Part 3: Testing considerations for Exchange 2007 hardware and clustering

Understand Exchange 2007 64-bit hardware configuration and clustering topology issues before lab testing an Exchange 2007 migration scenario.

Exchange Server 2007 requires 64-bit servers running 64-bit operating systems. An in-place upgrade is impossible,

and leaves you with the option to migrate Exchange server data to new hardware. How this affects your test lab varies, depending on your hardware.

Let's assume that you will purchase new hardware for each Exchange 2007 server that you'll deploy. This, however, is not an absolute requirement. If you plan to purchase only one new server, you can perform leapfrog migrations, in which you move all contents from an Exchange 2003 server to an Exchange 2007 server. After finishing this migration, you would decommission the Exchange 2003 server, reformat the hard drives, install a 64-bit version of Windows and then install Exchange 2007. You would then use that server for the next phase of the migration.

Let's also assume that your existing hardware is sufficient enough to run Exchange 2007, and you won't have to perform a leapfrog migration. I recommend testing any new hardware purchased for your Exchange 2007 deployment in a lab.

Clustering

Before you bring Exchange 2007 into a lab environment, you must decide if you want to implement any of Exchange server's fault-tolerant capabilities. Several small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) tend to avoid clustering Exchange servers because of associated cost and complexity. However, Exchange 2007 offers two new forms of server clustering:

  • Local Continuous Replication (LCR) copies Exchange data to another volume automatically, providing an additional degree of fault tolerance. Implementation costs for this solution tend to be low since it only requires extra disk volume. But this type of replication places a strain on server performance.
  • Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR) is similar to LCR, except that the data is replicated to a different server, rather than to a different volume.

Local Continuous Replication and Cluster Continuous Replication are easier to implement upfront. If you want to use these technologies, it's best to purchase the additional hardware required and test drive them in a lab environment, instead of trying to retrofit them into your Exchange topology later.

There are several benefits to using new hardware in a lab prior to deploying Exchange 2007 in a production environment. One advantage is gaining hardware installation experience. By installing Windows Server and Exchange, you can better understand which drivers you'll need. Once you have downloaded these drivers, you can burn them onto a CD to facilitate deploying the server in a production environment.

Another advantage to a lab environment is that it allows you to provide new machines with a suitable burn-in. Often, new hardware is fairly reliable, but things can go wrong. If there is a problem with your hardware, it's better to find out in a lab environment than to experience a catastrophic failure in a production environment.


Planning for an Exchange Server 2007 migration

 Home: Introduction
 Part 1: Exchange Server 2007 requirements
 Part 2: Deploying Exchange 2007 server roles
 Part 3: Test considerations for Exchange 2007 hardware and clustering
 Part 4: How to set up and run an Exchange 2007 test lab environment

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   
Brien M. Posey, MCSE
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server, and has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at http://www.brienposey.com.
This was first published in March 2008

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