Domino – Exchange On Premises Migration Pt2: Wrestling the Outlook Client

In part 1 of my blog about Exchange on premises migration from Domino I talked about the challenges of working with Exchange for someone who is used to working with Domino.  If only that were all of it but now I want to talk about the issues around Outlook and other Exchange client options that require those of us used to working with Domino to change our thinking.

In Domino we are used to a mail file being on the server and regardless of whether we used Notes or a browser to see that client, the data is the same.  Unless we are using a local replica, but the use of that is very clear when we are in the database as it visibly shows “on Local” vs the server name.

We can also easily swap between the local and server replicas and even have both open at the same time.

In Outlook you only have the option to open a mailbox in either online or cached mode.

So let’s talk about cached mode because that’s the root of our migration pains. You must have a mail profile defined in Windows in order to run Outlook. The default setting for an Outlook profile is “cached mode” and that’s not very visible to the users. The screenshot below is what the status bar shows when you are accessing Outlook in cached mode.

connectedtoexchange

In cached mode there is a local OST file that syncs with your online Exchange mailbox.  It’s not something you can access or open outside of Outlook.

datafiles

Outlook will always use cached mode unless you modify the settings of the data file or the account to disable it.

cachedsettings

As you can see from the configuration settings below, a cached OST file is not the same as a local replica and it’s not designed to be.   The purpose of the cached mail is to make Outlook more efficient by not having everything accessed on the server.

cachedoffline

Why does this matter during a migration?  Most migration tools can claim to be able to migrate directly to the server mailboxes but in practice the speed of that migration is often unworkably slow.  If that can be achieved it’s by far the most efficient but Exchange has its own default configuration settings that work against you doing that including throttling of activity and filtering / scanning of messages.   Many / most migration tools do not expect to migrate “all data and attachments” which is what we are often asked to do.  If what we are aiming for is 100% data parity between a Domino mail file and an Exchange mailbox then migrating that 5GB, 10GB, 30GB volume directly to the server isn’t an option.  In addition if a migration partially runs to the server and then fails it’s almost impossible to backfill the missing data with incremental updates.  I have worked with several migration tools testing this and just didn’t have confidence in the data population directly on the server.

In sites where I have done migrations to on premises servers I’ve often found the speed of migration to the server mailbox on the same network makes migration impossible so instead I’ve migrated to a local OST file.  The difference between migrating a 10GB file to a local OST (about an hour) vs directly to Exchange (about 2.5 days) is painfully obvious. Putting more resources onto the migration machine didn’t significantly reduce the time and in fact each tool either crashed (running as a Domino task) or crashed (running as a Windows desktop task) when trying to write directly to Exchange.

An hour or two to migrate a Domino mail file to a local workstation OST isn’t bad though right?  That’s not bad at all, and if you open Outlook you will see all the messages, folders, calendar entries, etc, all displaying.  However that’s because you’re looking at cached mode. You’re literally looking at the data you just migrated.  Create a profile for the same user on another machine and the mail file will be empty because at this point there is no data in Exchange, only in the local OST.  Another thing to be aware of is that there is no equivalent of an All Documents view in Outlook so make sure your migration tool knows how to migrate unfoldered messages and your users know where to find them in their new mailbox.

Now to my next struggle.  Outlook will sync that data to Exchange.  It will take between 1 and 3 days to do so.  I have tried several tools to speed up the syncing and I would advise you not to bother.  The methods they use to populate the Exchange mailbox from a local OST file sidestep much of the standard Outlook sync behaviours meaning information is often missing or, in one case, it sent out calendar invites for every calendar entry it pushed to Exchange.  I tried five of those tools and none worked 100%. The risk of missing data or sending out duplicate calendar entries/emails was too high.  I opted in the end to stick with Outlook syncing.  Unlike Notes replication I can only sync one OST / Outlook mailbox at a time so it’s slow going unless I have multiple client machines. What is nice is that I can do incremental updates quickly once the initial multi-GB mailbox has synced to Exchange.

So my wrestling with the Outlook client boils down to

  • Create mail profiles that use cached mode
  • Migrate to a local OST
  • Use Outlook to sync that to Exchange
  • Pay attention to Outlook limits, like a maximum of 500 folders*
  • Be Patient

*On Domino mailboxes we migrated that pushed up against the folder or item limits we found Outlook would run out of system memory repeatedly when trying to sync.

One good way to test whether the Exchange data matches the Domino data is to use Outlook Web Access as that is accessing data directly on the Exchange server.  Except that’s not as identical to the server data as we are used to seeing with Verse or iNotes.  In fact OWA too decides to show you through a browser what it thinks you most need to see versus everything that’s there.  Often folders will claim to be empty and that there is no data when in fact that data is there but hasn’t been refreshed by Exchange (think Updall).  There are few things more scary in OWA than an empty folder and a link suggesting you refresh from the server.  It just doesn’t instill confidence in the user experience.

Finally we have Outlook mobile or even using the native iOS mail application.  That wasn’t a separate configuration and unless you configure Exchange otherwise the default is that mobile access will be granted to everyone.   In one instance a couple of weeks ago, mobile access suddenly stopped working for all users who hadn’t already set up their devices.  When they tried to log in they got invalid name or password.  I eventually tracked that down to a Windows update that had changed permissions in Active Directory that Exchange needed set.  You can see reference to the issue here, and slightly differently here, although note it seems to have been an issue since Exchange 2010 and still with Exchange 2016.  I was surprised it was broken by a Windows update but it was.

I know (and have used) many workarounds for the issues I run into but that’s not for here.  Coming from a Domino and Notes background I believe we’ve been conditioned to think in a certain way about mailfile structure, server performance, local data, and the user experience, and expecting to duplicate that exactly is always going to be troublesome.

#DominoForever

 

 

 

 

 

 

Domino – Exchange On Premises Migration Pt2: Wrestling the Outlook Client

In part 1 of my blog about Exchange on premises migration from Domino I talked about the challenges of working with Exchange for someone who is used to working with Domino.  If only that were all of it but now I want to talk about the issues around Outlook and other Exchange client options that require those of us used to working with Domino to change our thinking.

In Domino we are used to a mail file being on the server and regardless of whether we used Notes or a browser to see that client, the data is the same.  Unless we are using a local replica, but the use of that is very clear when we are in the database as it visibly shows “on Local” vs the server name.

We can also easily swap between the local and server replicas and even have both open at the same time.

In Outlook you only have the option to open a mailbox in either online or cached mode.

So let’s talk about cached mode because that’s the root of our migration pains. You must have a mail profile defined in Windows in order to run Outlook. The default setting for an Outlook profile is “cached mode” and that’s not very visible to the users. The screenshot below is what the status bar shows when you are accessing Outlook in cached mode.

connectedtoexchange

In cached mode there is a local OST file that syncs with your online Exchange mailbox.  It’s not something you can access or open outside of Outlook.

datafiles

Outlook will always use cached mode unless you modify the settings of the data file or the account to disable it.

cachedsettings

As you can see from the configuration settings below, a cached OST file is not the same as a local replica and it’s not designed to be.   The purpose of the cached mail is to make Outlook more efficient by not having everything accessed on the server.

cachedoffline

Why does this matter during a migration?  Most migration tools can claim to be able to migrate directly to the server mailboxes but in practice the speed of that migration is often unworkably slow.  If that can be achieved it’s by far the most efficient but Exchange has its own default configuration settings that work against you doing that including throttling of activity and filtering / scanning of messages.   Many / most migration tools do not expect to migrate “all data and attachments” which is what we are often asked to do.  If what we are aiming for is 100% data parity between a Domino mail file and an Exchange mailbox then migrating that 5GB, 10GB, 30GB volume directly to the server isn’t an option.  In addition if a migration partially runs to the server and then fails it’s almost impossible to backfill the missing data with incremental updates.  I have worked with several migration tools testing this and just didn’t have confidence in the data population directly on the server.

In sites where I have done migrations to on premises servers I’ve often found the speed of migration to the server mailbox on the same network makes migration impossible so instead I’ve migrated to a local OST file.  The difference between migrating a 10GB file to a local OST (about an hour) vs directly to Exchange (about 2.5 days) is painfully obvious. Putting more resources onto the migration machine didn’t significantly reduce the time and in fact each tool either crashed (running as a Domino task) or crashed (running as a Windows desktop task) when trying to write directly to Exchange.

An hour or two to migrate a Domino mail file to a local workstation OST isn’t bad though right?  That’s not bad at all, and if you open Outlook you will see all the messages, folders, calendar entries, etc, all displaying.  However that’s because you’re looking at cached mode. You’re literally looking at the data you just migrated.  Create a profile for the same user on another machine and the mail file will be empty because at this point there is no data in Exchange, only in the local OST.  Another thing to be aware of is that there is no equivalent of an All Documents view in Outlook so make sure your migration tool knows how to migrate unfoldered messages and your users know where to find them in their new mailbox.

Now to my next struggle.  Outlook will sync that data to Exchange.  It will take between 1 and 3 days to do so.  I have tried several tools to speed up the syncing and I would advise you not to bother.  The methods they use to populate the Exchange mailbox from a local OST file sidestep much of the standard Outlook sync behaviours meaning information is often missing or, in one case, it sent out calendar invites for every calendar entry it pushed to Exchange.  I tried five of those tools and none worked 100%. The risk of missing data or sending out duplicate calendar entries/emails was too high.  I opted in the end to stick with Outlook syncing.  Unlike Notes replication I can only sync one OST / Outlook mailbox at a time so it’s slow going unless I have multiple client machines. What is nice is that I can do incremental updates quickly once the initial multi-GB mailbox has synced to Exchange.

So my wrestling with the Outlook client boils down to

  • Create mail profiles that use cached mode
  • Migrate to a local OST
  • Use Outlook to sync that to Exchange
  • Pay attention to Outlook limits, like a maximum of 500 folders*
  • Be Patient

*On Domino mailboxes we migrated that pushed up against the folder or item limits we found Outlook would run out of system memory repeatedly when trying to sync.

One good way to test whether the Exchange data matches the Domino data is to use Outlook Web Access as that is accessing data directly on the Exchange server.  Except that’s not as identical to the server data as we are used to seeing with Verse or iNotes.  In fact OWA too decides to show you through a browser what it thinks you most need to see versus everything that’s there.  Often folders will claim to be empty and that there is no data when in fact that data is there but hasn’t been refreshed by Exchange (think Updall).  There are few things more scary in OWA than an empty folder and a link suggesting you refresh from the server.  It just doesn’t instill confidence in the user experience.

Finally we have Outlook mobile or even using the native iOS mail application.  That wasn’t a separate configuration and unless you configure Exchange otherwise the default is that mobile access will be granted to everyone.   In one instance a couple of weeks ago, mobile access suddenly stopped working for all users who hadn’t already set up their devices.  When they tried to log in they got invalid name or password.  I eventually tracked that down to a Windows update that had changed permissions in Active Directory that Exchange needed set.  You can see reference to the issue here, and slightly differently here, although note it seems to have been an issue since Exchange 2010 and still with Exchange 2016.  I was surprised it was broken by a Windows update but it was.

I know (and have used) many workarounds for the issues I run into but that’s not for here.  Coming from a Domino and Notes background I believe we’ve been conditioned to think in a certain way about mailfile structure, server performance, local data, and the user experience, and expecting to duplicate that exactly is always going to be troublesome.

#DominoForever

 

 

 

 

 

 

Domino 11 Jam Coming To London

The Domino jams continue, now onto Domino 11 and with a date of January 15th in London. No location yet but I’d be very surprised if it’s not IBM South Bank.

I attended a couple of jams last year and I can confirm many of the comments made and items requested ended up in the v10 products and several have already been prioritised into v11.  If you are interested in the future of the collaboration products and especially Domino then you will want to contribute ideas to the jam so email Brendan McGuire (MCGUIREB@uk.ibm.com) and ask to attend.

We all hope to be there investing in the future or products we believe in.  Hope to see you there as well.

If you are interested in locations other than London check out this URL  where there are already locations and some dates announced.

#dominoforever

Domino – Exchange On Premises Migration Pt1: Migration Tools

It’s been an interesting few months intermittently working on a project to move Notes and Domino users onto Exchange on premises 2013 and Outlook 2013.  I’m going to do a follow up blog talking about Outlook and Exchange behaviour compared to Notes and Domino but let’s start at the beginning, with planning a migration.

The first thing to know is that if your company uses Domino for mail, Exchange on premises is a step down.  I’m sorry but it is and I say this as someone with a lot of experience of both environments (albeit a LOT more in Domino). At the very least you need to allow for the administrative overhead to be larger and to encompass more of your environment. Domino is just Domino on a variety of platforms, Exchange is Active Directory and DNS and networking and a lot more besides.  In fact Microsoft seem to be focusing on making the on premises solution ever more restrictive and difficult to manage (better hope you enjoy Powershell) to encourage you to move to O365.

To give you an example, during the migration we had an issue where mail would suddenly stop sending outbound.  The logs gave no clue, I spent 2 days on it finding nothing and eventually decided to pay Microsoft to troubleshoot with me to find out what I’d done wrong.  5 hrs of joint working later we found it.  It wasn’t Exchange or any box I worked on.  It was one of the Domain Controllers that didn’t have a service running on it (kerberos key distribution center) that was causing the issue.  Started that service on that box and all was fine.  Three days wasted but at least it wasn’t what I did 🙂

MIGRATION TOOLS

First of all we need a migration tool unless you’re one of the increasingly large number of companies who just decide to start clean.  This is especially true when moving to O365 because there often isn’t either the option or the capability to upload terabytes or even gigabytes of existing mail to the cloud.  Having tested 5 different tools for this current project here were my biggest problems:

  1. A tool that was overly complex to install, outdated (requiring a Windows 7 OS) and the supplier wanted several thousand dollars to train me on how to install it
  2. Tools that didn’t migrate the data quiitteee right. It looked good at first glance but on digging deeper there were misfiled messages and calendar entries missing
  3. Tools that took an unfeasibly long time (>12hrs per mail file or even days).  The answer to that problem was offered as “you are migrating too much, we never do that” or “you need a battalian of workstations to do the migration”
  4. Tools that required me to migrate everything via their cloud service i.e send every message through their servers¨. I mean it works and requires little configuration but no.  Just no.

Whatever tool you decide to use I would recommend testing fully against one of your largest mail files and calculating the time taken against what that does to your project plan.  For my current smaller project I am using a more interactive tool that installed on a workstation and didn’t require any changes on either the Domino or Exchange end.

You’ll notice I’m not naming the tools here.  Although there are a couple where the supplier was so arrogant and unhelpful I’d like to name them, there are also several who were incredibly helpful and just not the right fit for this project.  Maybe for the next.  The right migration tool for you is the one that does the work you need in the time you need and has the right support team behind it to answer finicky questions like ‘what happened to my meeting on 3rd June 2015 which hasn’t migrated”.  Test. Test. Test.

Many of the migration tools are very cheap but be careful that some of the cheapest aren’t making their money off consultancy fees if paying them is the only way to make the product work.

QUESTIONS

So our first question is

“What do you want to migrate?”

Now the answer to this will initially often be “everything” but that means time and cost and getting Exchange to handle much larger mailboxes than it is happy to do.  That 30GB Domino mailfile won’t be appreciated by Exchange so the second question is

“Would you consider having archives for older data and new mailboxes for new”

You also need to ask about rooms and resources and shared mailboxes as well as consider how you are going to migrate contacts and if there needs to be a shared address book.  The migration of mail may be the easiest component of what you are planning.

Now we need to talk about coexistence.  Unless you plan to cutover during a single period of downtime during which no mail is available you will need a migration tool that can handle coexistence with people gradually moving to Exchange and still able to work with those not yet migrated from Domino without any barrier in between.  Coexistence is a lot more complex than migration and the migration tools that offer it require considerably more configuration and management for coexistence than they do for the migration.  Consider as well that your coexistence period could be months or even years.

One option, if the company is small enough, is to migrate the data and then plan a cutover period where you do an incremental update.  Updating the data every week incrementally allows you to cutover fairly quickly and also gives a nice clean rollback position.

EXCHANGE CONFIGURATION

The biggest issue in migrating from Domino to Exchange is how long it takes getting the data from point A to point B.  I tried a variety of migration tools and a 7GB mail file took anywhere from 3hrs to 17hrs to complete.  Now multiply that up.   Ensuring your Domino servers, migration workstations and Exchange servers are located on the same fast network is key.

Make sure your Exchange server is configured not to throttle traffic (because it will see that flood of migration data as needing throttling) so configure a disabled/unlimited throttling policy you can apply during the migration.

Exchange’s malware filter, which is installed by default and only has options for deleting messages or deleting their attachments, is not your friend during a migration.  Not only will it delete your Domino mail that it decides could be malware as it migrates but it also slows the actual migration down to a crawl whilst it does that.  You can’t delete the filter but you can temporarily disable it via Powershell.

Next up.. the challenges of the Outlook / Exchange model to a Notes / Domino person.

 

 

 

 

 

Deploying The AppDev Pack – An Admins Guide

Over here on the blog is Tim’s next entry talking about Node development and Domino, this time he explains how to use the early release of the app dev package to access (read and write) Domino data via Node.  However I don’t let developers do Domino admin so this is the bit where I explain how to configure Domino.  It’s all very easy and also all still early release so things may well change for GA.

First you will need to request the early release package which you can do here. What you’ll then get is a series of .tgz files including one entitled ‘domino-appdev-docs-site.tgz’ which, once extracted, gives you the index.html with instructions for installing.

You need to bear in mind that at least initially this only runs on Linux and Domino 10 and that Domino 10 on Linux 64bit officially means RHEL 7.4 or higher, or SLES 12. I went with RHEL 7.5.

Next we need to install  “Proton” so it can be run as a Domino server task which just means extracting the file ‘proton-addin.tgz’ into the /opt/ibm/domino/notes/latest/linux directory.   There is also some checking to make sure files are present and setting permissions but I don’t want to repeat the install instructions here as I would rather you refer to the latest official version of those.  Suffice it to say this is a 5 minute job at most.

Once the files are in place you can start and stop Proton as you would any other Domino task by doing “load Proton”, “tell Proton quit”, etc.

Then there are a few notes.ini settings you can choose to set including:

PROTON_SSL
= if you want the traffic between the Proton task and Node server to be encrypted (0/1).

PROTON_LISTEN_PORT= what port you want Proton to listen and be accessed by Node on (default 3002 ).

PROTON_LISTEN_ADDRESS= if you want Proton to listen on a specific address on your Domino server such as 127.0.0.1 which would require Node to be installed locally or 0.0.0.0 which will listen on any available address.

PROTON_AUTHENTICATION= how Proton handles authentication.  There are currently two options, client_cert or anonymous.  With authentication set to anonymous all requests that come from the Node application are done as an “anonymous” Domino user and your Domino application must allow Anonymous rights in the ACL.

The “client_cert” option requires the Node application to present a client certificate to the Proton task and for the Domino administrator to have already mapped that certificate to a specific person document by importing it.  Note that “client_cert” still means that all activity from that Node application will be done as a single identified user that must be in the ACL but does mean you need not allow anonymous access.  You can also use different identities in different Node applications.

Of course, what we all want is OAuth or an authentication model that allows individual user identities and this is hopefully why the product is still considered “early release”.   Both the “anonymous” and “client_cert” models are of limited use in production.

PROTON_KEYFILE
= the keyfile to use if you want PROTON to be communicating using SSL.  This isn’t releated to the Domino keyfile (although it could be) and since this is only for communication between your Node server and your Domino Proton task and never for client-facing traffic you could use entirely internally-generated keys since they only need to be shared with the Node server itself.

HCL have kindly provided scripts to generate all the certificates you need for your testing.

Finally we need to create a design catalog for Proton to use.  You can add individual databases to the design catalog and the first one you add actually creates the catalog.  There must be a catalog with at least one database in it for Proton to work at all.

The catalog contains an index of all the design elements in a Domino database so to add a new database to the catalog you would type:
load updall <database> -e

This isn’t dynamically maintained though, so if you change the design of a database you must update its entry in the catalog if you want to have new design elements added or updated, like this:
load updall <database path> -d

The purpose of the catalog is to speed up DQL’s access to the Domino data.  It’s not required that every database be catalogued but obviously doing so speeds up access and opens up things like view scanning using the <‘View or folder name’>.<Columnname> syntax.

Proton

So that’s my very quick admin guide to what I did that enabled Tim to do what he does. It’s very possible (even probable) that this entire blog will be obsolete when the GA release ships but hopefully this and Tim’s blog help you get started with the early release.

Apple Mojave and IBM Notes 9.0.1

If you have trouble installing Notes 9.0.1 on Mojave with the installer erroring with

“File /Applications/Notes.app/Contents/MacOS/rcp/rcplauncher not found. Provisioning process failed to launch or was terminated before status could be determined.”

a very quick reminder for this error that occured first on the APFS file system using High Sierra – make sure you have downloaded the 9.0.1 installer from March 9th this year (passport advantage code CNQY7EN) and not the original one from 2015.  The one from March will install correctly and then let you install the IF16 fix  (901IF16) from IBM Fix Central that was released on September 24th on top to support Mojave.

If you already had Notes installed prior to upgrading to Mojave the IF16 fix installed on top should just work, this is primarily for new installs.

I would suggest going ahead and get rid of your 2015 9.0.1 client installers and get the new 2018 one in place just to be safe