Exchange Automation using Orchestrator 2012
With the System Center Suite 2012 Microsoft provided a very important tool to automate tasks in whatever solution you want unless you have a working so called “Integration Pack“ that gives you a way to interact automatically.
System Center Orchestrator 2012 Basics
System Center Orchestrator 2012 is the next release of Opalis Integration Server (OIS) that was bought by Microsoft three years ago. It is part of the System Center family suite.
In general the primary task to use Orchestrator 2012 is automation. The server itself is running on Windows Server 2xxx and needs access to a SQL Server 2008 or higher to save its configuration directly into this database. The following figure shows the architecture of Orchestrator 2012 Integration in your environment. Although all components may be run on a dedicated server solution, it can also be deployed on a server already running other software (e.g. Exchange Server).
Figure 1: System Center Orchestrator 2012 Architecture
A Runbook is a logical set of Orchestrator activities that define a workflow. Each activity collects or transforms data from various sources and collects them into a data bus that is alive only during the runtime of a runbook.
Integration Packs are the technical heart of Orchestrator 2012 because they will give you a supported way to interact with your solutions automatically.
The Runbook Designer is the tool that is being used to orchestrate (design) runbooks.
The Orchestration Console is a web based administration console that allows you to monitor runbooks that are active and is the primary tool for troubleshooting purposes.
Within this article we will examine the following:
- Exchange Server Integration Pack
- Exchange Mail Integration Pack
- Exchange Calendaring Integration Pack
Exchange Server Integration Pack
The Exchange Server Integration Pack works with Exchange Server 2010 or higher and gives you a lot of functions that may be used for Exchange Self Servicing. The following figure will show you an overview of each activity that is possible:
Figure 2: Overview of Activities in Exchange Server IP
This Integration Pack allows you to create Self-Service Requests with which you may support the automation of:
- Exchange Mailbox Management
- Exchange Mailbox Database Management
- Exchange Mailbox High Availability Management
- Exchange Distribution Group Management
- Exchange Address List Management
- Exchange Routing Management
- and so on …
Using System Center Service Manager 2012 as End User UI you may then create Service Request Offerings for:
- Automatic mailbox creation, modification or deletion as part of the User Provisioning Process for new, existing or retired employees
- Automatic database maintenance for reorganizational tasks during the night or weekend
- Automatic recovery tasks for mail routing issues
- and much more
You don’t even need System Center Service Manager 2012 to use the power of Orchestrator, because you can integrate it into the troubleshooting, backup and restore mechanisms that have already been designed within your company; you can integrate it directly into your IT Service Management Solution or web portal solution (based on SharePoint Server or any other integration pack enabled solution).
This Integration Pack is available on the TechNet Gallery and you can download it from here.
Exchange Mail Integration Pack
A second Integration Pack available for System Center Orchestrator 2012 is the Exchange Mail Integration Pack.
The project includes objects for the following actions
Figure 3: Activities included in the Exchange Mail Integration Pack
With these activities you have a way to automate the following basic tasks of mail- and mailbox management within your Exchange Server Organization:
- Delete emails in the recycle bin folder
- Mailbox folder management
- Move emails with specific criteria to any defined folder in your mailbox (or archive mailbox)
- Search emails with any defined criteria
- Monitor mailboxes for incoming emails based on defined criteria
- Export email attachments to network shares to decrease the mailbox storage size
- Send emails to pre-defined recipients after having finished Orchestrator Runbooks
This integration pack worked with Exchange Server Web Services API 1.1 must be downloaded and installed as a pre-requisite on the Orchestrator Server before using the new activities.
You can download this integration pack from here.
Exchange Calendaring Integration Pack
The Exchange Calendaring Integration Pack integrated the following activities in Exchange Server:
- Creating Appointments
- Getting Appointments
- Canceling Appointments
So it will fit into the gap of Exchange Automation that was still missing when both integration packs above have already been installed and registered in your network environment. The calendaring integration pack is quite small but gives you a way to automate calendaring functions of your users such as, automatic creation of group calendars or project management tasks.
The Big Picture
If you are using all three integration packs above, you have all possibilities for automating your Exchange Server Organization as much as possible to decrease the administrative overhead. From the management of your Exchange servers to the automation of email and calendaring you will have all functions to bring more value in your Exchange Organization, either if you are using Service Requests in the Service Manager Self Service Portal or without it using your own solution.
As you have seen above, System Center Orchestrator is a great tool to automate your networking environment as much as possible. And the good thing could be that you might have already bought the Orchestrator License because you already own one component of the System Center Suite. You may only need to install it and take a chance to start creating your own runbooks. If you still have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me directly.