Transport agents in Exchange Server
Transport agents let you install custom software that is created by Microsoft, by third-party vendors, or by your organization, on an Exchange server. This software can then process email messages that pass through the transport pipeline. In Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 or 2019, the transport pipeline is made of the following processes:
- The Front End Transport service on Mailbox servers
- The Transport service on Mailbox servers
- The Mailbox Transport service on Mailbox servers
- The Transport service on Edge Transport servers
For more information about the transport pipeline, see Mail flow and the transport pipeline
Exchange transport provides extensibility through the Microsoft Exchange Server Transport Agents SDK. The Exchange version of the SDK allows third parties to implement the following predefined classes:
When complied against libraries in the SDK, the resulting assemblies are registered with Exchange, which loads the agents and invokes their event handlers during specific stages of the SMTP sessions or message processing. These stages, or events, are part of the agent definitions. The agent registration information is stored in an XML configuration file.
The following list explains the requirements for using transport agents in Exchange.
- The Transport service on Mailbox servers and Edge Transport servers fully supports all the predefined classes in the SDK.
- The Front End Transport service only supports the SmtpReceiveAgent class in the SDK, and third-party agents can't operate on the OnEndOfData SMTP event.
- The Mailbox Transport service doesn't support the SDK at all, so you can't use any third-party agents in the Mailbox Transport service.
Transport agent management
The transport agent cmdlets need to distinguish between the Transport service and the Front End Transport service. Transport Agent management cmdlets manipulate the configuration file
agents.config located at
For more information, see Manage transport agents in Exchange Server.
Transport agents and SMTP events
Transport agents use SMTP events. These events are triggered as messages move through the transport pipeline. SMTP events give transport agents access to messages at specific points during the SMTP conversation and during routing of messages through the organization.
SMTP Receive exists in the Front End Transport service on Mailbox servers, the Transport service on Mailbox servers and Edge Transport servers, and the Mailbox Transport Delivery service on Mailbox servers. The categorizer exists only in the Transport service on Mailbox servers and Edge Transport servers. For more information about transport services and the categorizer, see Mail routing in Exchange Server.
The following tables list the SMTP events that provide access to messages in the transport pipeline.
SMTP Receive events
|1||OnConnectEvent||This event is triggered by the initial connection from a remote SMTP host.|
|2||OnHeloCommand||This event is triggered when the
|3||OnEhloCommand||This event is triggered when the
|4||OnStartTlsCommand||This event is triggered when the
|5||OnAuthCommand||This event is triggered when the
|6||OnProcessAuthentication||This event is triggered when authentication with the remote SMTP host is being processed.|
|7||OnEndOfAuthentication||This event is triggered when the remote SMTP host has completed authentication.|
|8||OnXSessionParamsCommand||This event is triggered when the
|9||OnMailCommand||This event is triggered when the
|10||OnRcptToCommand||This event is triggered when the
|11||OnDataCommand||This event is triggered when the
|12||OnEndOfHeaders||This event is triggered when the remote SMTP host has completed submitting the email message headers. This is indicated by a blank line (
|13||OnProxyInboundMessage||This event is triggered when an inbound SMTP session is relayed or proxied by the Front End Transport service to the Transport service on a Mailbox server.|
|14||OnEndOfData||This event is triggered when the remote SMTP host issues an end of data command:
|**||OnHelpCommand||This event is triggered if the
|**||OnNoopCommand||This event is triggered if the
|**||OnReject||This event is triggered if the receiving SMTP host issues a temporary or permanent delivery status notification (also known as a DSN, non-delivery report, NDR, or bounce message) code to the sending SMTP host.|
|**||OnRsetCommand||This event is triggered if the
|15||OnDisconnectEvent||This event is triggered by the disconnection of the SMTP conversation by either the receiving or sending SMTP host. Typically, this happens when the
** These events can occur at any time after OnConnectEvent but before OnDisconnectEvent.
|1||OnSubmittedMessage||This event is triggered when a message arrives in the Submission queue in the Transport service on the receiving Exchange server.|
|2||OnResolvedMessage||This event is triggered after all the recipients have been resolved, but before the next hop has been determined for each recipient. The OnResolvedMessage routing event enables subsequent events to override the default routing behavior by using the per-recipient SetRoutingOverride method.|
|3||OnRoutedMessage||This event is triggered after messages have been categorized, distribution lists have been expanded, and recipients have been resolved.|
|4||OnCategorizedMessage||This event is triggered when the categorizer completes processing the message.|
Priority of transport agents
Two factors determine the order that transport agents act on messages in the transport pipeline:
- The SMTP event where the transport agent is registered, and when that SMTP event encounters messages.
- The priority value that's assigned to the transport agent if there are multiple agents registered to the same SMTP event. The highest priority is 1. A higher integer value indicates a lower agent priority.
For example, suppose you configured the following transport agents:
- Transport Agent A with a priority of 1 and Transport Agent C with a priority of 2 are registered to the OnEndOfHeaders SMTP event.
- Transport Agent B with a priority of 4 is registered to the OnMailCommand SMTP event.
Transport Agent B is applied to messages first because the OnMailCommand event encounters messages before the OnEndOfHeaders event. When messages reach the OnEndOfHeaders event, Transport Agent A is applied before Transport Agent C because Transport Agent A has a higher priority (lower integer value) than Transport Agent C.
Built-in transport agents
Exchange Server includes many built-in transport agents that provide features such as anti-spam, transport rules and journaling. Most of the built-in transport agents on Exchange Mailbox servers are invisible and unmanageable by the transport agent management cmdlets. Virtually all of the built-in transport agents that are visible and manageable are in the Transport service on Mailbox servers and Edge Transport servers.
The more interesting built-in transport agents on Mailbox servers are described in the following table. Note that this table doesn't include many of the invisible and unmanageable transport agents.
Interesting built-in transport agents on Mailbox servers
|Agent name||Manageable?||Priority||SMTP or categorizer events|
|Transport Rule Agent||Yes||1||OnResolvedMessage|
|DLP Policy Agent||Yes||2||OnResolvedMessage|
|Retention Policy Agent||Yes||3||OnResolvedMessage|
|Supervisory Review Agent||Yes||4||OnResolvedMessage|
|Text Messaging Routing Agent||Yes||6||OnSubmittedMessage|
|Text Messaging Delivery Agent||Yes||7||n/a|
|System Probe Drop Smtp Agent||Yes||8||OnEndOfHeaders|
|System Probe Drop Routing Agent||Yes||9||OnCategorizedMessage|
|Journal Agent||No||Not configurable||OnRoutedMessage|
|Journal Report Decryption Agent||No||Not configurable||OnCategorizedMessage|
|RMS Decryption Agent||No||Not configurable||OnSubmittedMessage|
|RMS Encryption Agent||No||Not configurable||OnSubmittedMessage
|RMS Protocol Decryption Agent||No||Not configurable||OnEndOfData|
Interesting built-in transport agents on Edge Transport servers
On Edge Transport servers, most of the built-in transport agents are visible and manageable by the transport agent management cmdlets or by other feature-specific cmdlets.
The more interesting built-in transport agents on Edge Transport servers are described in the following table. Note that this table doesn't include invisible or unmanageable transport agents.
|Agent name||Manageable?||Priority||SMTP or categorizer events|
|Connection Filtering Agent||Yes||1||OnConnectEvent
|Address Rewriting Inbound Agent||Yes||2||OnRcptCommand
|Edge Rule Agent||Yes||3||OnEndOfData|
|Content Filter Agent*||Yes||4||OnEndOfData|
|Sender ID Agent*||Yes||5||OnEndOfHeaders|
|Sender Filter Agent*||Yes||6||OnMailCommand
|Recipient Filter Agent||Yes||7||OnRcptCommand|
|Protocol Analysis Agent*||Yes||8||OnConnectEvent
|Attachment Filtering Agent||Yes||9||OnEndOfData|
|Address Rewriting Outbound Agent||Yes||10||OnSubmittedMessage
* You can also install and configure these anti-spam agents on Mailbox servers. For more information, see Enable antispam functionality on Mailbox servers.
Troubleshoot transport agents
To help you troubleshoot issues with transport agents, you can use the following features:
Get-TransportPipeline: This cmdlet shows the SMTP events and the corresponding transport agents that encounter messages on the Exchange server. For more information, see View transport agents in the transport pipeline in Exchange Server.
Pipeline Tracing: Pipeline tracing creates an exact snapshot of a message before and after it encounters each transport agent. This allows you to find a transport agent that's causing unexpected results. For more information, see Pipeline tracing.