things we have learned that help to ensure a smooth transition to Office 365 and Exchange online. Many customers think that as long as they can move their mailboxes from point A to point B then the process is done. And while that is certainly the high-level goal, to accomplish this successfully it is almost always more complicated behind the scenes.
Speeding and Automating the Migration to Office 365
At Cloud Strategies we specialize in migrations to Office 365 and Exchange online. What we’ve learned through our years of experience is that speed and automation really matter. The faster you can complete the migration, and the more automated the process steps, the more likely you will deliver a successful project with a happy customer. To enable this automation and migration speed we have started using the E2E Complete product from Binary Tree
. They are the well-known experts in the mail migration market and we have already standardized on using their Notes to Exchange migration tool
. They bring quality products and expertise to the table, and it only makes sense that their professionalism and expertise translates into the Exchange-to-Exchange migration space as well.
Mail migrations from Exchange on-premises to Exchange Online can utilize the free mail transfer tool from Microsoft included with Office 365, but the inherent limitations often stop us and customers alike from utilizing the built-in tool. I want to start by saying that “if” your Exchange environment meets the requirements, the free tool can get you where you want to go, but often that’s not the case. The first issue is that the Office 365 migration tool works VERY differently from its BPOS counterpart. The new tool requires a totally manual process. It forces you to import user mapping via a spreadsheet, and if you accidently choose the wrong migration type (staged vs. cutover) undoing that mistake is not straightforward. Plus, you can’t easily schedule migrations of staged groups, and the transfer speed is not consistent, or at least not historically.
The thing I like least about the free tool is that RPC over HTTP must be active in your current Exchange environment for the tool to even connect. I personally don’t like having to spend time fixing the old mail system when we are migrating away of it, so unless RPC over HTTP is in place, I just prefer to save time and skip the free tool.
For the low overhead of adding another Virtual Machine to your hybrid setup, E2E Complete brings scheduling automation, tracking and reporting to your migration project, as well as integrated communications to the end users. As long as I have an Exchange 2010 server in the environment, (which is a hybrid coexistence requirement anyway) then I have all the PowerShell cmdlets that I need to make E2E Complete work to my advantage.
Even though you can schedule the mailbox moves with the coexistence server, the E2E Complete tool scheduler takes a lot of the manual work out of the process and allows much more user friendly batch migrations, making it a faster, easier, and smoother transition from on-premises Exchange to Office 365. Because of the added complexity of the hybrid coexistence environment, Cloud Strategies experience has been that the faster the customer gets out of coexistence, the happier they are with their move to the cloud. Most organizations are working on a razor thin IT staff and IT budget, and adding all the complexity that hybrid coexistence brings can be very frustrating. E2E Complete helps us get customers into the cloud faster so that they can reap the benefits of a simplified IT spend for email. For all future Cloud Strategies migration projects we have standardized on using the E2E Complete tool to help streamline and speed up the migration processing.
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