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Upgrading and consolidating domain servers

Posted on 2010-11-30
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We currently have 2 physical 2003 domain controllers, another member server that provides a few web and print services, and another member server that runs our security system.  All run Windows Server 2003.  I would like to upgrade our domain to 2008 in January and was thinking it might also be a good time to virtualize these 4 servers (2 DC's, 2 Member Servers) onto one virtual server running VMWare.  These are pretty "low use" machines and were my best candidates for virtualization.  Is there any issue with virtualizing domain controllers?  I already have a robust Dell R900(64GB RAM) in place running VMWare ESXi and just waiting to be put to good use....This would also clear up 6u in my rack!  If I can do this, then the next step would be to upgrade Exchange 2003 to 2010 and then the rest of my physical member servers to 2008.
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Question by:tenover
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Lee W, MVP earned 500 total points
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You would want to disable time sync between the VM and the OS.  Otherwise, should be no problem with virtualizing them - HOWEVER, I would always keep ONE physical DC so that if the VM system fails, you still have authentication and AD available.  I would sooner virtualize Exchange (and do)
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by:tenover
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I was originally going to put Exchange on this server (physical, not virtualized).  So you think it would be a better idea to upgrade my current Exchange 2003 server to Windows 2009/Exchange 2010 on a virtual machine?  There's not enough disk space on the ESXi server to hold all my database files and backups...Is there a performance issue if I have to store Exchange database files elsewhere?
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by:kevinhsieh
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I would virtualize the Exchange 2010. I have been virtualizing Exchange since the year 2007 on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 on non hardware-assist CPUs. Esx is so much faster, and Exchange 2010 doesn't require as much IO as Exchange 2003, so it is an excellent candidate for virtualization.  
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by:JanEnEm
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Leew's suggestion to keep one physical DC if you run only one ESX host is absolutely true! You would not want your users to have no DNS or AD functionality, should your ESX host fail.

My suggestion is to start virtulising your servers before you perform the upgrade to W2K8. In the virtualised environment you may take advantage of the snapshot functionality, which allows you to fall back, when you run into troubles!

JanM
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by:tenover
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Thanks.  Can I install Exchange 2010 on a virtual server and get it up and running while Exchange 2003 is still servicing users, and then move users over slowly?  This will be a SINGLE Exchange 2010 virtual server REPLACING a SINGLE 2003 physical machine.....
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Virtual or not Exchange shouldn't care.  The biggest thing you need for Exchange 2010 is RAM.
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by:tenover
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But can I build up the 2010 server on the virtual machine while 2003 is up and running on the old physical machine, and then slowly move users over?
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by:Lee W, MVP
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It should be a supported migration path - see:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa998604(EXCHG.140).aspx
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by:tenover
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Thanks.....Installing Server 2008 R2 now on a virtual server.  I've given it 2 virtual processors and 16GB of RAM.  My only worry now is space.  C:\ is 80GB with 55GB free after Windows installed.  Added a "D" partition that is 180GB.  Currently my Information Store DB is 150GB, however about 50GB of that should be removed as a lot of employees with massive mailboxes have left the company.  I'm assuming when I make the new Stores on Exchange 2010 and move users into them, the old free "white space" will be non-existent and the stores will ONLY contain ONLY actual mailbox data....?
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by:kevinhsieh
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The nice thing about running in a VM is that it's easy to expand drives after the fact and to add drives. I recommend that you add another VMDK for storing your log files.

I expect that you new databases will be smaller, because only the current mailbox data will get migrated over.
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by:tenover
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Just learning about ESXi here....How do I create a separate VMDK for the Exchange logs?
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by:kevinhsieh
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You should not be using a D partition on the same disk as the C partition. Each drive letter should be it's own "disk". This makes it possible to resize partitons in the future, and just makes things easier like being able to restore the OS drive without affecting your database. I am not a VMware person, so I can't walk you through how to add drives to a VM. You should ask another question, RTFM, or do some searching.
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by:JanEnEm
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@tenover:
It seems to me, that you lack disk space on your new server?
If so, consider buying a 1SCI base network drive. At today's pricing that should not be a bad investment.
Put one or two VMware datastores on the box and put all your Virtual Machines on that box.

In addition to kevinhsieh's comment: create VMDKs also on the network datastore. You may use 'Thin Provisioning' (i.e. allocate only the space you need), but be aware not to overallocate.

Adding a new VMDK is simple: From your v Sphere Client: go to the inventory, select the appropriate VM, Power down the VM, from the Summary tab do Edit Settings and Add a new hard disk.
Once you start up the VM, Windows will recognize a new disk and you may act accordingly.
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