Office 365 and Identity

imageMicrosoft has provided more details about Office 365 and the different identity options in a service description document (link at the bottom of this post).

There are two types of identities:

  • Cloud Identity: credentials are separate from your corporate credentials
  • Federated Identity: users can sign in with their corporate Active Directory credentials

With BPOS, there was only one type: cloud identity. Users had to logon using a Sign-In Assistant that stored the cloud credentials (name and password) and used those credentials to sign in in the background. For larger organizations, the Sign-In Assistant was a pain to install and manage so it’s a good thing it is going away.

With the new identity solution, as stated above, the Sign-In Assistant goes away and the logon experience is determined by the type of identity and how you access the service. The table below summarizes the sign-in experience:

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1 The password can be saved to avoid continuous prompting
2 During the beta, with Federated IDs, you will be prompted when first accessing the services
3 Outlook 2007 will be updated to give the same experience as Outlook 2010

Note that it is required to install some components and updates on user’s workstations if rich clients are used to access Office 365. Although you can manually install these updates, the Office 365 Desktop Setup package does all that is needed. Office 365 Desktop Setup was formerly called the Microsoft Online Services Connector. Office 365 Desktop Setup supports Windows XP (SP2) and higher.

A couple of other things that are good to know:

  • Office 365 supports two-factor authentication if you implement SSO with Active Directory Federation Services 2.0. There are two options to enforce two-factor auth: on the ADFS 2.0 proxy logon page or at the ForeFront UAG SP1 level.
  • Active Directory synchronization is supported with the Microsoft Online Services Directory Synchronization tool. The tool is basically the same as with BPOS although there are some changes to support new features: security group replication, write back (which also enables some extra features), etc…
  • Note that the synchronization tool still does not support multiple forests.
  • The synchronization tool is required in migration scenarios like rich coexistence, simple coexistence and staged migration with simple coexistence.

The full details can be downloaded from the Microsoft website. If you are involved in Office 365 projects, this is considered required reading!

Office 365 SharePoint Online Storage

imageMicrosoft has recently published updated Office 365 Service Descriptions at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=6c6ecc6c-64f5-490a-bca3-8835c9a4a2ea.

The SharePoint Online service description contains some interesting information, some of which I did not know yet. We typically receive a lot of questions about SharePoint online and storage. The list below summarizes the storage related features:

  • The storage pool starts at 10GB with 500MB of extra storage per user account (talking about enterprise user accounts here).
  • Maximum amount of storage is 5TB.
  • File upload limit is 250MB.
  • Storage can be allocated to a maximum of 300 site collections. The maximum amount of storage for a site collection is 100GB.
  • My Sites are available and each My Site is set at 500MB (this is not the 500MB noted above, in essence this is extra storage for each user’s personal data).
  • A My Site is not counted as a site collection. In other words, you can have 300 normal site collections and many more My Sites.
  • Extra storage can be purchased (as before) at $2,5USD/GB per month.

When it comes to external users (for extranet scenarios), the document states that final cost information is not available yet. It is the intention of Microsoft to sell these licenses in packs.

Check out the SharePoint Online service description for full details.

How to check that a RemoteFX session was created

When working with RemoteFX, it is not directly obvious in the UI that a RemoteFX session was established. The easiest way to check it is via the Event Viewer on the RDS host. Look for the following event:

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You will find the above in the Applications and Services logs.

RemoteFX with Remote Desktop Session Host

After reading the Can you connect to a Terminal Server via RemoteFX post on brianmadden.com, I decided to quickly try it out in Xylos’s lab environment. The installation, as expected, is very simple. On a Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 system, install the Remote Desktop Services role and the Remote Desktop Session Host role service. There is no need to install the RemoteFX role service because it is only required for RemoteFX in combination with the Remote Desktop Virtualization Host role service and Hyper-V (VDI scenario). Note that a GPU is not required in the RDS scenario. It is required in the VDI scenario.

After installing the role services and the reboot, you need to enable RemoteFX with a policy (for full configuration steps, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff817595(WS.10).aspx):

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Note that the policy setting below it can be used to optimize the visual experience (see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg288964(WS.10).aspx).

Now, what about the user experience? Well, I must say the difference is definitely noticeable especially when playing videos or heavy Flash and Silverlight. The performance improvement does come at a cost of extra CPU cycles as the RemoteFX encoding is done by the CPU. I actually had to give my RDS host two CPUs to get a good result.

Note that I did my tests over the LAN using a wireless connection. From home, RemoteFX also performed very well but that’s a 35Mbit down connection over a 10Mbit up connection at work.

The question then becomes if RemoteFX is worth enabling in an RDS scenario for the incremental benefits it brings to performance and user experience. That’s something only real-world testing and benchmarking will tell. In the meantime, take RemoteFX for RDS into account when designing a remote desktop solution and keep in mind that it will work with any virtualization solution.

Also see:

Windows Intune available on March 23rd

Windows Intune, Microsoft’s cloud-based pc management service will be available for trial and purchase on March 23rd. It will become available in several countries, including Belgium.

The service can be acquired for around 11$ per computer per month. This includes a Windows 7 Enterprise license. For 1$ extra, you can acquire MDOP as well which includes App-V.

For more technical content, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/ff472080.aspx?ITPID=mscomgl. The FAQ is here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsintune/windowsintune-faq.aspx.

Windows Intune

BPOS PowerShell Commands

While I am delivering BPOS courses for Microsoft partners, there’s always a lot of interest in using commands to control directory synchronization, the migration tools, provisioning users and so on. Microsoft actually provides several PowerShell cmdlets with the two main tools that come with BPOS:

  • Directory synchronization cmdlets become available when you install the directory synchronization software
  • Migration and configuration cmdlets become available when you install the migration tools

There is one directory synchronization cmdlet of interest and that is the Start-OnlineCoexistenceSync cmdlet. That cmdlet starts a synchronization run from the on-premises Active Directory to the customer’s BPOS environment. When you start c:\program files\microsoft online directory sync\dirsyncconfigshell.psc1, a PowerShell session is started that allows you to run the cmdlet. If you just want to run the command from an existing PowerShell session, first load the Directory Synchronization snapin with the following command:

Add-PSSnapin Coexistence-Configuration

After the snapin is loaded, you can use the Start-OnlineCoexistenceSync cmdlet to start a synchronization run. Although I have not yet seen the next version of DirSync for use with Office 365, I presume that the above cmdlet will still be available since the DirSync tools will be very similar.

The cmdlets that come with the migration tools are much more interesting because they can be used to provision users, enable users, enable POP3 access for users, grant Send As or Full Mailbox Access and so forth. When the migration tools are installed, you will have a shortcut in the Start Menu in Microsoft Online Services > Migration > Migration Command Shell. When you click that shortcut, a PowerShell session is started with the Microsoft Exchange Transporter snapin loaded. You can ask for the list of cmdlets loaded by this snapin using the following command:

get-command -PSSnapin Microsoft.Exchange.Transporter

Some interesting cmdlets:

  • Add-MSOnlineUser: can be used to add users to BPOS from a script; note that the users are added as synchronized disabled users; you will have to use Enable-MSOnlineUser to enable the user in a separate step
  • Add-MSOnlineMailPermission: can be used to grant Send As, Full Mailbox access or Send On Behalf Of rights on a mailbox
  • Enable-MSOnlinePOPAccess: can be used to enable POP3 access on a mailbox
  • Set-MSOnlineAlternateRecipient: can be used to set an alternate recipient on an Exchange Online mailbox; you can configure the mailbox to deliver e-mails to both the Exchange Online inbox and the alternate recipient
  • Set-MSOnlineUserPassword: can be used to set a password on an online user

Note that there are no cmdlets to create contacts and distribution lists in the Exchange Online global address lists. You can also see that these cmdlets are specifically created for use with Exchange Online in BPOS and that they have no relation at all with Exchange Server 2007 or Exchange Server 2010 cmdlets in an on-premise solution. To fix those issues and provide many more options, Exchange Online in Office 365 will actually allow full use of Exchange Server 2010 SP1 cmdlets over the Internet. Naturally, not all cmdlets will be available and some cmdlets will not support all parameters.

By the way, if you don’t like to work with PowerShell commands, a company called MessageOps has a free tool called BPOS PowerShell GUI. You need to install that tool on a system that has the Microsoft migration tools installed. The tool looks like this:

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The tool provides easy access to allmost all the available PowerShell cmdlets using the above GUI. Highly recommended!

Enabling Forefront Administration and Quarantine in BPOS

Exchange Online, standalone or as part of BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), always comes with antivirus and anti-spam protection delivered by Forefront Online Protection for Exchange or FOPE. Mails are always scanned for viruses and, depending on your settings, checked for spam.

As a BPOS administrator you can control the anti-spam checking behavior by configuring safe and blocked senders in the BPOS Administration Center. E-mail addresses, IP addresses or domains added to the safe senders for instance are not checked for spam by the FOPE infrastructure.

When e-mail is marked as spam, it is held by FOPE. By default, a BPOS user gets an e-mail every three days (from FOPE) with a list of e-mails marked as spam. The user can then decide to move the e-mail to the inbox.

If you want more control and visibility into what FOPE does, and you want to grant users access to the quarantine website at FOPE for immediate action on blocked mails, you will need to ask support to enable the following for you:

You can initially ask that the BPOS administration account you are using is granted access to both. From the FOPE administration website, you can add other users so that they have access to their quarantine. Note that the password to access FOPE admin and quarantine is different from the BPOS password!

Now the question is: “What can you do in the FOPE administration website?”. The answer is simple: “Not that much.” Basically, you get read-only access to most settings. However, you can generate reports and, as stated above, add other users so that they can access the quarantine website. The screenshot below shows an example of a report (in Dutch):

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A user with access to the quarantine, sees the following:

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The user can easily select the e-mails that are not spam and move them to the inbox (or mark them as not spam).

If we look forward to how things will be in Office 365, administrators will have more control over the settings in FOPE. That, for sure, will be a welcome addition to the capabilities of Exchange Online and the administrative control customers will have over it.