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Current Situation: We've currently got a Win2k3 32bit OS running on 4GB ram. SQL + Exchange + AD + everything runs on this server and it takes FOREVER to boot, especially if the mail store didn't shut down correctly. Not so great when you need it up and running ASAP.

We are about to order a new server with the following specs:

  • DELL R610 with 32GB of RAM
  • 5 * 600GB Disks RAID5 + 1 cold spare
  • Windows 2008SBS + Premium Addons (Which includes Windows 2008 Standard and SQL Standard 2008)

We would like to use virtualisation to separate the services but no so sure about how to go about best implementing the system.

Win2k8 Standard has a memory limit of 32GB, so we can't upgrade the server memory at a later stage.

I have a linux background, so Xen is appealing. However, I don't particularly want to introduce new systems that will require more specialist skills. In this case, a system administrator will need to be proficient in Linux based systems.

Hyper-V looks like a good option because it has $0 cost, but this still requires Windows 2008 to be installed on the base, with services directly installed on that.

I've heard that VMWare ESXi is a $0 cost option, but I've not had any experience with this. I'm not sure exactly if this will suit our requirements.

I'm also not sure how to best structure the filesystem - should a virtualised host have direct access to the disks? Or should a disk file be created for that Virtual host?

Any ideas?

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slightly offtopic here, but exchange 2003 and AD on the same machine taking forever to boot is a known issue. The solution is simply to delay the Exchange server startup for after AD and DNS are up. Speeds things up by tens of minutes sometimes. – dyasny Jul 5 '12 at 13:44
Thanks for that, but we need an upgrade – itwb Jul 6 '12 at 0:21
One other thing - with the size of the RAID array you are looking at I would recommend going with a RAID 6 array instead of a RAID 5 with a spare. The R610 has six slots - go ahead and use them all and have two drives for parity. It greatly reduces the chance that a RAID rebuild will take out your server. – Tim Brigham Jul 6 '12 at 19:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I've been in a very similar situation in the past. I'd suggest staying with hyperv or vmware.

Personally I would go for vmware but I started doing virtualization when they were the only real option on the market. I still lean that way due to the minimalistic nature of esxi - a smaller profile means less scheduled maintainance and security holes. That is starting to get too far into the range of personal opinion though.

The virtualization rights with 2008 r2 make things a whole lot easier than they used to be.

Long term you would want shared storage for your hosts but starting with a single direct attached server is a pretty common way to go. You'd want a dedicated array it partition (depending on setup) for your managed vital hosts to reside on.

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