Microsoft (News - Alert) recently expanded its support for virtualizing mission-critical communications in Exchange Server 2010 SP1, which supports VMware Inc. The partnership between the two companies expands Exchange support for VMware features like the vMotion live migration tool and the vSphere high availability solution, and also makes improving the functionality and delivery of email hosting solutions much easier.
While the joint endeavor is largely a productive one, it brings with it a unique set of challenges. Exchange architects now need to fully understand the design options available to them when choosing VMware as their virtualization platform.
According to Alex Fontana, senior architect in the VMware Solutions and Services group, opting for the least amount of hardware and the least amount of VMs when virtualizing an Exchange environment is the simplest approach. Fontana has practical experience with this as he runs the team at VMware tasked with virtualizing the company's own Exchange environment for around 12,000 users.
Fontana said that the VMware Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) is a cluster file system used by the company's flagship ESX Server. The VMFS-based virtual disk is a high-performance, clustered file system that enables concurrent access by multiple hosts to files or a shared volume. Additionally, the Raw Device Mapping (RDM) mapping file within a VMFS volume acts as a proxy for a raw physical device and contains metadata that is used to manage and redirect disk access to the physical device.
All of these technologies are supported by Microsoft within a VMware virtualized Exchange environment. There are also a number of VMware best practices that are recommended for virtualizing Exchange with VSphere, with no over-commitment topping the list, along with enabling hyperthreading - even though Microsoft advises against it, arguing that hyperthreading makes design and sizing extra challenging since it can confuse people about the actual compute resources available.
"We don't think this is the case -- or it doesn't have to be," Fontana said. "As long as you understand that you're not deploying against 24 physical cores, that you really have the throughput of only 12 physical cores, you get a significant advantage."
In the email hosting realm, the Microsoft/VMware partnership is a major benefit to companies like SherWeb. The company is a provider of cloud-based email hosting and collaboration tools and offers a completely hosted environment with a 100-percent redundant architecture.
SherWeb's Hosted Exchange 2010 offering enables users to share documents, calendars, contacts and tasks at the office, on mobile devices or through the Outlook Web App. It may also be bundled with hosted SharePoint 2010 and hosted Lync 2010 for greater flexibility and costs savings.
Edited by Jamie Epstein