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Planning on doing an Exchange 2003 physical to virtual migration to a new vSphere 4.1 host. I'm assuming that I will need to stop all the Exchange services prior to doing the conversion and running the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer is also on my "this makes sense" list. I should note that there's just one Exchange Server in this environment.

Not seeing any real best practices/guidelines online out there. Can anyone recommend or outline the steps for doing this successfully?


Just to clarify: I'm more concerned with ensuring that Exchange is a consistent/error-free state before attempting the conversion. I'd also like a method/process for testing this consistency, post-conversion.

As part of my testing, I was going to setup a workstation VM with an Exchange profile on the same ESXi host as the converted Exchange that's on the same subnet, but on a vSwitch that's not uplinked to the production environment. I was then going to open several mailboxes, etc. something like that anyways.

I was also planning on simulating mail delivery by setting up a Postfix/DNS VM with some test MX records, but I gather that without a domain controller, Exchange is likely not going to function properly in this isolated vNetwork, but that I don't know as my AD knowledge isn't great.

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I'm sure you've got this covered, but I'll just throw it out there for anyone who comes across this question in the future: make sure you have good backups before starting! – Shane Madden Jun 13 '11 at 20:03
@Shane Madden: for sure. System state and full backup (test restore too!). – gravyface Jun 13 '11 at 20:33
I would actually make an image of the server. – KCotreau Jun 13 '11 at 21:15
@KCotreau: I thought of doing that with Acronis; I may still. – gravyface Jun 13 '11 at 21:44
Have you instead considered standing up a new Exchange VM and migrating mailboxes from the physical to the virtual machine? Sure it won't be as quick, but I imagine it would be less disruptive for users and is really the only way to be absolutely certain nothing subtle is going wonky. That said, in theory if you dismount your Information Stores cleanly and do the P2V, it should be fine. You're right BTW about Exchange being crippled without AD - it stores a helluvalotta configuration info in AD. – Ben Pilbrow Jun 13 '11 at 22:06
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Not quite answering your direct question, but if I were doing it I would probably take a different approach, given appropriate capacity to do so.

What I would do is stand up a new Exchange VM and move mailboxes and services from your current physical box to the virtual machine. You won't get the "instant gratification" that comes with a P2V, but it's the only way to be absolutely certain nothing subtle has gone wonky in the P2V process. This method is also very well battle tested, and has been standard operating practice since pretty much forever.

An added benefit of this method is considerably less downtime for everyone, since only users whose mailboxes are being moved will be offline, and that will be a relatively short amount of time compared to a P2V.

All that said though, in theory if you dismount your Information Stores in an orderly fashion and do the P2V, it should go without a hitch.

Your idea of a testing the P2V in a separate vNetwork is not a bad one, but I'm not sure how practical it is. You will require a Domain Controller in the vNetwork because Exchange stores an awful lot of configuration data in Active Directory and is crippled without it. Exchange can also be quite finicky when it comes to being restored in a virtual DR scenario, but as always your mileage may vary (meh, if you do the exact same thing several times over I guarantee your mileage WILL vary!).

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This was my thought as well. I didn't post an answer because I didn't feel I could give one as asked. – Holocryptic Jun 14 '11 at 14:25

I moved an Exchange 2003 from p2v without any problem. The is to make a cold conversion (with boot CD). Of course the best approach is to create a new vmware native exchange server but i haven't got any problem with p2v.

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