Careers: Interviews
David Elfassy, International Authority in Windows Technologies, Unified Communications and Messaging, MS Learning Contributor, Microsoft Exchange Server Most Valuable Professional, MCT

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., MVP, DF/NPA, CNP has an exclusive interview with David Elfassy.

David ElfassyDavid Elfassy began his career in IT in the early 90's delivering Microsoft Official Curriculum, specializing in Microsoft Exchange Server since 1997. He worked as project lead on many migrations and implementations of Microsoft infrastructure technologies for governmental and corporate organizations. Always helping organizations migrate to the new versions of Microsoft Exchange Server, David has been a champion of the Microsoft messaging flagship product worldwide.

He has also been working closely with Microsoft Learning teams on various marketing and certification projects; particularly working on curriculum development and certification exam development for multiple branches of Microsoft Corp. David is a co-owner and senior technical adviser for two Microsoft Gold Certified Partners: Netlogon Technologies (www.netlogon.ca) (specializing in large enterprise consulting) and Kalleo (www.kalleo.ca) (specializing in small business network management); overseeing teams of consultants and network technicians.

Recently, David has presented on Exchange "14", in NDA-only sessions in Europe and North-America and is authoring courseware on Exchange "14" for Microsoft Learning. Also, a certification evangelist, David has presented multiple "Microsoft Certification 101" Live Meeting sessions for Microsoft Learning, and will present again at TechEd 2009 in Los Angeles. David happens to be an Exchange Server MVP, but he's really an MCT!

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

Go to www.microsoft.com/youshapeit/technet for a look at this interview and much more.

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
http://blogs.technet.com/cdnitmanagers/

DISCUSSION:

Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:34: David profiles his current roles and how he got into computing.
"....I focus my time on Exchange Server. It's the product that really gets me going and I like talking about it so I'm glad to be here...."

:02:41: David, can you profile Unified Communications, the components that make up Unified Communications and what this means to organizations?
"....It boils down to options and being able to do a lot more with your email, computers, phones and devices. Everything pretty much becomes interchangeable and access to information can come from different sources....It's really about making the devices themselves less relevant and the type of communication more relevant....That's a lot of flexibility and I think companies today are looking for that kind of flexibility...."

:04:51: What industry solutions does Microsoft offer in this space and how can they each benefit organizations?
"....At the software level: Office Communications Server (OCS), Exchange Server, Microsoft Office Outlook, Office Communicator, Instant Messaging client and Windows Mobile Devices....The operating systems that run on those devices and the operating systems that run on computers and desktops....Putting all of those pieces together form a complete Unified Communications solution....Microsoft is offering some hardware devices as well. The main one is the Microsoft RoundTable (allows people to have a great experience during video conferencing)....And when we are talking about Unified Communications we are talking about green IT....All these types of products that Microsoft are releasing are to provide that green IT environment...."

:07:11: You have a long history with wide expertise in Unified Communications and Messaging. Can you overview Office Communications Server 2007 R2?
"....Office Communications Server allows you to integrate voice communications with email, calendaring, instant messaging and conferencing to provide a unified experience for users and a unified management for administrators....Very useful technology to really collaborate more efficiently with the people you are working with...."

:09:53: Can you tell us more about Windows Exchange Server?
"....Microsoft Exchange Server allows users to communicate through email and administrators to control how those emails are flowing within an organization. It is the server side of Outlook...Exchange Server on the backend manages databases, manages transport rules which begin the flow of messages between individuals, connects to the internet, does anti-spam functionalities. Exchange Server today is a major tool for archiving of information and discovering information in multiple individuals' mailboxes and controlling the flow of information between individuals...."

:11:43: Can you provide your top tips on the technologies present in Exchange Server 2007 SP1?
"....There are new functionalities with Exchange 2007 which completely blow out of the water the previous version....For instance, Autodiscover (automatically allows an Outlook client to discover where the server is for a specific user)....Replication is another thing that has changed tremendously in Exchange 2007 (Database replication)....Role-based deployment....In Exchange Server 2007 we have multiple roles which can be deployed separately...."

:16:00: What are your top tips for IT Pros who have to install Exchange Server 2007?
"....If you've got some clustering replication going on, one of your options is Standby Cluster Replication (SCR)....One thing a lot of the people don't realize is that when you are using SCR there is a log replay lag time....You also need to think about your operating system - what OS are you deploying. There are benefits and disadvantages of the OS that are supported (Windows 2003 and Windows 2008).....CCR (Cluster Continuous Replication) or SCR - which one to implement? The recommendation is to implement a combination of both....The tool you need to run just before and just after installation is the EXBPA (Exchange Best Practice Analyzer) which is a free download from the Microsoft site...."

:23:43: How about your top tips for managing Exchange Server 2007?
"....Learn PowerShell. Keep in mind that when you are using the GUI in the background, you are using PowerShell....If you want the extensibility of PowerShell, but miss the GUI, get yourself PowerGUI at powergui.org....When learning PowerShell, don't focus on the PowerShell command, focus on the syntax and methodology and logic of PowerShell....There's a course available by Microsoft Learning entitled Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2007....Also scripting guru Don Jones book called Microsoft Windows PowerShell: TFM....

:29:11: What are little known gems about working with Exchange Server 2007?
....Exchange User Monitor is a little tool which allows you to monitor Exchange client connections to Exchange server and is available for free on the Microsoft website. It is particularly useful when troubleshooting RPC latency issues to an Exchange server and helps you identify the source of that problem....Another useful tool is the Performance Counters from the Performance Console in Windows....Pipeline tracing (used to troubleshoot transport issues) is an advanced diagnostic command that you run through PowerShell that allows you to monitor messages as they flow through the transport filters....Use the Get-ExchangeServer PowerShell command line (when you have a distributed environment and you want to discover which domain controllers you are talking to)....Exchange Connectivity tool allows you to connect connectivity from the internet for things like Autodiscover...."

:35:49: What are your best practices for Unified Communications?
"....Before you implement a Unified Communications infrastructure make sure that your network infrastructure supports it....Definitely put in a staggered approach to make sure you can handle the load and definitely put in the redundancy on your network to ensure you can handle a failure...."

:37:52: What are your best practices for Exchange Server?
"....Patch, patch, patch.....Monitor your servers...Stagger your maintenance, backups and patch applications....Use SCR or Local Continuous Replication (LCR) for small businesses....Run Exchange Best Practices Analyzer periodically...."

:43:30: What are your experiences and lessons learned from deploying, migrating, managing, and running these solutions?
"....The most common mistake I see are Active Directory environments that are improperly configured....In Transport - make sure your Standard Policy Framework implementation is up-to-date....Users must be educated as to how to use and manage email. One of the greatest problems is mailbox overload. Archiving in itself is a huge issue that needs to be tackled..."

:48:14: What are the top challenges and their solutions that you hear about in your work?
"...In addition to what I mentioned in the previous question, availability for messaging in Exchange is a huge challenge to administrators and is going to be a huge challenge moving forward...."

:50:55: What do you consider to be the best resources for working with Exchange Server?
"PRESENTATIONS:
Microsoft TechEd....Interact Conference (conference specifically for Unified Messaging).... Lots of presentation locally from user groups in pretty much every region of the world and some presentations are focused on Unified Messaging....
DOWNLOADS can be accessed from the Exchange Technical Center (TechNet site)....
COMMUNITY SITES: http://www.MSExchange.org and http://Exchangepedia.com ....
BOOKS:Microsoft Exchange Server 2007: Tony Redmond's Guide to Successful Implementation....
OTHER RESOURCES include http://elfassy.spaces.live.com/ and the Exchange Team Blog....


:54:40: Microsoft is offering hosted services for messaging, will anyone bite and head to the cloud?
"....I think we will see more of a hybrid co-existence. Companies will keep some services locally and some services in the cloud....I don't think we are moving to a complete cloud environment but I think there are going to be more options. For small business I think it is going to be even more interesting...."

:58:33: What are your recommendations around Microsoft Certification Exams?
"....Exam 236 is the exam on Exchange 2007 Technology Specialist and once you pass that exam you basically demonstrate that you know how to configure and troubleshoot an Exchange server....If you work in a more Enterprise environment where you are looking at the design and planning phase of Exchange then maybe you need to look at the IT Professional certification. That is certification 237 and 238...."

:01:00:19: What are your top recommendations for Microsoft E-Learning?
"....You can take some E-Learning collections where you can study at your own pace online through E-Learning courses. You can purchase some MS Press books and study on your own. Another thing you can do is to go and sit in a class with instructor-led training....You can take an instructor-led class from a Microsoft Certified Partner...."

:01:02:10: Do you have additional recommendations on PowerShell from a learning perspective?
"....Microsoft instructor-led classes (3 day course) Automating Windows Server 2008 Administration with Windows PowerShell ...."

:01:02:36: What about the future-what should IT Pros be preparing for?
"...More voice integration....more archiving features....more cloud and mixed environments....SMS integration....What will be the next integration of products with Exchange and OCS...."

:01:04:51: David shares some interesting stories about his work and experiences with Exchange.
"....People implement Exchange in some very strange environments...."

:01:10:13: What question would you ask and what would be your answer if you were doing this interview?
"....What is going to be the driving force behind Exchange in the next few years?...."

:01:12:30: Where do you have the most fun?
"....Coming into an environment where nobody knows how to fix it and there's a real challenge is something that is fascinating to me in a professional sense. From a personal sense, spending time with my kids and family and doing some snowboarding, that's what keeps me happy...."

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