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My company planning to install a new Exchange 2010 in the domain.

I got a dual Xeon 5520 DELL R710 2U server running Windows Server 2008 R2. The Exchange server has to serve around 200 users, with around 1000 emails in & out per hour. Should I install Exchange 2010 in physical server or setup a Hyper-V VM for the Exchange server?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

That's a fairly beefy server and a fairly small Exchange environment. You don't mention the box's RAM and disk configuration but, assuming they're not unreasonable, you should be fine to run E2K10 in a VM.

Exchange 2010 has radically decreased I/O requirements as compared to Exchange 2003 (so long as you feed it enough RAM to let it cache effectively).

For a basis of comparison, I'm running Exchange 2003 (w/ all of its crappy I/O perf) at one Customer site w/ 250 users and a similar email load in an ESXi 4.1 VM on an R710 w/ a 5500-series Xeon. I'm using 15K SAS DASD in a couple of RAID-10 volumes (one for the database, one for the logs) and it's running acceptably (for Exchange 2003). RPC latency isn't bad and users aren't complaining about "Waiting for Exchange Server..." toast messages.

In a few weeks I'll be putting Exchange 2010 up an indentical box to that one, as a VM ( when the Customer buys the licenses). I'll be 64-bit, then, so I can give it 16GB of RAM (rather than the 4GB I'm stuck with on E2K3). I anticipate no performance problems given the benchmarking of the box I did in pre-production. Benchmarks aside, E2K3 is an I/O pig compared to E2K10. For my purposes I decided that if E2K3 would run acceptable E2K10 certainly would.

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I'm not sure I've seen the term DASD used outside of mainframes, but it fits. "I'll have to start using it in every day conversation." – Ward Oct 28 '10 at 7:02
@Ward: I used to hear it mainly in reference to mainframe and midrange machines but, with the prevlance of SAN gear today (arguably becoming the default in most "enterprise" situations), it seems prudent to point out when direct-attached disks are being used. It sure does sound mainframe-y, though! – Evan Anderson Oct 28 '10 at 7:07
Vote++. I know that VMware easily handle a 200+ Exch2k10 environment, with a realistic RAM allocation. Can't comment on Hyper-V. – Simon Catlin Oct 28 '10 at 18:54
Hyper-V has low performance on virtual hard disk. If the file transaction is frequent, the virtual hard disk (especially dynamically expanding) cannot perform well. – Raptor Nov 6 '10 at 1:16

If you have a resilient Hyper-V cluster around, I'd go that direction, since Microsoft has finally now come around to officially supporting Exchange on top of VMware/Hyper-V/etc. The load you're going to be dealing with is quite low, so I wouldn't anticipate any performance problems. Here are a few recommendations:

  • make sure that your storage group log volumes are on RAID10
  • Throw as much RAM as you can at both the mailbox and CA servers, as Exchange 2010 does some pretty aggressive caching, and that can improve performance greatly
  • If you can, try and split your userbase up among several smaller storage groups. This way, if you need to take a storage group down for maintenance, only a small portion of your users are affected.
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I have a very similar deployment I'm about to make. Any advice on splitting the Exchange roles amongst multiple virtual machines or installing them all on one VM? – minamhere Oct 28 '10 at 2:26
Don't install them all on one VM - that's just asking for trouble down the road. At the very least, create one VM for the mailbox store, and one for hub transport and client access. – EEAA Oct 28 '10 at 2:29
There aren't storage groups in Exchange 2010-- just databases. – Evan Anderson Oct 28 '10 at 3:12
@Evan - Gah, that's right. I'm still stuck in 2007 land. – EEAA Oct 28 '10 at 3:13
@minamhere: re: role splits - It depends on how loaded your environment is, how much you want to spend on OS licensing, and whether or not you have qualms about directly exposing a mailbox server Exchange to the Internet to receive SMTP versus having a dedicated Edge Transport server. Personally, I have no concerns about putting all the roles on a single box / VM in a low-volume environmment. – Evan Anderson Oct 28 '10 at 3:14

I would take a look at this assuming that you are going to use Vmware:

I am sure that Hyper-V has similar whitepapers and best practices. I think it also depends on your skillset of handling Exchange overall. Exchange is a "monster" messaging platform inclusive to the fact that it can be very resource intensive. Since Hyper-V has issues with allocating dynamic memory (I think this may have been recently added), you should make sure that you can run some kind of load tool to get idea of what you may be getting into as well as some type of capacity planner.

I personally don't have experience with Exchange on a virtual platform but I have done SQL Server cluster on Vmware and it comes with its own share of administrative overhead.

You might get more out of installing on physical box until you feel confident about the production load and then P2V some aspect of the architecture.

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