Setting up Exchange 2003 on a Windows Server 2003 cluster can be tricky. Daragh Morrissey spoke with Windows IT Pro reader on on Thursday, July 28, 2005, at 12:00 P.M. Eastern.

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Adam Carheden says Thank you everyone for attending. We have Daragh Morrissey, the IT Pro Hero for July, with us. We'll wait for a few more people to arrive and then get started.

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Adam Carheden says Greetings everyone. Let's get started. To ask a question, type it in and click send. Your question won't appear until it has been answered by our speaker, so there will be a short delay. Our topic is Exchange Clustering.

Daragh Morrissey says Good Afternoon Everyone from a rainy day in Dublin

Daragh Morrissey says i'll do a quick intro while waiting for qs

Daragh Morrissey says i'm 10 years with HP

Daragh Morrissey says Working with Exchange since 4.0

Daragh Morrissey says I work as a consultant helping many of HPs biggest customers - designing AD and Exchange solutions

Original message from psemo: Daragh, have you used virtual machines to test clustering setups? Are there any gotchas?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: i have with MS Virtual server

Adam Carheden says If you haven't read this month's article on Exchange Clustering, you can find it at http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/46621/46621.html

Daragh Morrissey says thanks Adam

Daragh Morrissey says I have set them up with MS Virtual Server

Daragh Morrissey says theres a great step by step guide on the micrsoft site too

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Daragh Morrissey says lemme send you the linl

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Original message from gestnerd: Hi Daragh, this is Dave Gestner, I wrote the article "Clustering in the Real World".

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: Hi Dave

Adam Carheden says For those who have just joined, we're discussing Exchange Clustering. Windows IT Pro subscribers can read Daragh's article at http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/46621/46621.html.

Adam Carheden says This is a moderated chat, so the questions you ask won't appear until they have been answered by our speaker.

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Original message from lleblanc: Does clustering basically write to two identical DB's at once and wait for failover of one machine

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: hi - not sure what you mean by DB? Exchange DB?

Daragh Morrissey says with clustering you still have one copy of the database

Daragh Morrissey says with one node of the cluster writing to the DB at any one time

Adam Carheden says Here's the link to Microsoft's clustering tutorial from Daragh: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/virtualserver/deploy/cvs2005.mspx

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Original message from Ivan: Is there any reason not to build 7A+1P cluster? Any drawback?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: prob is that only one node can handle a failover

so if you lose more than one node of the cluster then you will be in trouble

Daragh Morrissey says some people do it though

Daragh Morrissey says you can use the passive node for planned failovers to apply security patches

Daragh Morrissey says Microsoft use a 4 Active/3 passive model

Daragh Morrissey says Back to the DB question

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Daragh Morrissey says Exchange on a cluster writes to the databases pretty much the same way it does on a standard server

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Daragh Morrissey says one node will be active and this node will have access to the storage and that is the node that is writing to the db

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Adam Carheden says For those that joined late, there will be a complete session transcript posted after the chat.

Original message from Dave: How much downtime associated with maintaining a "highly available" Exchange environment with MSCS & Exchange clustering? My experience with "HA" systems is that they require more planned downtime with a goal of preventing unplanned downtime due to some type of hardware failure.

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: Hi Dave - clusters do have a bad repuitation

- clusters are more complex so they need more attention to detail to configure them

Daragh Morrissey says clusters are great for reducing planned downtime for patches but do have single points of failure like the storage and the quorum

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Adam Carheden says We had a small technical difficulty with the chat software. Daragh will be back in a moment.

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Daragh Morrissey says sorry folks got kicked off

Daragh Morrissey says dave had a q on SP2

Daragh Morrissey says you will need to the same thing for SP1 as SP2 - right click the SA and select "Upgrade Exchange Virtual Server"

Adam Carheden says We have to recent questions from Dave and Ileblanc that Daragh is working on. We did lose the three questions prior to that, however. If you care to re-type them, please do so.

Daragh Morrissey says Evan Dodds covers this very well on his Exchange blog

Daragh Morrissey says I had a q on VMware and the san

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Original message from Dave: Can you guess how often per year that one must take down the cluster for planned maintenance/upgrades/patches?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: for bios and driver updates i usually do this quarterly

and every month for security patches

Daragh Morrissey says http://blogs.technet.com/exchange/default.aspx

Daragh Morrissey says pointer to MSexchange Blog on Microsofy

Daragh Morrissey says on the VMware Q

Daragh Morrissey says i havent seen anyone deploy Exchange on it yet as its not officially supported

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Daragh Morrissey says you can do it but Microsoft will make you repro the issue on a non virtual cluster/standalone server

Daragh Morrissey says back to the maintenance q

Adam Carheden says For those who have joined recently, we are discussing Exchange Clustering with Daragh Morrissey. The chat is moderated, so questions won't show up until they are answered.

Daragh Morrissey says clusters are great for reducing planned downtime

Adam Carheden says A chat transcript will be posted after the chat for anyone who joined late.

Adam Carheden says Transcripts will be at http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46747/46747.html

Daragh Morrissey says and if you deploy them with Outlook Cached Mode clients, the visibility of failovers should be reduced

Daragh Morrissey says http://blogs.technet.com/exchange/search.aspx?q=Evan+Dodds&p=1

Daragh Morrissey says That is a pointer to Evan Dodds blog - he has some great tips on EVS upgrades and other cluster stuff related to Exchange

Original message from lleblanc: So if you have an Active/Passive cluster using two servers for Exchange. Is it true that if the active server were to fail the passover server then resumes the role equalling zero email downtime? This is what we are looking to accomplish.

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: you wont get zero downtime - as resources failover - users will see an interrupion to service - much a standard server reboot

Daragh Morrissey says Exchange has to start on one node and resources such as disks, the IP address of the Exhcange virtual server have to come online

Daragh Morrissey says as i mentioned before you can reduce the visibility of failovers with Outlook cache mode

Daragh Morrissey says your users will be able to work off the OST and send mail to the outbox while the EVS is starting up

Daragh Morrissey says they might see the odd balloon message to say the Exchange server is offline

Daragh Morrissey says Microsoft did make some changes to Exchange 2003 over 2000 to improve the speed that Exchange resources come online during a planned or unplanned failover

Daragh Morrissey says they improved the cluster resource model so things like the Information store starts more quickly

Daragh Morrissey says hope I'm managing to explain this suff but I dont type so well - if Im not please drop me a line

Daragh Morrissey says daragh.morrissey@hp.com

Daragh Morrissey says i'll be happy to elaborate (and answer any qs I missed)

Original message from lleblanc: Thanks - this would be OK. How about licensing. I am trying to understand, is it single exchange db or two db's acting as one? Do you need more than one license of Ms exchange

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: Exchange is not really licensed on a db basis - Exchange comes in two versions Standard and enterprise - Standard does not let you do clustering - Enterprise does

Daragh Morrissey says Exchange made some changes to the db limits of standard edition with Exchange 2003 SP2

the limit is now 16TB for Standard - it used to be 16GB

Daragh Morrissey says also you need to buy a server license for Windows and Client Access Licenses

Original message from Dave: Can you speak to any VMware and SAN concerns?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: what concerns do you have specifically?

Daragh Morrissey says I would not deploy Exchange with VMware until it it is supported officially

Daragh Morrissey says I think it will be supported at some time in the future but for mission critical environments I dont think its ready

Daragh Morrissey says to be honest i dont know of any - if I was going to do it I would use dual core boxes though

Daragh Morrissey says the performance with them is blinding

Daragh Morrissey says compared to Intel servers

Daragh Morrissey says we have seen testing done with AMD where a Proliant dl585 can support 4 times as many VMs as an Intel Box

Daragh Morrissey says so I was going to do it - dual core is the way to go

Original message from gestnerd: Daragh - I read an artice a while back on Exchange clusters and that only 10% of production environments are using clusters. With Exchange 2003 have you seen/heard of more Exchange clusters?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: I think lack of third party product support is a problem and clusters are more expensive - but we are seeing more uptake with Exchange 2003

Original message from Dave: Could you guess how much (frequently) downtime is needed to maintain a clustered configuration (annually)?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: to daves q on downtime - it really depends on how often you patch

Adam Carheden says For anyone who joined late, a transcript of the chat so far is now posted at: http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46747/46747.html

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Daragh Morrissey says i like to plan 30 minutes per month

Daragh Morrissey says that way you have time to apply security patches

Daragh Morrissey says everytime you do a patch upgrade or failover you should measure the time the EVS is offline by pinging it

Daragh Morrissey says that way you can set an expectation for your SLA

Original message from tom: 4 times as many VMs as a dual core Intel Box?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: to toms q - i meant dual core AMD box

Original message from Dave: It would appear that patching monthly (MS patch Tuesday) would be what's officially recommend so if each time requires a reboot there will be some, although perhaps minor, interruption of service correct?

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: you can miniumise the downtime by performing the maintenance on the passive node - reboot it and then move the EVS (a failover) - the only disruption to users will be during failover

Daragh Morrissey says my failovers usually take about 2-3 minutes on average

Daragh Morrissey says i tend to book out loads of downtime\[img id=em-10\]

Daragh Morrissey says any other qs?

Daragh Morrissey says one more add on to a q asked earlier about the take up of clusters

Daragh Morrissey says now that microsoft has deployed them internally

Daragh Morrissey says a lot more people are interested in them

Daragh Morrissey says their cluster deployment is well worth checking out

Daragh Morrissey says they have deployed 7 node (4 active/3 passive) clusters

Daragh Morrissey says and do some nifty things in their backup solution

Daragh Morrissey says lemme pull up the link

Original message from tom: I understand the that the AMD box was dual core. I was asking if your 4 times figure was coming from comparing Dual-core AMD to Dual-core Intel

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: sorry tom - I was comparing dual core AMD to standard Intel servers - sorry should have made that clearer

Daragh Morrissey says i havent had a chance to benchmark the two

Daragh Morrissey says http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolutions/msit/deploy/ex03atwp.mspx

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Daragh Morrissey says thats the link the MSFT OTG deployment

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Original message from tom: Thanks for clearing that up. I thought I had missed something major.

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: no prob!

Adam Carheden says We're approaching the hour, so let's start to wrap it up. If there are any final questions, please ask them now.

Adam Carheden says Chat transcripts are available here: http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46747/46747.html

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Original message from tom: One point you might want to clear up is that while MS lagged on depolying Exchange on MSCS they were using MSCS for other needs for some time.

Reply from Daragh Morrissey: sure - thats true

Daragh Morrissey says i was specifically referring to Exchange when I mentioned Microsofts use of clusters

Daragh Morrissey says when Exchange 2003 was released they performed a major server consolidation (in conjunction with Outlook 2003) - MSFT were using MSCS internally for other stuff

Adam Carheden says Thank you everyone for joinin. If you haven't read the article yet, subscribers can see it at http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46622/46622.html, or you can pick up a copy of our July issue.

Daragh Morrissey says many thanks everyone - please drop me a line - daragh.morrissey@hp.com - if I can help further

Adam Carheden says Transcripts are at: http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/46747/46747.html