Which virtualization solution is the best?

I have a server that supports virtualization so I was wondering which Hypervisor would be best for my production environment.  
1>  All but one server runs windows 2003 server.  The server running windows 2000 server    also runs our windows exchange 2003.  This server needs to be redone as the store is corrupt and the machine is very old.
2>  I want to install exchange 2003 on a virtual platform.
3>  I don't forsee running anything but MS server solutions at this time.
4>  I need a solution that makes backing up and load balancing feasible, ie minimum downtime if a virtual image goes down.
5>  I am in an academic environment so, I don't know which vendors, besides MS have good academic pricing.
If more details are needed, I will be happy to provide them as needed.
smantzDirector of TechnologyAsked:
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vmwarun - ArunCommented:
I suggest that you update the Hardware Details you currently have based on which the Experts can suggest.
I too am in an academic setting and due to budget restraints we opted for hyper-v virtualization. I have to say honestly I like VMwares ESX server better BUT if you play your cards right you can also do most things with the standard hyper-v that comes with server 08. If you can afford ESX go with that but if not hyper-v actually works out pretty well if you couple it with System Center VMM 2008 and you can get much of the functionality. With academic pricing your only talking a few hundred bucks for the VMM suite and it is worth every penny. I think you will be pretty happy with the solution and it will work out well for what you are planning on.

On a sub note, MS is about to release a new version of hyper-v that closes much of the gap between them and VMware. I don't forsee hyper-v being dropped anytime soon and I think they will keep adding features to continue closing that gap. With that in mind and the fact it comes free with your server 08 enterprise or data center license you cant really beat it. I currently have about 30 servers virtualized with it so far including Exchange 2007 and all is well.
Helps to have a SAN.  iscsi sans are getting reasonable now.  You can have your VMs on a SAN and also your storage space for the SANS and as long as you have a spare server around to pick it up if one develops a problem, no real need for clustering for a smallish setup.
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Not sure what hyper-v virtualization costs in an academic environment but as a Microsoft Gold Partner its free and we paid for VMware ESX.

Now you can get VMware ESXi free, and its a rock solid solution, close to ESX but the missing features may well not matter in your environmet, they dont in mine.

you can run this on an internal RAID5 array, or run a lot more VMs (like 13 vs 6) if you have a SAN.  The performance of hte SAN makes it highly recmended.

Low end of the commercial SANS id recomend it he Dell MD3000i , which I happily use over the more expensive choices, we got ours for about $5k with 15kRMS SAS drives.  Dont use SATA.

Get a dedicated gigbit switch, hte Dell Powerconnect 54xx series is optimized for iSCSI and measurably better than ordinary gig-e switches, but depends on yopur budget.  DO NOT use the same switch or VLAN for iSCSI as you do for network traffic.

Should this be too expensive still, look at openfiler, and construct your own iSCSI SAN.  In an aceemic environment you should be able to find someone with the Linux skills to make this quite easily, but then its not all that hard for a Windows admin to master either ...

VMware have academic discount ( I don't remember exactly but I think is about 50% or more).
I personally don't have already used the Microsoft hyper-v, I known well VMware, Virtual Iron, Novell Xen and Citrix XenServer.

My personal opinion is that VMware is the better platform for virtualization and Virtual Iron a quite good alternative, the other players are still making hard work. The question is, what do you need now and what are the probable grown in the next years ?

You can buy VMware for two nodes with Virtual Center at very interesting price, try ask an offer or go the vmware site to discover price for non "academic".

Hope this can help you,
Giovanni Coa
smantzDirector of TechnologyAuthor Commented:
I thought I take a moment and update a Couple of items.  The current hardware is varied, all servers, seven of them, are at least four or five years old, minimal memory, mirrored hard drives (in most instances).  There are single applications running on most; one with SQL 2000 that runs our Student Information Software; one running an old instance of Raiser's Edge Blackbaud; one a D.C. running WSUS; one running our Kaspersky AV administration;one a D.C. running DHCP, File Services and a couple of print server services.
The e-mail server mentioned before sits in a DMZ on the firewall appliance.  The e-mail server has two drives, one the system and exchange program files drive, the other has the stores/mailboxes.
All critical servers are backed up to external USB drives.  the e-mail store is only about 3 gig big.  There are only about 50 people on e-mail and about 60 registered in AD.
The first and only server for virtualization is an IBM IBM System 794052U x3455 2 GB Rack Server - AMD Opteron 2356 Quad Core 2.3 GHz Processor with two gigis of RAM and a 160 gig SATA drive.  It will support two drives that are fixed and it doesn't appear to have any RAID.  Two PCI-X slots, one 16 the other 8. Two on board gigabit ports as well as usb ports.
Hope this helps.  
I think crirical to this process is storage solutions for virtualization, which I am open to and may be out of the scope of this question.  Second is migration paths for some of the servers.  I will probablry purchase a second server (maybe the same) for hardware failover and load balancing.
I appreciate the comments thus far and hope this helps for all interested.
A note;  The points maybe split several ways depending on answers.
With only 2 gig of ram your best bet is probably going to be ESXi due to it only having about a 35mb foot print. To be honest though my first step would be adding more ram no matter what platform you choose. Only having 2gig is a choke point for any VM platform and should be your first order of business. I would go with no less than 8gig but would recomend 32gig if your server supports it. Another thing you may want to look into is purchasing more NIC cards for your VM servers. This will be your other choke point that you will quickly notices once load is applied.

For storage you can either build your own SAN using openfiler etc. or if purchasing one I would go with Dell's Equalogics series. Due to their easy to understand interface and their realiability they are the best choice for no hassle storage.

As far as migration path goes. Your DC and DHCP servers should be migrated by hand. It is easy enough to promote another DC into your domain and transfer FSMO roles if need be. My advice would be to keep one DC physical and one virtual. This will give you the ability to snapshot your AD information but you will still have support in both worlds should one or the other fail. DHCP can be directly exported from one server to another so moving this is a non issue also. You may need to change some of the cisco equipment but for the most part it is a simple move.

The legacy items that you mentioned earlier may prove to be simpler to migrate using a P2V tool such as what comes with SCVMM 2008 if using hyper v or VMware also has a counter part that will work just as well.

What type of email are you running? Is it exchange?

WSUS I would not waste time or resources virtualizing to be honest. It is better left to a box on its own and use VM for more important things. This is just my own opinion and i know many have done it without issue but i think it is a waste. Should wsus ever go down it can be rebuilt quickly without data loss other than update approvals. No need to waste valuable snapshot or SAN storage on updates.

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smantzDirector of TechnologyAuthor Commented:
Sorry it has taken such a long time to get back to the posting.  My e-mail is exchange 2003 running on server 2000.  Unfortunately the store became corrupted.  I tstill seems to work O.K. but all I can back up is the mailboxes and public folders.  The store won't so, the push to move to virtualization.  I am leaning heavily towards MS Bare metal Hyper-V server with MS servers running on top.  It's been a little chore when playing with it as the management plug-in requires Vista or server 2008.  
I have updated the one server to six or eight gig and added another dual network card.  I now have 4 connections on that server.  I also bought a server to use as a san.  It six hot swap bays and eight gig of memory, which leads me to ask, " When I re-install/install exchange, where should transaction logs, data, and program files reside in respect to the SAN or external storage?  Performance hits?
I appreciate everyones comments and will close this up very soon.
smantzDirector of TechnologyAuthor Commented:
Please watch for the next posting.
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