Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 on VMware vSphere Best Practices Guide

Updated May 15: new statement of Microsoft on Live migration of Exchange mailbox servers part of a DAG

VMware released in November 2010 a white paper called ‘Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 on VMware vSphere Best Practices Guide’
Download the whitepaper from this link http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/Exchange_2010_on_VMware_-_Best_Practices_Guide.pdf

Microsoft has some comments on best practices advised by VMware. Specifically the use of HA. Read more about it on the post called Answering Exchange Virtualization Questions and Addressing Misleading VMware Guidance

In short: make sure if you are using Exchange Server virtual machines having mailbox role and member of a DAG, those VM’s are not restarted automatically when the host fails or shutdowns. Also make sure the VM is not manually of automatically moved to another host while running. All of these can simple be configured and you are all fine!

Just before TechEd 2011 Microsoft released a new whitepaper on virtualizing Exchange 2010 titled Best Practices for Virtualizing Exchange Server 2010 with Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper V 
The policy on Live Migration of DAg members has changed:
Live Migration seems to be supported now for Exchange 2010 SP1 Database Availability Groups. The Microsoft document on virtualizing Exchange Server 2010 states the following on page 29:

“Exchange server virtual machines, including Exchange Mailbox virtual machines that are part of a Database Availability Group (DAG), can be combined with host-based failover clustering and migration technology as long as the virtual machines are configured such that they will not save and restore state on disk when moved or taken offline. All failover activity must result in a cold start when the virtual machine is activated on the target node. All planned migration must either result in shut down and a cold start or an online migration that utilizes a technology such as Hyper-V live migration.”

It seems that Microsoft now tells VMware was right in the first place although the whitepaper does not mention if vMotion is supported as well.

At November 11 2010 VMware responds to the article  of Microsoft called  Answering Exchange Virtualization Questions and Addressing Misleading VMware Guidance
VMware explains HA is nothing more than an automated restart of a VM. If the Exchange DAG member fails on a physical host, an administrator will eventually start the server as well to solve the problem. HA does this automatically. VMware has been using HA on DAG members without any issues. 
 http://blogs.vmware.com/virtualreality/2010/11/virtualizing-exchange-on-vmware.html

See my blogpost on Virtualizing Exchange Server 2010 on how to configure Exchange Server 2010 VM’s to make sure Microsoft supports them https://up2v.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/exchange-server-2010-virtualize-or-not-thats-the-question/

The scope of the VMware whitepaper document is:

•     ESX Host Best Practices for Exchange – This section provides best practice guidelines for properly
preparing the vSphere platform for running Exchange Server 2010. This section includes guidance in
the areas of CPU, memory, storage, and networking.
•     Exchange Performance on vSphere – This section provides background information on Exchange
Server 2010 performance in a virtual machine. It also provides information on official VMware partner
testing and guidelines for conducting and measuring internal performance tests.
•     Exchange 2010 Capacity Planning – Sizing Exchange 2010 to run in a virtual machine follows
many of the same best practices as sizing on physical servers; however, with the introduction of new
Exchange 2010 features (i.e., Database Availability Groups), the Capacity Planning process has
changed significantly. This section walks through this new process.
•     Sizing Examples – In this section, we apply the new Capacity Planning process to two sample
configurations, one with Database Availability Groups and one without.
•     vSphere Enhancements for Deployment and Operations – This section provides a brief look at
vSphere features and add-ons that enhance deployment and management of Exchange 2010.

The following topics are out of scope for this document, but may be addressed in other documentation in

this Solution Kit:
•     Design and Sizing Examples – This information can be found in the Microsoft Exchange 2010 on
VMware: Design and Sizing Examples
•     Availability and Recovery Options – Although this document briefly covers VMware features that
can enhance availability and recovery, a more in-depth discussion of this subject is covered in the
 document included in this Solution Kit, which expands upon
the examples in this guide by showing how the Capacity Planning process works for small, medium,
and enterprise configurations.
Microsoft Exchange 2010 on VMware: Availability and Recovery Options
It is important to note that this and other guides in this Solution Kit are limited in focus to deploying
Exchange on vSphere. Exchange deployments cover a wide subject area, and Exchange-specific design
principles should  included in this Solution Kit.

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About Marcel van den Berg
I am a technical consultant with a strong focus on server virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and business continuity/disaster recovery.

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