Network load balancing for Microsoft Exchange Online as part of Microsoft Office 365 ensures that tenant client access loads are properly balanced. Network load balancing also has implications for Client Access server affinity. Some stateful client features require Client Access server affinity. This is because some state information is cached on Client Access servers. Both Exchange Web Services (EWS) and MAPI clients include ways to maintain Client Access server affinity through the network load balancers.

Client Access server affinity and Exchange Web Services

Client Access server affinity is important for EWS. Using the Client Access server that services a mailbox improves both performance and function. Using a Client Access server that does not service the particular mailbox to handle a request can negatively affect performance, and in some cases, the request might fail. Requests for features such as event notification subscriptions require stateful information, and state information is maintained on the Client Access server that services the mailbox. Client Access server affinity is required to maintain state information about which notifications have been delivered to the client. For example, if the notification request is not sent to the correct Client Access server, the server will respond with the ErrorSubscriptionNotFound error.

The key to maintaining Client Access server affinity for EWS is the exchangecookie cookie. The exchangecookie cookie associates a client with a specific Client Access server — specifically, the Client Access server that services the target mailbox. The network load balancer uses the exchangecookie cookie to maintain Client Access server affinity for a client. The first response that the client receives from the server will contain the exchangecookie cookie. For all subsequent EWS client requests for that mailbox, the exchangecookie cookie must persist, in order to maintain Client Access server affinity. The client should preserve the cookie after each response, because in some cases the cookie might change mid-session. The exchangecookie cookie should persist for use in all future requests.

Clients that use the EWS Managed API 1.1 and the EWS Java API 1.1 do not have to manage the exchangecookie cookie as this is done automatically. If you create a custom client, make sure that the exchangecookie cookie persists for each mailbox you are accessing.

Client Access server affinity and MAPI

MAPI Client Access server affinity is maintained through the network load balancer by the OutlookSession session. You can maintain Client Access server affinity for a client by using a single OutlookSession session for the client. The client cannot rely on state information maintained on the Client Access server if subsequent sessions are opened since different sessions are not necessarily handled by the same Client Access server that handled a previous session.