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Is Exchange 2003 cluster virtualization a good move?

SearchExchange.com expert Peter terSteeg explains Microsoft's current support status of virtualized machines, what 64-bit Exchange 12 will mean for virtualization, and if Exchange 2003 cluster virtualization is a good idea.

We are planning on consolidating numerous dispersed Exchange 2003 servers into three CONUS locations, and implementing clustering with databases on a SAN in order to have high mailbox availability. We also intend to utilize multiple storage groups with multiple information stores.

We would like to use a virtual server (VMware) as the passive node in the cluster (still keep the active node as a physical server). Have you heard of other firms doing this on any sizeable scale? Microsoft only recently backed off on its stand of non-support for Microsoft Exchange on a virtual server. Any advice you have on possible pitfalls is appreciated.

Here is the current stance on Microsoft support of virtualized machines.

Overall status: Common Engineering Criteria Report

Exchange specific: Support policy for Exchange Server 2003 running on hardware virtualization software

I believe that Microsoft recognizes the importance that virtualization plays in the information technology space. Even after looking at the above link on Exchange 2003 SP2, I think you can pontificate some movement towards the virtualization trend.

Furthermore, Microsoft just released this week at IT FORUM in Barcelona that Exchange 12 will ship 64-bit only. (See: Bob Muglia's keynote address on November 15)

It would seem making the investment in total virtualization will come when 64-bit is available for both the underlying infrastructure, and the architecture of the messaging platform. 64-bit is the space to achieve worthwhile results in both performance and scalability.

I would personally avoid virtualizing the Exchange 2003 passive nodes at this point. I think it would be unadvisable. I would take a wait-and-see approach to the roadmap Microsoft is taking on this topic.

If I had to speculate, I believe you will see the complete support and implementation of virtual platforms in the forthcoming releases of both the operating system and applications.

Do you have comments on this Ask the Expert Q&A? Let us know.
Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Tip: Best practices for Exchange clustering
  • Reference Center: Clustering
  • Dig Deeper on Microsoft messaging and collaboration services

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