What Microsoft Plans to Do In 2021 with SharePoint and MS Exchange?

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Microsoft has announced new versions of Exchange and SharePoint for 2021. This also affects functions in Microsoft 365. The article gives an overview.

Microsoft has announced a new version of its Exchange server for 2021 – the successor to Exchange Server 2019. This is only available as a subscription. Microsoft will continue to pursue this strategy for Exchange, SharePoint and Co. in the new year.

Also, new editions are expected to Project Server and Skype for Business Server. New products are anticipated to be launched in 2021. Basically, Microsoft wants to get its customers to outsource local server functions to the cloud. Therefore, new versions of Exchange and SharePoint offer a close connection to Microsoft 365 and enable hybrid operation.

Focus On Subscription Models & Client Access Licenses

Additional services are linked to the subscription model and price advantages are expected when using Microsoft 365.

The new model also applies to SharePoint, Skype for Business and Project Server.

In the future, new versions of Exchange and SharePoint will appear more frequently. So there are no comprehensive innovations expected for Exchange, only minor innovations, similar to Windows 10. This is also the case with Skype for Business and Project Server and SharePoint development.

It is expected that Microsoft will shorten the support period for new versions, thus encouraging companies to switch to a new version more quickly. The procedure corresponds to the adjustments in Microsoft 365. Here, too, new functions appear regularly, which are integrated into the existing infrastructure.

Currently, it is not possible to predict how the clients will be licensed. Server licenses and client access licenses (CALs) currently still exist for Exchange and SharePoint. It is unclear whether these licenses will also be included in the subscription model in 2021. What those responsible have to adjust to are rising costs. Microsoft wants to lure its customers to Microsoft 365/Office 365 and will steer the pricing accordingly.

In addition, Microsoft has announced that the new version of the Hybrid Configuration Wizard will connect several Exchange organizations in parallel and incorporate them into a Microsoft 365/Office 365 subscription. This proves the trend that Microsoft wants to encourage its customers to migrate local servers to Exchange Online.

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In the future, the administration of local Exchange servers will be almost identical to the administration of Exchange Online. For this purpose, the new Exchange Admin Center, which is already used to manage Exchange Online, will be integrated into the successor to Exchange 2019. The Exchange admin center is based on the management tools in Microsoft 365, which are also aligned for Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive and other products.

As per Microsoft, it is likely to switch back to the former version. The new Exchange Admin Center can already be used in Exchange Online. The old version of the Exchange Admin Center can be reactivated at this point using a slider. It works the same way with the new Exchange version.

Update & Parallel Operation of Exchange 2013/2016

Microsoft wants the update process easier for administrators to the new Exchange version. It will be possible to directly update local servers with Exchange 2019 to the new version. Since Microsoft explicitly mentioned Exchange 2019 at Ignite 2020, a direct update from Exchange 2016 is probably not possible. Here admins have to perform conventional migrations. What is already clear: The new Exchange Server can be operated in organizations from Exchange Server 2013. This makes migrations from old Exchange versions conceivable.

To plan Exchange servers, Microsoft provides its Exchange Server 2019 Capacity Calculator as a standalone product. The tool is also an aid for planning mailboxes for the new Exchange version. Microsoft has announced that it will adapt the product as soon as it can no longer be used for current Exchange versions.

New Features in Exchange Online

With regard to migrations, there is also progress in Exchange Online. It should be possible from 2021 to migrate mailboxes from other subscriptions to your own subscription. For now, it was only possible in a complex way via import and exports. In the future, these processes can be carried out more easily in the new Exchange Admin Center.

Microsoft is introducing the + addressing function known from Gmail in Exchange Online. The feature enables end users to sign up for email lists with an email address. Rules can then be created on this basis.

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PowerShell Support Improved

Many administrators work with scripts to make settings in Exchange Online from local computers. This is where Microsoft introduces certificate-based authentication. This makes it easier to start scripts locally, just like with local Exchange servers.

The authentication then takes place via certificates, the login data no longer has to be stored in the script. In the future, it will also be possible to manage Exchange Online from PowerShell on Linux computers. Microsoft will update the modules required for this in 2021.

New Office Version in 2021

A new version of Microsoft Office is also expected in 2021. In contrast to Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business, the new version will still be available via a classic license. No subscription is required here. The new Office version should appear for Windows and macOS.

In 2021, Microsoft’s most important production servers will grow closer together with Microsoft 365 and offer a range of functions that is similar to that of the online services. The local administration tools and the tools in Microsoft 365 align and work more closely together, making hybrid networks easier to manage.

Conversely, PowerShell can be used more flexibly by local data centers for managing Exchange Online and other services in Microsoft 365. This is demonstrated by the integration into the PowerShell of Linux and the certificate-based authentication for scripts.