Oliver Rist talks about bumps in the road to Exchange Server 2007

by Bharat Suneja

InfoWorld columnist Oliver Rist writes about bumps in the road to Exchange Server 2007 [read it on Infoworld: “Brace for Exchange 2007 bumps“]. I love Rist’s columns and can be considered a regular reader.

Issues he outlines:
Issues #1 & 2: Exchange Server 2007 won’t run on the next version of Windows server, codenamed “Longhorn server”. If your Active Directory is running on Longhorn server – i.e. if you have Domain Controllers running Longhorn – you will need to isolate those from your Exchange Server 2007 servers.
Issue #3: Microsoft’s virtualization platform – the latest iteration of which is Virtual Server 2005 R2 – cannot host Virtual Machines running 64-bit guest OSes like Windows Server 2003. VMWare does. Microsoft doesn’t officially support running Exchange Server 2007 in a virtual environment as of now.
Issue #4: Exchange Server 2007 management tools do not run on Windows Vista. You will need to manage Exchange Server 2007 remotely using a RDP (aka “terminal services”) session, or from the server itself, as Rist points out.

The fact is, Longhorn server isn’t released yet, and won’t be till later this year. Not sure how a product can be tested on a yet unreleased OS, and whether any customers will have any Longhorn servers as DCs before the product (Longhorn server) is released. Nevertheless, IT departments that are early adopters of new OSes for critical pieces of infrastructure like Active Directory may find this to be an issue. This is not the first time this issue is raised, and I doubt it will be the last.

As far as virtualization is concerned, I’ve yet to come across significant Exchange deployments running in a virtual environment. I’m totally convinced virtualization is a good option for a wide variety of workloads, but Exchange is a resource-intensive app, and as such doesn’t lend itself as well to virtualization platforms like Microsoft’s Virtual Server or VMWare, as some of the other workloads do. Also important to note, support for virtualization didn’t arrive till later in the lifecycle of Exchange Server 2003 [read Microsoft support policy KBA 320220, “version 12.1” :) – “Support policy for Exchange Server 2003 running on hardware virtualization software].
Update: In addition to the above, also refer to KBA 897615: Support policy for Microsoft software running in non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software.

Nevertheless, yes, many customers do run Exchange in virtual machines, and these customers will have to wait till there’s viable virtualization platform support from Microsoft. I haven’t come across any Microsoft support policy that allows previous Exchange versions running in any virtual environment either, except Microsoft’s own. If past support policies are an indicator, it’s not very likely that Microsoft will officially announce support for Exchange running in a VMWare virtual machine. Users will certainly welcome any such announcements in the future, but it’s hardly a show-stopper for a majority of Exchange deployments, imo.

Finally, the issue of running Exchange management tools on Vista. Analysts have forever been touting the opinion that most customers won’t move to Windows Vista for a while, perhaps till Service Pack 1. Many vendors haven’t announced Windows Vista drivers for existing hardware. Besides, we’re days away from the actual/consumer (real?) launch of Vista. Meanwhile, IT folks routinely manage Exchange over RDP sessions to the server. I can’t remember when was the last time I installed Exchange Server 2003/2000 management tools on my desktop. As such, lack of management tools on Vista is but a minor inconvenience that shouldn’t in itself stop you from moving to 2007.

Yes, Exchange Server 2007 is a major overhaul with loads of new functionality, and some functionality – including support for Longhorn server, and management tools – may be part of SP1. Support for virtualization may not arrive till the next overhaul of Microsoft’s virtualization platform – which won’t be here till months after Longhorn server is released.

Taken all of these together, these may be seen as roadblocks by some organizations. Yet many others don’t think about implementing a new Microsoft product release till after it sees a Service Pack. However (and particularly if Vista management tools, Virtualization and Longhorn support aren’t very high on your list of priorites), you can gain significant new functionality from Exchange Server 2007 today.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: