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Some Common Challenges While Virtualizing Exchange Servers

By CIOReview | Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Exchange servers are the mail and calendaring servers provided by the likes of VMware, Hyper-V, and Microsoft. These servers enable SMBs to achieve higher reliability and revamped performance by rationalizing the administration tasks. The virtualization of exchange server enhances flexibility, reduces operational costs and consolidates computational resources. However, before virtualizing the exchange servers, a company needs to understand the effects of it on their infrastructure. A well-planned and carefully executed process implementation will assist the company in tackling problems with virtualization of exchange servers.

An organization may face hiccups while virtualizing their exchange servers. At first, they need to select a service provider that will help in monitoring costs, hypervisor features, and suitability to run exchange servers in the virtualized environment. The cost of the exchange server licenses and necessary client access licenses are consistent with all virtualization platforms, but the major difference comes at the cost of operating system and hypervisor licenses. While evaluating the vendor list, taking account of the virtual machine operating system is important, as each hypervisor is not valid for all operating systems. An organization needs to select the best-suited product for their infrastructure so unmatched servers will not rupture the workings.

A company also needs to check with the service provider whether it supports the creation of VM snapshots or not. VM snapshot is a feature that authorizes a virtual machine to roll back to the previous state without restoring to backup. While reverting virtualized Exchange server to the previous state can cause vital consistency problems for everything from message queues to mailbox databases.

Many companies are facing challenges of failover clustering. Therefore, major virtualizing vendors started supporting clustered host configurations for the hypervisors as it assists VMs in migrating to an alternate host server during any kind of failure. In case of any host-level failure, virtual machines shifts to the functional hosts. The exchange servers have their own native high-availability approaches for the mailbox servers so the organizations moving towards virtualizing exchange server will have to decide a use of a high-availability hypervisor, a database availability group (DAG) or a combination of both. The service provider needs to be checked on grounds of virtualized environments and checking connectivity with DAG while migrating from one host to another.

The organizations planning to implement exchange server virtualization should also consider the current infrastructure and protection needs before making any decision. Before starting with the virtualization task, the company needs to familiarize themselves with the vendor support policies and specific recommendations for the exchange. The involved team needs to analyze the causes of failovers and clustering and how to handle them along with evaluating storage tasks.

Virtual platforms enable companies to easily shift virtual machines betwixt the hosts in a cluster as it is useful while performing maintenance tasks on any host. But shifting of virtual machines can affect high availability (HA). In case of any hardware failure, working of VM will be secured by shifting virtual machine from the failed host. To decrease the possibilities of single host failure that will affect multiple exchange servers, a company should avoid co-hosting of exchange servers on identical physical hosts. The company needs to implement anti-affinity rules to avoid failovers and ensure VMs will remain on separate hosts.

Many firms are now investing in virtual platforms, but it is necessary to select such platform that meets all technical necessities and makes sense by using Exchange. There might be some considerable technical limitations that will increase the storage cost. It depends on company size that they will use local JBOD storage or others because with JBOD the ownership cost of storage is higher.

A successful virtualization project demands to nullify all issues caused by service failures, poor performances, data loss, and negative user experiences. Companies need to avoid configuring the incorrect virtual machines. Data centers need to be properly utilized with the proper collocation of the virtual machine roles. Organizations can avoid Snapshot-based backup system because by this exchanged data can be easily destroyed. They are good for short terms, but in the long-run, they can be harmful.