Microsoft gave a few tidbits recently about the forthcoming Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Exchange Server 2013.
Exchange 2013 SP1 will arrive in early 2014, along with SP1s for other Office 2013-branded products. In a blog post Wednesday, Microsoft said SP1 for Exchange Server 2013 will permit Microsoft’s mail server to run on its latest server operating system, namely Windows Server 2012 R2.
Many may be surprised that Windows Server 2012 R2, which was released by Microsoft at the product-ready RTM stage back in August, doesn’t yet support running Exchange Server 2013. However, that circumstance was assumed as a given by a senior member of Microsoft’s Exchange team.
“Exchange server support for a new Windows Server version is typically included in the next service pack,” explained Bharat Suneja, a senior technical writer on the Exchange customer experience team, writing in the comments section of Microsoft’s announcement.
Microsoft is also promising to include support for the Edge Transport Server Role in Exchange Server 2013 with the release of SP1. It’s used a relay between the Mailbox server on premises and the Exchange Online Protection service, according to Microsoft’s description. Readers of Microsoft’s announcement seemed surprised that the Edge Transport Server Role wasn’t already supported in Exchange Server 2013. However, Suneja commented that Microsoft had announced that point back in July of 2012. The Edge Transport Server Role in Exchange Server 2013 is described briefly in this Microsoft TechNet article.
Lastly, Microsoft plans to add Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) support for Outlook, Exchange ActiveSync clients and the Outlook Web App with the release of SP1 for Exchange Server 2013. Microsoft is saying that S/MIME support for Outlook Web App “will be brought back” with SP1, although it wasn’t too clear that it was missing in the first place.
Organizations using S/MIME support with Exchange Server 2013 SP1 will be limited to using the Internet Explorer 9 browser in the near future, although Microsoft is considering extending support for other browsers.
“S/MIME support in Exchange Server 2013 SP1 will require the user’s browser to be Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 or greater to use this feature,” explained Brian Shiers, a senior product manager on the Exchange technical product marketing team, in the comments section of Microsoft’s announcement. “We understand some customers may desire support for other platforms and we are looking at the best way to bring this support to other platforms in the future — but nothing we can share now.”
S/MIME is a message encryption and certificate standard fostered by the Internet Engineering Task Force, but it’s described by Microsoft as entailing “administrative overhead” to enable. And that difficulty perhaps may explain Microsoft’s announcement that it plans to add a new Message Encryption service to its Office 365 services early next year. This Office 365 Message Encryption service will combine S/MIME with other security protocols, including Microsoft’s BitLocker drive encryption and its Information Rights Management protection scheme, all configured by Microsoft.
SP1 for Exchange Server 2013 will be equivalent to Cumulative Update 4 for the product, according to Microsoft’s announcement. It will include all of the fixes released since the last cumulative update (CU). Suneja promised to provide a list of fixes with CU3 and SP1, when those updates are released, to better help IT pros with their planning.
IT pros will need a little preparation for SP1. Microsoft warns that it will be necessary to update Active Directory schema to use SP1 for Exchange Server 2013.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.