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High availability for Microsoft Exchange with VMware ESX Server and SteelEye LifeKeeper

Quoting LinuxWorld

One government agency recently embarked on a mission to provide both high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) for their Microsoft Exchange 2003 server. Their DR plan required a recovery-time objective (RTO) of <15 minutes, and their recovery point objective (RPO) required minimal to no data loss. The general availability of their Exchange server needed to be in the 99.99% range. In addition, physical space and budget for the DR site was constrained. These requirements eliminated any solution offered natively by Microsoft as well as any storage-based replication solutions.

After reviewing the available options, the agency selected SteelEye’s LifeKeeper Protection Suite for Exchange to provide real-time data protection and application monitoring and recovery of Exchange, and VMware ESX Server 2.5 to host all servers in the DR site to help reduce the cost of building and managing the DR infrastructure.

Three main factors led to the choice of the two products..

• Minimal downtime required during installation

• Support of physical-to-virtual clustering

• Support of protecting their existing Exchange Server

With the choices made, implementation was next on the agenda. First, the infrastructure was established. A point-to-point 45Mbps WAN connection was established between the primary data center and the DR site. The DR site also had a direct connection to the Internet via a T1 line, which served as the gateway to send and receive SMTP e-mail in the event of a disaster as well as provide a means for remote access to Outlook Web Access in the event of a disaster.

In the DR site, VMware ESX Server 2.5.4, a Linux-based host operating system, was installed onto an IBM System x3650 with a Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.66GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and four 73GB 15K hot-swap SAS drives. The first VMs were then brought online. These VMs were Microsoft Active Directory (AD) controllers running core infrastructure services required by Exchange, such as DNS and the Global Catalogue. Microsoft automatically replicates AD and AD integrated DNS, so no further steps were required to make sure the DR site had protection of the AD controllers and DNS. In the event of a disaster, the steps were documented about how to seize the AD FSMO roles if the original AD controllers were no longer available.

The next step was to add an Exchange server to the DR site. The SteelEye LifeKeeper Protection Suite for Exchange is completely different from Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) Exchange clusters. Where MSCS would require clustered certified and identical hardware, shared storage and upgrading the existing Exchange server to Enterprise Edition, LifeKeeper simply requires that another Exchange mailbox server be added to the existing Exchange Site. Because LifeKeeper supports physical-to-virtual clustering for this new Exchange server, a virtual machine was created on the ESX server, and Exchange was installed in the same fashion as if it were another mailbox server in the same Site. The only LifeKeeper requirement is that the names of the Storage Groups and Mailbox Stores be identical to the primary Exchange server.

All of the network infrastructure and hardware was now in place to begin the implementation of LifeKeeper for Exchange. Because the implementation was also going to include extensive failover testing, time was scheduled on a Friday and Saturday evening of to complete installation, configuration and testing in order to minimize impact to the users.

Read the rest of the article, here.

Published Sunday, May 13, 2007 10:30 AM by David Marshall
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