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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.


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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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