Google Apps and Microsoft Exchange Partial Migration and Coexistence Success Story: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Google Apps and Microsoft Exchange -Partial Migration and Coexistence Success Story

One of the first 10 Google Apps for Enterprise partners worldwide and initial contributor to the Google Apps Open Source provisioning tool kit, SADA Systems, Inc., has developed a proven track record in successful implementations of Google Apps solutions for the higher education market. We at SADA work closely with our clients to create custom, leading edge solutions that strategically meet their business and institutional objectives.

SADA has also worked hard to earn and maintain our distinction as a Microsoft Gold Certified partner since 2003. As a Microsoft Gold Certified partner, SADA has helped numerous businesses, from SMBs to enterprise, deploy leading Microsoft solutions in their organizations. SADA stays current with Microsoft products and licenses to ensure that our clients have the best possible solutions for their business.

Jumping oceans, bridging the cultural divide, and working to advance the Cloud frontier, this is how we do IT. This was the opportunity at hand for SADA; to help implement the systems that would advance collaboration for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia (KAUST).

KAUST officially opened in September of 2009. It’s opening represented the culmination of a decades long vision of King Abdullah Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to create an international community of scholars dedicated to advanced science. KAUST is a graduate-level research university dedicated to pursuing research focused in four key areas:

    • Resources, Energy and Environment


    • Biosciences and Bioengineering


    • Materials Science and Engineering


    • Applied Mathematics and Computational Science


KAUST did not initially have an email hosting infrastructure in place. To
address this KAUST had set up Google Apps, which was in place at the start of
the project. After their datacenter was built, Exchange 2007 servers were
deployed. As a result staff accounts needed to be moved to Exchange, while
student accounts needed to remain in Google Apps.

The new datacenter infrastructure included both Exchange and Active Directory,
so faculty and staff user accounts needed to be integrated into the solution. KAUST policy required MX record to point to Exchange. In order to allow two email systems to co-exist, dual delivery had to be configured on Exchange.

With less than a month till the official opening, the changeover of the MX
record could not allow for any of the vast quantities of important high-level
emails being exchanged to go missing.

Lastly, KAUST presented us with the following requirements:

    • Every account that was created in Google must exist in Exchange.


    • Every email sent to the domain must get delivered to both Exchange users as well as Google Apps users.


    • Emails sent to distribution lists must reach intended recipients.


    • Exchange users needed to be notified of their login credentials.


Given the number of challenges the SADA Team faced on this particular project our Senior Solutions and Systems Engineers took the following steps to ensure both quality of timely service and successful implementation:

    • Utilized Google’s GDATA API and PowerShell scripts to ensure that all
      of the existing Google Apps accounts were created in Active Directory,


    • Incorporated PowerShell to create mailboxes for Staff and mail-enabled
      accounts for Students,


    • Provided external SMTP addresses that pointed Mail-enabled Student accounts to Google,


    • Applied custom script for the contact cards we created for KAUST faculty and staff in order to set up forwarding to these cards. Hence Exchange contact cards created in this way were given external SMTP addresses that also pointed to Google,


    • Calibrated the GDATA API to retrieve the list of Google groups, its members, and permissions in conjunction with PowerShell to create distribution groups in Active Directory, contacts for external recipients, and to add members,


    • Collaborated worked with KAUST to create a catch-all mailbox to capture any messages sent to email addresses that don’t exist in Exchange. This checks and balance allowed us to catch any account we might have overlooked when setting up Active Directory, *After reviewing messages captured in the catch-all account, we discovered that several Google users had nicknames that needed to be added to their Exchange account as additional email addresses,


    • Configured the SPF record to include both Google and Exchange,


    • Post completing the MX crossover, an issue with delivery receipts was discovered. Based on recommendations in a Microsoft blog post, we implemented a new transport agent, which resolved the issue,


    • Implemented dynamic distribution groups to mimic permissions available in Google groups,


    • Removed authentication requirement to allow external users to send to distribution lists,


    • Automated the manual account creation and activation of dual delivery in Active Directory for new Staff and Students via PowerShell scripts given the time intensive set-up, and…


    • Generated random passwords for all faculty and staff user which then automatically reset the user’s password and sent an email to the user with their new Active Directory password via a Powershell script.


With SADA’s assistance and the implementation of best-of-breed utilities for the deployment of Microsoft Exchange with dual delivery to Google Apps, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology was able to smoothly and effectively implement Microsoft Exchange accounts for their faculty and staff, while maintaining Google Apps accounts for their students. SADA was able to meet the needs and satisfy the requirements of KAUST in a timely manner, that allowed the university to open with their fully functioning email plan in place.

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