DC + Exchange Deployment

Posted on 2006-05-30
Last Modified: 2010-04-18
I am being asked to provide an analysis of the hardware requirements for a machine that would be the DC, Exchange Server and file server for a network of 40-50 users.

My question is:
What would be the recommended hardware requirements?

What process and or resources can I use to make a clear recommendation, with examples?  

I have read and used MS Reskit but it only addresses users per DC only and does not included Exchange.

thank you

Question by:EWitt_23
    LVL 95

    Accepted Solution

    Are they expecting to grow soon - to more than 60 users?  Because Small Business Server might make the most sense... or are they getting that?

    As for hardware requirements, you really need to provide more information.  Will it be used for anything else?  File Sharing? Databases?  Web Hosting?  etc?

    Note: Exchange should NOT be run on a DC - it can be - but it's not recommended and not considered best practice - unless you are using SBS.

    Company I used to work at had 400 users on Exchange 5.5 running on a 500 MHz P3 with 512 MB of RAM.  Yes, there were clearly enhancements in 2003 over 2000 and 5.5 that require more resources... but I think you would have little trouble with a 500 Mhz P3 and 512 MB of RAM for 40-50 users.  And as for a DC, the load on the DC is minimal - I had 1000 users at the same company and only 3 DCs (1 at one site of 200, 2 at the main site of 800) and the only reason I had more than one was redundancy at the main site, and faster logon/redundancy at the second site.

    The point?  For purely Exchange and DC, just about anything will do... MOST LIKELY... again, more information on usage is needed.

    Basic specs demand RAID on any server and a 3 year warranty (probably with 4 hour response time) from a MAJOR vendor - you want one point of contact in case there's a problem.

    Author Comment


    The school I work for is a MS Gold Member
    We have the choice to run any MS software we like.

    The machine will be a DC, File Server and Exchange Server.
    I dont see the buisiness growing beyond 60 users within the next 5 years.

    "For purely Exchange and DC, just about anything will do"

    From the MS reskit that helps determine only DC hardware requirments Yes jus about any machine is fine our our needs.

    I have always tried to get the best server I can but this time I am being asked to show my work.

    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    I've heard of a lot of licensing programs, but I'm not familiar with gold?  Got a link?  If you're talking about MSDN that doesn't count. , the license doesn't permit production use, even for a school.

    That said, you're better off going with Small Business Server if you're not going to grow much AND if you want to run Exchange on a DC.

    You don't have another system ANYWHERE?  One that you can use as a DC and put Exchange on it's own system that's NOT a DC?

    Author Comment

    "Got a link"
    Try Google, I hear that it’s the cool thing with all the hip kids these days.

    I will save you the pain of letting your fingers do the walking by posting the MS licensing site here:
    And for GOLD here:

    Whatever the licensing situation is here it’s not your concern and its not my question.
    We have VLA licenses for a lot of software.
    I should not have said anything about being a GOLD Partner, it has nothing to do with my questions.
    That said, thanks for your "help"

    I have been given the boundaries that I must work within.

    I have shared my questions and concerns in this space.

    I continue my own search.

    Still looking for any help.

    Thank you,
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    "MS Gold Member" is vague
    "MS Gold Partner" is clear.  Terminology in computing is key.

    Is there a reason you are being rude - at least, that's how it appears...

    If you do not provide a context, you do not get a valid answer - or if you do, it takes longer as people have to guess - and even it's not necessarily valid if you only pick it because you like it not because it's got valid information backing it up.

    Licensing is my concern because we can't help you violate licensing agreements - further, many people don't understand Microsoft licensing - even I don't understand it all, but if you're a school, Campus agreement can be quite affordable.  Most people appreciate the heads up.  If you somehow expected me to know your skill level... I might have been abe to... if you took the time to fill out your profile.  But it was empty and I'm forced to treat you as an otherwise technological novice.

    I have explained that running Exchange on a DC is NOT recommended - adding that it IS possible to do, but it is NOT recommended.  You don't seem to care what is best for the system, so there's little more I can do.

    I've explained that based on EXPERIENCE of over 11 years in a variety of environments, ANY server will do for your requirements.    Certain obvious things should be considered though - RAM and RAID for example.  Beyond that, there is nothing else to consider.

    If you want an Exchange sizing discussion, see:


    Author Comment

    I would like someone else to answer the questions please.

    Seems to me like you are more interested in talking from a soap box.

    I pay for this?
    LVL 15

    Expert Comment

    Leew was only trying to help you, and offering good advice too.

    You shouldn't run Exchange on a DC. Microsoft advise strongly against it. The optimisations for a DC and an Exchange Server and a File Server are all quite different. Similarly for securing each of these types of servers.

    You should have more than one DC. Recovering from a failed DC is trivial if you have more than one, not so trivial if you only have one.

    If you're limited to buying a single server, I suggest that you either install SBS 2003 on it, or else configure it as a virtual machine server and host seperate VM's on it for 2 x DC's, 1 x Exchange Server. The host server can be the file server. My recommendation for either an SBS or VM server in your situation would be, as a minimum:

    Single dual core Opteron / EM64T Xeon, upgradable to two.
    2GB ECC RAM.
    Hardware RAID Controller with 64MB battery-backed read/write cache.
    4 x 72GB SCSI disks (SAS or U320) configured as a RAID 10 set (more disks or larger disks if you need more capacity).
    Redundant power supplies and fans.
    LTO-1 Tape drive (and an U160 or U320 SCSI controller for it to connect to).


    Author Comment

    "I have explained that running Exchange on a DC is NOT recommended - adding that it IS possible to do, but it is NOT recommended."

    You’re absolutely right.
    I have some experience with SBS2003 but I find it a very slow product.
    I have been wondering if performance could be increased by running 2003 enterprise server with exchange 2003 installed?

    I agree.
    Running Exchange on it's own dedicated box with 2 domain controllers, DC and File Servers, are optimal.
    NTbak, Veritas and DAT tapes are my choice for backups.

    Thank you

    I have used Virtual Server2003 for the last year or so with mixed thoughts on it.
    Microsofts basic VM is good. VMware is well... much better.
    I have worked out an easy way to make a near instantly restorable Virtual Exchange server for classes using MS VM.
    (The MAD monitor never dies like a real exchange server after its been disconnected from a network for a month or so.)

    The idea of using Virtual server(s) has crossed my mind.
    I still don’t like the idea of putting "all my eggs in to one basket" so to speak.
    Especially in a production environment.

    I will get to purchase a single new machine to use for this project.
    Virtual Server might host the file server or a few medium class machines might perform other rolls.
    I don’t know yet.
    I still have to design some more and then test.

    I am looking at the new Intel Dual Xeons in 2U.
    2 or 4 GB ECC RAM,
    4 Removable SATA WD740GD (RAID 1 or 10)    
    2 Redundant power supplies

    This inquiry does play a role in decision making so thank you both for your professional opinions.
    LVL 15

    Assisted Solution

    SATA drives are very likely to be a performance bottleneck. A server supporting 40-50 users needs SCSI drives, particularly when it's going to be supporting multiple roles (DC and Exchange and File Server).

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