EMC’s Exchange 2010 Storage Best Practices and Design Guidance

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been a while since I’ve posted something new, so I am back and now want to catchup with a couple of new and cool things that we have been working on.

Recently, we released a great whitepaper that we’ve been working on as a result of all of our Solutions work against Exchange 2010. We’ve derived many best practices for sizing and design for deploying Exchange 2010 on EMC VNX and EMC VMAX platforms and we want to share that with you.

In this paper, we will discuss disk and RAID selection, LUN layout, and how to size when you might have already used the Exchange Role Calc and want to apply that detail to your EMC array design.

We also answer some key questions such as:

  • Should I consider thin LUN with Exchange 2010 on VNX? What about VMAX?
  • What are some of the most important design considerations for Exchange 2010 on VNX and VMAX?
  • Should I use FAST VP with Exchange 2010 or VNX or VMAX?
  • Should I consider FAST Cache in my Exchange design?
  • What about Storage Pools vs RAID groups on VNX?

Examples of Exchange storage building blocks are also discussed along with the methodology that we use in our own Solutions labs to derive a desired storage design. Our customers also want to know what our recommendations are when HA/DR is considered, such as what options are there to apply additional protection against my Exchange DAG?

I encourage you to please check out this paper if you have not already seen it. You can find it on our new EMC Community Network “Everything Microsoft at EMC” site at: https://community.emc.com/community/connect/everything_microsoft

My collegue Adrian Simays who runs the excellent Virtual Winfrastructure Blog and his team have worked tirelessly to create this excellent community site and I think you will find it to be very informative resource on everything Microsoft at EMC.

As well, this paper has been posted on EMC.COM at: http://www.emc.com/collateral/hardware/white-papers/h8888-exch-2010-storage-best-pract-design-guid-emc-storage.pdf

Until next time,


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Considerations for HA and BC/DR for Virtualized Exchange 2010

Microsoft updated their virtualization guidance for Exchange 2010 right around the time of TechEd, and I have started to get more and more questions from customers around virtualizing Exchange 2010 based on some of the solutions we have been creating. If you haven’t already seen the Microsoft whitepaper you can find it here:

There was also a presentation that was done by Jeff Mealiffe and Jim Lucey from the Exchange Product Group here. that delves into the highlights of the whitepaper.

With the increasing popularity of virtualizing Exchange 2010 a number of questions usually arise around High Avaliability and BC/DR options (aka Site Resiliency) and how they are effected by Virtualization. The good news is very little and with technologies like Hyper-V Live Migration, VM/HA, VMWare’s Site Recovery Manager you will have additional options that can provide other things to think about. Since these technologies can now have coexistence with DAG one must consider how or if these other options come into play.

Let’s start with local HA options. The use of Database Availability Groups (DAG) is certainly a popular option when virtualizing Exchange but in order to have a Microsoft supported configuration with DAG’s you need to follow a few rules. First Exchange server virtual machines, including Exchange Mailbox virtual machines that are part of a Database Availability Group (DAG), can be combined with host-based failover clustering and migration technology as long as the virtual machines are configured such that they will not save and restore state on disk when moved or taken offline. So all failover activity must result in a cold start when the virtual machine is activated on the target. Another important point is to make sure the VM’s housing your  active databases are not on the same physical hardware as the VM or VM’s housing the passive copies thus avoiding a single point of failure with the physical hardware. Overall using DAG’s is a virtualized environment are a good option that are supported by Microsoft as long as you follow a few simple rules.

Another option that customers have asked about in virtualized environment for the cost reduction and simplicity is to deploy stand alone mailbox servers and use the built in hypervisor HA mechanisms like VM/HA or Hyper-V Clustering to handle the local HA.  With this option only a single RAID protected copy of the database and logs is deployed locally and can help with the cost of deploying multiple DAG copies. It is important to understand, that Hypervisor based HA is not Application aware HA, but for some customers it can meet the requirements for the solution.

For many customers a single RAID protected copy that is being protected by a software or hardware based VSS backup solution is adequate protection based on the requirements. With this option you are protected from the loss of a disk with the RAID, from a physical server loss with  VM/HA or Hyper-V Clustering and database corruption with a VSS  snapshots. The biggest concern most customers have with this option is patching of the OS or Application, since it will require a reboot of the server. For those that have maintenance windows, this may be less of a concern if you have scheduled periods where you are able to reboot the servers.

When discussing BC/DR/Site Resiliency options, leveraging stretched DAG copies are a great option as well as technologies such as VMWare’s Site Recovery Manager (combined with a storage replication technology such as EMC RecoverPoint or EMC SRDF)  if you are looking to restart entire VMs and data from your entire data center into a DR site, as well as the database portability option built into Exchange (yes, it’s still around!). DB portability has taken a back seat to DAG these days, but it is still a very handy option if your BC/DR solution needs to address many more applications than just Exchange, and it’s a nice method to still consider.

Our customers have also been very interested in a recent EMC Proven Solution that we did to leverage a local, 2-copy DAG for HA and leveraging storage replication capability from EMC RecoverPoint to implement a DR solution in the remote site. This solution was discussed at EMC World 2011 and the whitepaper can be found here: Exchange 2010 DR Options with Cross-Site DAG and EMC RecoverPoint

Thanks to Chris Devine from EMC Strategic Solutions who contributed to this post.

Until next time,


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EMC World 2011 – Let’s discuss EMC Microsoft Solutions!

EMC World 2011 is next week in sunny Las Vegas, NV and we are finalizing our preparations for the show. I will be there and speaking in two Exchange specific sessions which should be excellent sessions if you are interested in what kinds of cool solutions that we have been cooking up in our labs:

First up, myself and one of my rockstar Solutions Engineers Boris Voronin, will be delivering Exchange 2010 Business Continuity and DR with VMWare on Monday, May 9th from 2-3pm and also repeating on Thursday from 1-2pm. This session will discuss one of our hot new solutions where showcased a cross-site Exchange 2010 DAG and how that solution would be contrasted with a solution featuring a local DAG for HA, but leveraging EMC RecoverPoint Continuous Remote Replication (CRR) with Exchange Database Portability for customers who like options with storage replication for DR. The whitepaper is featured here: http://www.emc.com/collateral/software/white-papers/h8104-exchange-cross-site-dag-recoverpoint-wp.pdf

Second up, is Microsoft Exchange 2010: EMC Storage Best Practices  that myself and my other rockstar Solutions Architect, Chris Devine will be delivering. This session will delve into all the great details that you need to know when designing and rolling out your Exchange Storage Design on EMC platforms. We will also be going into some great design detail on some of our most recent Exchange solutions. This session will be on Monday, May 9th from 5-6pm and on Thursday, May 12th from 8:30-9:30am.

Also, my two Sharepoint and SQL partner in crime, Eyal Sharon and James Baldwin will be chatting on Microsoft Sharepoint: EMC Infrastructure Best Practices on Tuesday, May 10th from 11:30-12:30 and Thursday from 1-2pm.

We also have several other great sessions such as EMC Unified Storage with Microsoft Hyper-V: Performance and Best Practices being delivered by Dave “Butch” Butchart which will be very exciting. There are too many great ones to add but if you want to see the full list then check out: http://windowtotheprivatecloud.com/microsoft-emc-world-my-session-agenda/

Between sessions, you can find me hanging out manning the Microsoft solutions station at the “Cloud Meets Big Data Booth” in the Solutions Pavilion in Sands Expo center. This runs from Mon-Thur. We will be showcasing demo’s of the latest and greatest from the EMC Microsoft Solutions labs and showing off some of our latest creations.

Hope to see you in Vegas. If you are attending, please be sure to stop by and say hello.

Until next time,


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Exchange 2010 – Proven on VNX5700/VNX5300

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently, we released some great new whitepapers for Exchange 2010 proven out on our new EMC VNX series arrays. If you didn’t already see all of the EMC launch buzz around VNX, you can read more about the VNX buzz here.

The VNX series line is EMC’s new unified line replacing the previous CX and Celerra line. A quick overview of the VNX line is below:

Some of the goals of the VNX Exchange 2010 testing was to get our hands on some of the new 2TB NL-SAS drives that we knew would be popular with Exchange customers so large, cheap drives can be used to enable large mailboxes. 2 HA copies via DAGs were also deployed in each of these solutions to enable for some local HA.

First up, the VNX5700 testing where we setup a simulated customer environment of approximately 16,000 mailboxes, 2GB per mailbox, 150 msgs sent/receive (0.15 IOPS) and 2 HA copies for each DB. This was done with the 2TB NL-SAS drives and the hypervisor tested in our case was VMWare vSphere 4.1. Diagram of the test environment looked like this:

In this particular test, we utilized two Vsphere hosts with Active/Passive copies spread out across VMs in each host. In a normal run, the VMs were configured for 2000 mailboxes in a normal run, 4000 in a single failure (2000A, 2000P).

In the whitepaper for this solution, we show you how to do all of the IOPS and capacity calculations manually, but you can obviously use tools like the Exchange Role Calc as well. We also show you how to use a building block approach to scale the solution. In our case, the requirement was for 16,000 mailboxes so we determined in this solution that 16 2TB disks in R10 was the best mix of performance and capacity for each BB. A total of 4 BB was used, so a total of 64 2TB disks (note: this is your performance and DB capacity req’s only, extra disks required for things like snapshot protection, restore LUN etc which we did not show).

To do some performance validation, we did a two hour Jetstress performance test on the four building blocks (32TB). We saw 2,859 Jetstress IOPS against the required 2,400 with all four servers around 14ms read latency, and 3ms write latency. Very good results:

We also wanted to show some of the goodness that comes with our VMWare integration into EMC Unisphere which will provide administrators with great visibility into our vSphere environment:

And on the VNX5300, we did a mix of FC and iSCSI testing to show efficiencies with both types of connectivity knowing that we all like options. We also tested the VNX5300 running on Microsoft Hyper-V (again, we all love options).

In the VNX5300 testing solution, the 4000 user building block was also utilized with a similar 0.15 IOPS per mailbox profile with 2GB mailboxes and also using the 16 2TB NL-SAS drives. Even with 1GB/s iSCSI on our 2 BB testing, Jetstress performance looked very good. In the diagram below you will see where we compared the 2 BB to 1BB to get an idea of the numbers:

As we saw in the testing, iSCSI network utilization moves up to about 70% in the 2 VM test, so this is something that should be considered. We covered some of the iSCSI best practices that we used in our labs in this paper, so please keep those in mind during your planning.

You can read all of the full details on the Exchange 2010 testing with VNX5700 in the Exchange Server 2010 Performance Review with VNX5700 here: http://www.emc.com/collateral/hardware/white-papers/h8152-exchange-performance-vnx-wp.pdf

Performance Review for the VNX5300 can be found here: http://www.emc.com/collateral/hardware/white-papers/h8158-exchange-performance-vnx-wp.pdf

Until next time,


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Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions Update

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Quick update on Microsoft publishing of EMC and our partners Tested Exchange Solutions that we’ve blogged about before. Microsoft has now published one of our two Tested Exchange Solutions out on the Tested Exchange solutions page on TechNet:


This whitepaper was a joint collaboration between EMC/Microsoft/Brocade/Dell and was formally titled “Zero Data Loss Disaster Recovery for Exchange 2010” and featured our Replication Enabler for Exchange plug in to Exchange 2010 DAG (10,000 users per site/20k users total), with EMC CX4-480 storage, Brocade ServerIron ADX Load Balancing and Fabric, along with Dell R910 servers all supporting a virtualized Exchange 2010 infrastructure on Hyper-V.

We are still waiting on the other Tested Exchange Solution that was performed in collaboration with Cisco on their excellent Unified Compute System platform. But, you can get the full EMC version blogged about here from late last year.

Last, stay tuned for some exciting solutions update on what we have been cooking up for our VMAX/SRDF/VMWare HA and Site Recovery Manager solution for Exchange 2010, along with Exchange 2010 DAG/Recoverpoint solution. We also have exciting kit coming out on what we’ve been up to with our new EMC VNX platform with Exchange 2010.


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Oh Boy. HP digging the DAS again

January 21, 2011 1 comment

I don’t want to waste too much time responding to HP DAS marketing guys as I like to keep my blog more of a marketing free zone, but this blog post made me have a good laugh this morning:


HP DAS Marketing guy, HPStorageGuy, claims that he heard from another guy at VM World that an unknown EMC guy said that “SAN is the best and really only option for storage”

We all know personal opinions are one thing, but the fact of the matter is that customer choice is a good thing and there isn’t one answer for every business problem. I believe that SAN is a great choice for Exchange storage (it is certainly not the only one), and it should be noted that Exchange is not the only application in the data center either. We’ve showcased many solutions from this blog that show how there is a fit in many customer scenarios. Customers want choice and for some customers that choice is going with dedicated storage for applications like Exchange and for others it is leveraging the power of shared storage to store data for many applications.

Customers like SherWeb have told us how EMC Virtual Provisioning has given them a competitive advantange in their Exchange 2010 Hosted environment, something they just could not do with a dedicated storage solution for Exchange.  And on this blog, we’ve highlighted solutions all the way down to the Iomega StorCenter IX12 line all the way up to the VMAX line.

I can’t say I’m too familar with the published Exchange solutions that my other esteemed collegues at other organizations have put together, but I can say that what we’ve put together around our solutions for Exchange 2010 offers customers choices across the stack. 

 I’m happy for the guys at HP and their announcement for the E5000 Messaging Appliance. Like any technology choice, this product has a fit for some customers and other customers will continue to choose to store Exchange data and other enterprise data on EMC VNXEMC VNXe or EMC Symmetrix VMAX.

During the first part of the year, you will start to see some of our new Exchange solutions featuring Exchange on VNX, VNXe, and our private cloud solution enabled by vBlock. Solutions that offer customers a choice no matter what the fit!

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Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions Unveiled…

January 13, 2011 1 comment

A new post on the Exchange Team Blog by Microsoft EEC Program Manager, Rob Simpson unveiled the Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions whitepapers that EMC participated in with Microsoft along with our partners Cisco, Brocade, and Dell. Both of these solutions were discussed on this blog last year and highlighted.

We have received excellent feedback from customers on the value of these solutions and the fact that they are highly detailed and validated reference architectures for Exchange 2010 solutions. If you didn’t catch what these whitepapers were about, you can read the whitepapers at:


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