Exchange Server 2007 MCP Exams – Notes from the field

I love taking Microsoft exams because I learn so much. I learn what Microsoft feels are the important product features that everyone show know. I learn different ways to do common tasks within the product, let’s face it sometime we only know as much as our peers. I also learn exactly where I stand on the product, and what I really need to work on.


As I get older though I am either getting smarter or lazier, take your pick. I simply don’t study for the exams anymore. Sorry, but I don’t. I take the exam to learn the question format, style, content, and lastly to gage what if anything I need to study. I recently did this for the 3 (yes I said 3) exams that relate to Exchange Server 2007. I would now like to break down what took place without breaking my NDA.


70-236 TS: Exchange Server 2007 Configuration


This is a fun exam. Honest, it is. I would recommend this as the second exam in this series. I walked in to take my practice version and almost pasted. Lots of PowerShell (Exchange Management Shell – EMS). I failed my first attempt by 2 questions. I needed more Edge server information. I need to learn more PowerShell cmdlets, like anything test-*. I did not feel the test was worded poorly nor had any long questions. Either you knew it or you blew it.The second time I took this I studied:

  • test-* cmdlets

  • Microsoft Search service repair

  • DR repair and movement of Hub Transport logs

  • Edge Configuration cmdlets

  • General EMS syntax
I passed my second attempt because of the above and the fact that I could relax knowing I had plenty of time to take the exam and concentrate on the PowerShell questions. All and all it’s a fair exam. My only problem is that I suck at PowerShell/EMS, honestly. After the exam I wanted to recreate some of the cool ones the test went over and I could not do the syntax. It is one thing to see 4 or 5 various ways to attempt to do a command, easy pick the one that works. Now, try and do that without the spoon feeding. The help files are ok, but I need more examples to choose from, like on the exam.
70-237 Pro: Designing Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
This exam is trying to test if you fully understand all the concepts of Exchange Server 2007 design. I passed with flying colors on my first attempt – without a lick of studying. The questions were very cut and dry, with usually only 1 glaring answer. I would definitely start by taking this exam! It is a very fair exam.
70-238 Pro: Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
OUCH! Make this your last exam and do yourself a favor, study! This one got to me, deep inside it hurt, and badly. My first attempt I failed by 3 questions, but I did not feel I was really that close. This is a wonderfully well rounded exam. From soup to nuts you need to learn it all to have any chance. This is a VERY wordy exam; several questions were a good two pages. Tons of reading. I took 90% of the time to complete it. Time was an issue and I pushed myself at the end, I regret doing that.The second time I took it I studied:

·         Edge Configuration


·         Backup/DR scenarios – incremental vs. differential


I passed my second attempt and almost jumped for joy when I read the word passed. You need to know Exchange from top to bottom for this exam.  I had Novell questions, Security Configuration Wizard, GPO, IPSec, VPN, IBE, Hosted Services, and tons of CCR vs. LCR vs. SCC questions. I found the wording VERY difficult. As a clustering MVP I still had a very difficult time with the HA questions. I knew every word, but not the way it was worded. This is a VERY wordy exam; several questions were a good two pages. Tons of reading. I took 95% of the time to complete it. 95%! Dang! Time was not really an issue though, because I knew I would finish with a few minutes to spare. The timing is very close, but you will finish.

So what does it all add up to?

In the end, assuming you pass all three exams, you get two new classes of certifications. MCSE is gone (long live the MCSE), it has been replaced by MCITP – Microsoft Certified IT Professional (all three exams are required). Any certification with IT in it is silly in my eyes. MCP has really been replaced with MCTS – Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist. After your pass the 70-236 exam you are a TS. Here are the official titles cut from my official Microsoft Transcript.

Microsoft Certified IT Professional






Microsoft Exchange 2007 Messaging Solutions Administrator

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist





Microsoft Exchange 2007: Configuration

Hello Microsoft Certification, the product is called Microsoft Exchange SERVER 2007. I think you left off a word. Strange! And what gives with the Solutions Administrator, I take a Design and Deploy exam but I can only administer? Sounds more like an Architecture cert to me.Anyways, I am done rambling here, good luck on your exams, study and enjoy! Drop me a line when you pass them.

 

ClusterHelp dates for 2008 and Copenhagen update

Russ and I will be in Copenhagen, Denmark September 3-6, 2007 (yes just a week away) and we still have a few spots open in the course. If you would like to attend use the link the left (under ClusterHelp). I am really looking forward to it. Russ will be lecturing and I will assist in the labs, thus both of us supporting what we wrote 🙂


If you can’t make Denmark, we have courses in NYC scheduled through 2008 now, just added today:


Jan. 21-24, 2008


May 12-15, 2008


Oct 13-16, 2008


Come on out and enjoy one of these great cities with me!


 

A few tips for Exchange Server 2007 SCC & CCR clustered installations

Have you tried to install Exchange Server 2007 yet? Clustering is different. First of all Exchange Virtual Servers (EVS) are gone, replaced with Clustered Mailbox Server (CMS). You now have two options for clustering, Single Copy Cluster (meaning one CMS per server really) and it is not the default installation. The default is now Continuous Cluster Replication (CCR) which is something new to Exchange Server 2007,


You still install and configure clustering first, then install Exchange. But passive and active nodes are supposed to be handled differently now. And active/active clustering is simply not allowed anymore [:D]  I would use setup.exe or the GUI to install both nodes as passive. This will put the Exchange bits on machine, but won’t create the CMS just yet. From the command prompt you would use something like this syntax:

setup.com /mode:install /roles:mb

Which would should come back with:


Welcome to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unattended Setup Preparing Exchange Setup    
Copying Setup Files              ……………………. COMPLETED
 
The following server roles will be installed
    Management Tools
    Mailbox Role
 
Performing Microsoft Exchange Server Prerequisite Check
    
Mailbox Role Checks              ……………………. COMPLETED
 Configuring Microsoft Exchange Server    

Copying Exchange files           ……………………. COMPLETED
    Mailbox Server Role              ……………………. COMPLETED

 The Microsoft Exchange Server setup operation completed successfully.

Do this for both nodes. Then on the Active node you will need to run exsetup.exe. Why? Because of this little gem in the books online:



If you already have one or more server roles installed on a computer, you cannot use the Exchange Server 2007 Setup wizard or the Setup.exe command to add or remove server roles. Instead, you must use the ExSetup.exe command.


DOH! Not knowing this means you can try Setup.exe until you are blue in the face and never get Exchange clustered.


So the ExSetup.exe to create the CMS is (replace CMSNAME with a real meanful name, replace cip with a real IP):


exsetup /mode:install /clustered /cn:CMSNAME /cip:198.168.1.100


Which would should come back with:



Welcome to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unattended Setup
No server roles will be installed
   
Clustered Mailbox Server

 
Performing Microsoft Exchange Server Prerequisite Check
 
Configuring Microsoft Exchange Server
    
Clustered Mailbox Server         ……………………. COMPLETED
 The Microsoft Exchange Server setup operation completed successfully.

This should create all the clustered resource Exchange needs.


Why not install the bits and create all the clustered resources together with the Setup.exe command? The syntax would look like this:


setup.com /mode:install /roles:mb /newcms /cn:CMSNAME /cip:198.168.1.100


If you Active Directory is large it could take a little bit for the CMS to be registered properly, in that case you might get an error this like:



Welcome to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unattended Setup



No server roles will be installed


Clustered Mailbox Server
 Performing Microsoft Exchange Server Prerequisite Check    
Clustered Mailbox Role Checks    ……………………. COMPLETED
 Configuring Microsoft Exchange Server    

Clustered Mailbox Server         ……………………. FAILED


     The computer account ‘CMSNAME’ was created on the domain controller ‘\\dc02.clusterhelp.ad’, but has not replicated to the desired domain controller (dc01.clusterhelp.ad) after waiting approxmately 60 seconds. Please wait for the account to replicate and re-run exsetup /newcms.
 
The Exchange Server setup operation did not complete. Visit http://support.microsoft.com and enter the Error ID to find more information.

So, you only get 60 seconds for AD to fully replicate – DOH! Interesting. See AD was using our DNS (dc02) on the Public, but the Exchange was on the private near dc01. The spelling error is Microsoft’s by the way, not mine. You can add /dc:dc02.clusterhelp.ad but setup will fail if the DNS is not on the same AD site as the Exchange server. You will see this error:



Setup cannot use domain controller ‘dc02.clusterhelp.ad’ because it belongs to Active Directory site ‘Public’. Setup must use a domain controller in the same site as this computer (Private).


Other DNS messages you might get:



Exchange setup cannot continue because DNS information for the clustered mailbox server “CMSNAME” has not finished replicating. Please run setup again after replication has completed. After replication has completed, the command  “nslookup CMSNAME” should succeed.


This one again means you need to let it bake some more, let DNS replicate. Check your event logs. In some environments, you might have to wait 30 to 45 minutes for things to settle down. Just rerun the exsetup command again.


Lastly you might get this error:



Error:
Error of unknown type occured while performing exsetdata operation; the original error code was 0xc103fd2c


This means might have a duplicate DNS record that needs to be removed before CMSNAME be created. Check your event logs for the exact error and believe them! The spelling error is again Microsoft’s not mine. If Exchange can’t create the record look for duplicates.


If after all that you just want to give up, the command would look like this:


exsetup /mode:uninstall /removecms /cmsname:CMSNAME


So why am I only showing you the command line for ExSetup.exe? Because you can only run the GUI seutp once, after that you have to use ExSetup.exe.


Good luck, check your event logs and hopefully this will help someone else out.


15 Rules of IT

1) If a computer or system is working on Monday, something has gone wrong and you just don’t know about it.


2) When you don’t know what you’re doing, document it.


3) Computer errors must be reproduce-able, they should fail the same way each time.


4) First call tech support, then panic.


5) Experience is directly proportional to the number of systems/computers ruined.


6) Always keep a backup of your data, and hope everyone else does the same.


7) To write a program really well, have your wife/husband/Mother/Father test it.


8) If you can’t get the system to match the Statement of Work (SOW), redo the SOW.


9) In case you experience doubt, make it sound convincing.


10) Do not believe in miracles–rely on them.


11) The technical term is H.O.S.E.D. (Hardware Or Software Error Detected), use it often and amaze your friends.


12) When it starts working; and hopefully it will, you fixed it in case anyone asks.


13) No troubleshooting experience is a complete failure. At least it can serve as a negative example.


14) Any expensive piece of software will break before any use can be made of it.


15) Team work is essential, it allows you to blame someone else.


 


This is an original post, feel free to reproduce as long as you give credit.

Tech Ed 2007 – Orlando – notes from the field

Its that time of year again. The masses gather to learn from the best, talk to the experts, network with others. This year I am not only speaking at the conference, I am also helping at the TCL Yellow Section – Windows Server 2008 Failover Clustering POD. Here is a sample of what people want to know:


Q.  Can I upgrade from Windows Server 2003 to 2008?


A. NO! Migration is the only and best way to go.


 


Q. Will Exchange Server 2007 run on Windows Server 2008 Beta 3?


A. Exchange Server 2007 does not run on the Beta of Windows Server 2008. Exchange will run on Windows Server 2003 and the final (RTM) copy of Windows Server 2008.


 


Q. Can I cluster Virtual Machines running Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2?


A. Yes you can!


 


Q. What is really new about Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2008?


A. Great question, here is some highlights:




  • No service account – now uses a local system account


  • No support for Parallel Attached SCSI (PAS), this allows for better hardware control and failover


  • 16 nodes if you use a 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008


  • Support for GPT disks, yes larger than 2TB disks are now supported natively


  • Validate – ensure your systems are cluster ready and help you follow best practices


  • 4 Quorum models, no more single point of failure for the quorum



    • Majority quorum model


    • Majority of Nodes


    • Witness disk


    • File Share Witness


  • Improved IPSec, no more 7 minute timeout when failed over!


  • Stretched clusters can have nodes in different network segments with various speeds


  • Cluster Migration Tool – to help you migrate 🙂


  • MMC 3.0 snap-in, no longer a seperate application


  • Setup/install 2003 was 23 steps, now 3 steps. Yes I said 3 steps

Cluster Validation in Windows Server "Longhorn" – by Jim Teague

This session was great today and will be available online – https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/WebCastEventDetails.aspx?EventID=1032336489&EventCategory=4&culture=en-US&CountryCode=US the event code is 1032336489.


 Here are the Q&A that may not be part of the rebroadcast:

 
Question:
Will Longhorn Cluster Validation include any application-specific best practice guidelines (i.e. Exchange)?
Answer:
The Longhorn Validation tool will test the core cluster requirements, there are tools available to test individual applications. Such as the Exchange Best Practice analyzer. In future releases we may make Validate extendable to include application plug-in’s
Question:
what are the boundaries / limits for the network and disk I/O latencies?
Answer:
If networking exceeds 500 ms or if I/O latency exceeds 1 sec, it will generate a Warning. Cluster heartbeating and cluster presistent reservation timing is configurable in Longhorn. So you can evaluate the warning, and adjust your timing as necessary
Question:
Does the Validate tool report if the entire configuration is in the “Windows Server Catalog” as a Microsoft Certified Cluster
Answer:
In Windows Server Longhorn, we are radically changing the way we qualify clusters for supportablity. Validate will define supportability, we are moving away from the model of having clusters listed on the Windows Server Catalog
Question:
what kind of issues can be self healing?
Answer:
In Windows Server 2003 the way disks were identified was by the Disk Signature. In Longhorn clustered disks are identified by multiple attributes, including the Disk Signature and the SCSI Inquiry data. If a disk can’t be found by one attribute, it will attempted to be found in another way. If found the service will self heal and update it’s records of the disk. So in Longhorn disks will self heal and should elimate support issues of disk signatures changing and disks not coming online
Question:
can we achieve full hardware failover? how?
Answer:
Failover Clustering is loosely coupled clustering, services and applications can failover from one machine to another. This can be done with standard hardware
Question:
How are you working with the HW vendors so the HW we buy today is Longhorn Cluster Certified? When should we expect to see those certifications?
Answer:
We are actively working with all storage vendors to ensure Longhorn Cluster compatability. Most current shipping storage today is compatible. We recommend downloading beta 3 and trying out your hardware to verify compatibility, and talking to your hardware vendors.
Question:
Please provide hardware compatibility list for server in order to support Longhorn
Answer:
In Longhorn there will be no static list on the Windows Server Catalog that defines supportability. You use the Validate tool to test your hardware. If Validate passes, your solution is compatible and you are supported
Question:
Are there any virtual labs or other means to “try” out Longhorn clustering?
Answer:
You can download Beta 3 and try out clustering for yourself, see http://www.microsoft.com/getbeta3. We will also have a Longhorn Hands-on-Lab available with Tech-Ed ’07, you will see it post after the event to http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/enterprise/clustering.mspx
Question:
Demo resolution is way too high…
Answer:
what is your resolution?
Question:
will the tool work on geo clusters?
Answer:
Yes, you can use Validate to test stretched clusters. Note: The storage tests will be skipped on clusters with no shared storage.
Question:
do virtual disks created by Microsoft virtual server support the presistent reservation, if it does not when will this be available?
Answer:
Virtual Server 2005 R2 uses a virtual parallel-SCSI adapter to cluster shared disks with Windows Server 2003. In Longhorn support for parallel-SCSI has been depricated, so you can not use the built in parallel-SCSI virtual adapters to create Longhorn clusters. You can use the Microsoft iSCSI Software Initator and a iSCSI target to create a Longhorn Clusters
Question:
Can we cluster GPT disks in Longhorn
Answer:
Yes, you can cluster GPT disks in Longhorn and with Windows Server 2003 that has Service Pack 2 and 919117 applied
Question:
When you say the validation is required, does that mean a failed validation will prevent going forward with a cluster build?
Answer:
You ‘can’ choose to bypass the Validation and create a cluster. Note: A cluster is not supported by Microsoft unless it passes Validate
Question:
Will there be corresponding updates to the cluster testing tools in the HCT (hardware compatibility test) tool for IHVs?
Answer:
Yes, we will ship a Cluster HCT kit in DTM for vendors to test solution. However, vendors will not be required to submit logs to Microsoft for inclusion on the Windows Server Catalog. It is for internal testing
Question:
Are there any plans for Longhorn clustering to support clustering of Virtual Servers, the Virtual Server role included with Longhorn?
Answer:
Yes, Longhorn will have extensive integration with with Failover Clustering and Microsoft Virtualization. Which will support failing over of VM’s from one host to another with VERY fast failover times.
Question:
for Geo clusters, will they be supported even thou the storage check is skipped
Answer:
Yes, stretched clusters will be supported if the storage tests are skipped, this is expected with these types of configurations.
Question:
can the ClusPrep v2.0 tool be run multiple times over the lifecycle of the cluster for revalidation when needed?
Answer:
Yes, Validate can be run again… and is intended to be. If you make a change to your cluster (add a node, apply a new HBA driver, etc..) you then run Validate again to ensure the cluster works correctly. You can also use Validate as a diagnostic tool to troubleshoot clusters. Having problems failing over a disk?… Run validate and it should help give you information to troubleshoot the issue
Question:
Since this replaces the HCL, will the toool itself be supported? (In the past, Clusdiag and similar tools were not supported)
Answer:
Validate is built right into Windows Server and is a fully supported tool
Question:
Do both node need to be on line at the same time, when the cluster test is running
Answer:
Yes, when running Validate the machines that are going to be tested must be up and online to be tested
Question:
Can the tool be run against an already formed cluster? That is, will every test be able to be run? (previous betas of this tool required unformed clusters)
Answer:
Yes, you can run Validate on a configured cluster. The only catch is that in order for a disk to be tested, it must be Offline. So you can run Validate and run it on all disks, or a sub-set of the disks. Just bring the disks Offline to run Validate against them

Dell PowerEdge 2850 Hardware issues

Dell we have a problem.


It has come to my attention that ALL DELL PE2850’s have a hardware issue. It seems the dudes at Dell really messed up some firmware updates. If you are not running BIOS A06 and BMC 1.68 or higher download Dell’s Server Update Utility 5.1.1. (http://support.us.dell.com/support/downloads/format.aspx?releaseid=R136532) or later (I have only tested 5.1.1 though). Get 5.2 here http://support.us.dell.com/support/downloads/format.aspx?releaseid=R146351


So what happens if you are running the bad version? CPU IERR EO7F0 on every CPU in the machine at the same time. And then you get the famous Dell amber flashing light. Every OS locks up without processors, no really they do. If you call Dell Support (which I have done), you get greeted by a tech that says “Hi, welcome to Dell support. Please update your firmware and BIOS.”. DOH!


 

Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Beta 3 is out

But if you want to test failover clustering….


Standard SCSI based clustering will no longer work (yes I tested it, no go). 


Rocket Division StarWind will be the product you want to use to test Failover Clustering. http://www.rocketdivision.com/wind.html You will have to wait until the June 2007 time frame while they make it work with Beta 3.


FalconStor iSCSI Storage Server http://www.falconstor.com/en/solutions/?pg=Products&sb=iSCSI I am not sure when they will support it.


Microsoft bought StringBean (http://www.stringbeansoftware.com/downloads_update2_0.asp) which has a great WinTarget program. The program is now part of Windows Unified Data Storage Server and it called Microsoft iSCSI Software Target. That one works today, if you are lucky enough to have a copy.