Benefits of Virtualize Exchange
If you have already consolidated servers in your data center, then you’re likely reaping the benefits of virtualization. Virtualizing Exchange offers the same benefits—higher utilization rates, for instance—as well as some more valuable ones, including hardware independence, reduced downtime, increased agility and load balancing, among others.
- Hardware independence. When you virtualize Exchange Server, you essentially untie the OS and applications from their designated hardware. This al- lows you to easily move Exchange virtual machines (VMs) to any available server, which is extremely helpful when you need to replace a leased server or upgrade to a newer, more powerful server. Hardware independence can also facilitate disaster recovery.
- Downtime prevention. A virtual infrastructure also affords high-availability features that otherwise would be too expensive. For example, you can easily enable VMware High Availability on all Exchange VMs, allowing them to start on another host automatically if physical server hardware fails.
You can also prevent downtime that occurs when swapping out storage. With a tool like SVMotion, you can move an Exchange VM from one storage area network (SAN) to another, allowing you to perform maintenance on the SAN without causing downtime.
- Disaster recovery. In addition to hardware independence, Exchange virtualization is a DR boon in other ways. Products like VMware Site Recovery Man- ager (SRM) and methods like SAN-based replication can recover an entire Exchange infrastructure to an alternate data center within minutes.
- Simplified backups. Virtualization backup software allows you to back up Exchange VMs without disrupting users. Unlike VMware SRM or SAN-based replication, most other virtualization backup products will replicate only charged blocks of backup data to an alternate data center.
- Item-level restore and virtual lab testing. One of the newest features of Veeam Backup & Replication 5, a tool built specifically for VMware vSphere, is that you can mount backed up VMs in a virtual private lab, creating a full virtual Exchange infrastructure on a private network. This allows you to use mounted Exchange VMs to perform item-level recovery on an Exchange mailbox or message, or test Exchange upgrades without disrupting production systems.
- Load balancing. If you choose to virtualize Exchange Servers on VMware vSphere, one popular feature is its DRS, which balances the load of Exchange VMs across multiple servers. If the mailbox server suddenly experiences an uptick in usage that the physical server can’t support, the tool automatically moves VMs onto other servers. It’s important to note that although this is a popular load-balancing method, it uses VMware vMotion—and that means Microsoft won’t support it.
- Added agility. When you need to add a new Exchange virtual machine for a particular role or build a test environment, having a virtual Exchange environment means you can create new VMs in minutes instead of the weeks it could take to provision physical servers.
- Standardization. Standardization doesn’t always mean using the same vendor or product across the data center. Sometimes standardization means maintaining technologies on the same level. As companies move more servers from physical to virtual, managing the virtual data center becomes status quo. A company that has virtualized all other servers—except tier 1 servers like Exchange—may no longer want to dedicate IT resources to physical infrastructures.