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Cloud Commander’s maiden voyage

9 Jan 2018 by Paul Robichaux

Around this time of year, it’s common to see commercials for movies claiming that a movie is “one of the year’s best”. That always struck me as a bit odd. Maybe if you add “so far” to the end of the phrase, it sounds better. It just seems that January is very early in the New Year to be making bold claims. However, that’s just what I’m going to do—we’re 3 days into the New Year and have already completed our first project using Cloud Commander.

What is Cloud Commander, anyway?

If you look back across the lifetime of Exchange, you can see that Microsoft has steadily improved their own native tools for moving mail around. First the original “Pilgrim” wizard let us move data from one server to another, then we got the ability to move individual mailboxes, then tools for cross-forest and hybrid mailbox moves appeared.

At Ignite this year, Microsoft announced their own set of tools for moving Exchange Online mailboxes between Office 365 tenants. This is a necessary and important step— many companies find that they need to move data between tenants to support mergers, divestitures, or other business changes, or to clean up and consolidate what we euphemistically refer to as “less planned deployments.”

Microsoft’s focus on Exchange Online as the way to hook customers into Office 365 has paid off very well, but it also means that in some ways they’re imprisoned by their own success.  Customers want tools for managing the workloads they’re using now, and Microsoft has to honor those demands while trying to balance their own organizational need to grow the business. The resulting tension means that, although we’ll be getting Microsoft tools for consolidating mail between tenants, they aren’t addressing the bigger, and more interesting, problems in tenant-to-tenant (T2T) migrations.

We introduced Cloud Commander, first previewed at Microsoft Ignite in September, to solve this problem.

Put simply, the purpose of Cloud Commander is to move all the stuff in your Office 365 tenant, not just mail, and to do a better job of it than Microsoft and our competitors. Cloud Commander complements the ability to move data with features to help you manage the entire migration: who gets migrated, when, and how the migration is orchestrated—management steps that you would otherwise have to take manually when using the native Microsoft cross-tenant MRS move functionality.

(Now, before our legal team hits me with a rolled-up newspaper: it does not yet literally move all types of data in T2T migrations but our developers are working aggressively to add new workloads, including OneDrive and Teams, and new features.)

You’ll be seeing a lot more about Cloud Commander towards the end of the first quarter of 2018… so watch this space!

Cloud Commander leaves the nest

In the first week of 2018, we wrapped up our first commercial project using Cloud Commander. We migrated just under 3TB of data, comprising about 12 million items, from one Office 365 tenant to another. In the context of some of our 2017 milestones, this might not seem like a huge amount of data—as migrations go, this one would be classed as medium-sized. We routinely do much larger migrations with Archive Shuttle. However, as a “first light” moment, this project is a big deal because:

  • It validates our approach of using Azure to provide scale and security for Tenant to Tenant migrations. Cloud Commander relies on Azure elastic compute services so that we can easily handle very large migrations without requiring our customers to change anything in their environments.
  • It thoroughly tested our migration approach, using the Advanced Ingestion Protocol (AIP) for the actual migration and then updating Outlook and Active Directory so that the user maintains seamless access to her mailbox. This is really important: migrations shouldn’t disrupt the user experience in any noticeable way.
  • It marks a rapid launch—we first started discussing Cloud Commander internally in April, showed a tech demonstration less than six months later, and were doing production migrations two months after that. (That means that, in terms of gestation period, Cloud Commander fell somewhere between a hippo and a porcupine.)

We already have larger follow-on migrations underway with Cloud Commander, with some significant new functionality planned for release in Q1 2018. Cloud to cloud migrations are an important requirement for customers of all sizes, and we’re committed to continuing to develop this feature set to help customers get the most value, with the least hassle, from their Office 365 deployments.

Want to find out more about Cloud Commander? Details of the solution’s capabilities can be found here. Last month, we hosted a webinar on key IT considerations for Mergers & Acquisitions, which explores the challenges when one, or both parties are using Office 365. Watch the on-demand recording here.

Paul Robichaux, an Office Servers and Services MVP since 2002, is currently the chief technology officer at Quadrotech Solutions, where he leads the product development team for Quadrotech's family of Office 365 migration, automation, reporting, and security products. Paul is an avid (but slow) triathlete, an instrument-rated private pilot, and an occasional blogger (at http://www.paulrobichaux.com) and Tweeter (@paulrobichaux)