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Enterprise Messaging with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

Technical Case Study

Published: November 30, 2006

The Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) group used the migration to Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 as an opportunity to modernize the entire messaging environment at Microsoft. No 32-bit Exchange servers remained after project completion. Exchange Server 2007 on the 64-bit platform enables Microsoft IT to increase service levels, optimize messaging protection, improve regulatory compliance, and provide new unified messaging services. At the same time, the Exchange Server 2007-based messaging environment lowers costs associated with the acquisition and maintenance of server hardware, storage equipment, and backup solutions. The cost savings will exceed $5 million per year, enabling Microsoft IT to reach the breakeven point fewer than 12 months after migration.

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Situation

Solution

Benefits

Products & Technologies

In preparation for the migration to Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft IT evaluated current needs and trends in the Microsoft messaging environment to identify ways to better address enterprise-messaging needs than with prior Exchange Server versions on the 32-bit platform.

By deploying Exchange Server 2007 on the 64-bit platform and by taking advantage of new features, such as Continuous Replication, Microsoft IT added measurable value for users across the entire messaging environment of Microsoft Corporation. By maintaining an advanced communications infrastructure with lower costs, Microsoft IT helps to increase the productivity of revenue-generating employees, facilitates collaboration with business partners, and contributes to shareholder value.

  • Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Increased business agility and employee productivity
  • Improved scalability through a multiple-tier design
  • Reduced risks through new backup, antivirus, and antispam features
  • 64-bit server hardware
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access 2007
  • Enterprise storage technologies
  • Transaction log shipping
  • IP telephony
  • Unified Messaging

Executive Summary

The messaging needs of Microsoft continually increase. For example, emerging legal and regulatory requirements necessitate an increase in mailbox capacities. However, addressing these needs with 32-bit Exchange Server versions is difficult. Exchange Server 2007 on the 64-bit platform provides a cost-effective alternative. Among other things, the 64-bit messaging system increases server scalability, helps to reduce infrastructure complexities, enables IT organizations to replace expensive storage solutions with more cost-efficient alternatives, and supports continuous backup operations. Exchange Server 2007 also provides new messaging features, such as Unified Messaging, that directly translate into increased productivity of revenue-generating employees. Exchange Server 2007 is the solution that Microsoft IT needed to modernize the corporate messaging environment at Microsoft.

This technical case study discusses key features, advantages, and benefits of Exchange Server 2007 at an executive level. It explains how Exchange Server 2007 can address the needs of a large-scale enterprise environment and how Microsoft IT exploits the opportunities for improvements and cost savings.

This paper contains information for business and technical decision makers who are considering or planning to deploy Exchange Server 2007. This paper assumes that the audience is familiar with the concepts of Microsoft Windows Server® 2003, the Active Directory® directory service, and previous versions of Exchange Server. A high-level understanding of the new features and technologies included in Exchange Server 2007 is also helpful. For detailed product information, see the Exchange Server 2007 Beta 2 Technical Library at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/2007/library/default.mspx.

Situation

Microsoft IT maintains a messaging environment that covers more than 400 office locations in 73 countries with 130,000 users, including managers, employees, contractors, business partners, and vendors. Approximately 30,000 users are mobile and require access to their e-mail messages, calendars, task items, and contact information while in the office and while traveling. Mission-critical and revenue-generating Microsoft employees need to stay connected with the company 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from anywhere in the world.

Microsoft IT operates 16 data centers worldwide, but for Exchange Server, only five server locations are important. The data centers in Dublin, Redmond (Washington), Sao Paulo, and Singapore host Exchange mailbox servers. The fifth data center, in Silicon Valley, is a backup location for Redmond that provides redundancy for Internet mail connectivity. The mail gateways in Redmond and Silicon Valley receive more than 13.5 million e-mail message submissions from the Internet every day. Only 2.5 million of these are legitimate messages. Microsoft IT filters out the remaining 11 million message submissions as spam.

Prior to the rollout of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 three years ago, the messaging environment included 118 mailbox servers in 75 locations. Total Exchange servers, including those for special purposes, numbered 192. By using Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, and Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003, Microsoft IT was able to consolidate the worldwide messaging environment to five physical sites and reduce the number of Exchange servers to 114 (mailbox servers dropped from 118 to 36). Through these initiatives, Microsoft IT realized overall cost savings of $20 million in fiscal year 2003 alone.

The deployment of Exchange Server 2003 lowered total cost of ownership (TCO), increased employee productivity, decreased downtime for business-critical communication systems, and improved security. Microsoft IT deployed large mailbox servers that hosted 4,000 mailboxes with a quota of 200 megabytes (MB) each. Microsoft IT determined that this was the maximum load that Exchange Server 2003 on the 32-bit platform could handle. However, the messaging and business needs of the company continued to increase, as indicated in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Microsoft messaging statistics and trends

Figure 1. Microsoft messaging statistics and trends

Messaging-related statistics that Microsoft gathered over the past five years showed the following information:

  • The mailbox count increased by 75 percent.

  • The number of message submissions received on a daily basis from the Internet increased along with the mailbox count.

  • Mobile devices multiplied by a factor of five.

  • New regulatory requirements challenged technical configurations to meet developing needs.

In addition, corporate management encourages employees to stop saving messages on local desktop computers. All messages must stay on servers so the company can centrally control, back up, and archive the data.

Keeping all data on servers implies that the servers require more storage capacity. This is a critical issue. As Figure 1 reveals, Microsoft IT was not able to increase capacities in the calendar years 2003 through 2005. The high costs associated with disk storage for Exchange Server 2003 and general limitations on the 32-bit platform caused this stagnation. However, Figure 1 shows an increase in mailbox capacities of 150 percent for 2006, and mailbox sizes will rise further to 2 gigabytes (GB) in calendar year 2007, representing a total growth of more than 900 percent.

Solution

In calendar year 2006, Microsoft IT deployed Exchange Server 2007 on the 64-bit platform. With Exchange Server 2007, the flexibility of the corporate messaging environment increased. Microsoft IT is now in a better position to keep pace with the messaging and business needs of the company in the years to come.

The Exchange Server product group at Microsoft worked closely with Microsoft IT and business partners to clarify exactly how Exchange Server 2007 should address the needs of the enterprise environment. Microsoft IT communicated many opportunities for improvements, including the following goals:

  • Reduce infrastructure complexities

  • Increase server scalability by supporting 64-bit server hardware natively.

  • Replace expensive storage area network (SAN)-based solutions with cost-efficient direct-attached storage (DAS).

  • Implement continuous backup operations.

  • Comply with emerging legal and regulatory requirements.

  • Implement new messaging features to consolidate voice, fax, and e-mail messaging in a single location—the user's mailbox.

Key Technologies

The following three key technologies, not available in previous versions of Exchange Server, serve as the basis for Microsoft IT to achieve measurable improvements with the deployment of Exchange Server 2007:

  • Transaction log shipping. Essentially, log shipping is a straightforward and inexpensive method to maintain a continuous database copy on a standby server. It is a proven method that works over short distances for maximum protection against server disasters. Because of its advantages, Microsoft began to support log shipping in Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000. The database-mirroring feature of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 also relies on this technology. Exchange Server 2007 is the first Exchange Server version to support log shipping through a feature called Continuous Replication.

  • IP telephony. IP telephony relies on Voice over IP (VoIP), a technology that emerged approximately 10 years ago. At the turn of the millennium, VoIP began to disrupt the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) market. Today, long-distance and international carriers have replaced costly links between PSTNs with VoIP connections. Private companies have begun to use VoIP and IP telephony to merge voice and data networks into a unified communications infrastructure with tremendous cost savings. Exchange Server 2007 is the first Exchange Server version to provide IP telephony features for mailbox access over the telephone and voice mail integration out of the box.

  • 64-bit microprocessor technology. Fully 32-bit compatible, 64-bit microprocessor technology, called x64, emerged in the year 2003. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), and Intel Corporation drive the development forward with multiple-core technology. Exchange Server 2007 is the first Exchange Server version to run natively on 64-bit server hardware and to benefit from x64 processors with multiple cores, such as dual core AMD Opteron or Intel Xeon.

    Note: Microsoft supports Exchange Server 2007 in production environments only on the x64-based platform.

When implemented, these features enabled Microsoft IT to break through the limitations of the 32-bit platform to increase service levels and mailbox capacities.

General Deployment Objectives

To verify the opportunities for improvement, Microsoft IT analyzed the existing environment and performed pilot deployments of Exchange Server 2007. The results revealed that four key areas had extensive potential to create business value, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2 - Exchange Server 2007 opportunities for Microsoft IT

Figure 2. Exchange Server 2007 opportunities for Microsoft IT

Based on these opportunities and resulting business benefits, Microsoft IT determined key strategies for upgrading the existing environment to Exchange Server 2007, as shown in Table 1. These strategies can benefit other organizations that are considering a similar deployment.

Deployment Strategies Business Benefit

Replace SAN-based storage for messaging databases with more cost-efficient DAS-based storage.

Revise backup solution to eliminate tape backups.

Decreases costs. For Microsoft IT, DAS-based storage decreases storage costs per user in comparison to SAN-based solutions, and eliminating backup tapes will reduce expenses by another $5 million per year.

Increase mailbox capacities after implementing cost-efficient storage solution.

Integrate the Exchange Server organization with the IP telephony infrastructure in the corporate environment.

Increases productivity. Users can store all messages on the server and can access the data centrally by using a variety of clients, including standard telephones.

Replace voice-messaging systems with an Exchange Server-based solution to deliver voice mail and incoming faxes directly to the users' mailboxes.

Increase accuracy of spam filtering.

Increases efficiency. All information, including voice mail, faxes, and e-mail messages, is available spam-free in a single location.

Implement a continuous replication solution based on transaction log shipping to a standby computer.

Separate the messaging hosts facing the Internet from the internal production environment.

Block all unwanted messages at the earliest point, which is on the messaging hosts facing the Internet.

Reduces risks. The continuous replication solution helps protect even the most recent data. Separating hosts connected to the Internet from the production environment, in addition to blocking all unwanted messages on these hosts, prevents attacks.

Microsoft-Specific Deployment Objectives

In addition to general Exchange Server 2007 deployment goals and benefits, Microsoft IT focused on Microsoft-specific objectives while creating deployment plans for Exchange Server 2007. For example, Microsoft IT pursues a key initiative called Model Enterprise (ME). This initiative promotes Microsoft products and solutions internally wherever possible to maintain a continuously optimized enterprise infrastructure with a global scope that satisfies the business needs of Microsoft.

To strike the right balance of availability, performance, flexibility, and cost according to the goals of the ME initiative, Microsoft IT decided to

  • Use the features available in Exchange Server 2007 to decommission third-party antivirus and voice messaging solutions in the corporate production environment.

  • Keep the existing backup solution based on the Backup feature (in Windows Server 2003) in place even though the limited performance of this solution affects the amount of data that Microsoft IT can support on Exchange 2007 mailbox servers. A new backup solution is under development that will enable Microsoft IT to raise mailbox capacities on Exchange 2007 servers from 500 MB to 2 GB.

Another Microsoft-specific objective relates to Microsoft IT's unique role of testing and deploying new Microsoft software versions before the products are released to manufacturing. For example, three months before release to manufacturing, Microsoft IT decided to migrate the entire production environment with 130,000 users to Exchange Server 2007 by using the Beta 2 release. By deploying its products in the corporate environment at a full scale, Microsoft demonstrates confidence in its products and sets a positive example for enterprise customers.

Multiple-Tier Design

Exchange Server 2007 supports five separate server roles to perform the tasks of an enterprise messaging system: Edge Transport, Hub Transport, Client Access, Unified Messaging, and Mailbox. It is possible to install multiple roles on a single server (multiple-role server), which helps to minimize the number of servers in the messaging environment. However, Microsoft IT prefers to deploy the server roles on separate computers (single-role servers). This form of deployment facilitates the design of server hardware according to specific tasks.

Another advantage of the single-role deployment is that Microsoft IT can structure the messaging environment in multiple tiers. This is the way large-scale enterprise solutions are built. The multiple-tier design separates data, business services, and users to increase reliability, flexibility, scalability, and maintainability. For example, if the number of mobile users continues to multiply as expected, Microsoft IT can increase the number of Client Access servers to support these users without affecting any other servers in the corporate production environment, such as Mailbox servers, Hub Transport servers, or Edge Transport servers.

Figure 3 illustrates the multiple-tier design of the corporate messaging environment at Microsoft.

Figure 3 - Microsoft IT messaging architecture based on single-role Exchange servers

Figure 3. Microsoft IT messaging architecture based on single-role Exchange servers

The Microsoft IT messaging architecture relies on the following server roles and client technologies:

  • Active Directory provides the directory service for the Exchange Server environment.

  • Edge Transport servers help protect the messaging environment from the Internet or other nontrusted networks.

  • Hub Transport servers perform the internal message routing.

  • Client Access servers support Outlook Anywhere in addition to Internet-based and mobile clients.

  • Mailbox servers host the mailboxes.

  • Unified Messaging servers integrate telephony services into the messaging environment.

  • Office Outlook is the primary messaging client that Microsoft employees use to access their mailboxes.

  • Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access enables users to access their mailboxes by using a compatible Web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer® version 6.0. The user interface of Office Outlook Web Access is similar to the interface of Office Outlook.

  • Outlook Anywhere provides Outlook users with mailbox access over Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) connections without the need for a virtual private network (VPN).

  • Exchange ActiveSync® enables mobile users to synchronize their e-mail messages, calendar information, and contacts with their Windows Mobile® powered devices.

  • Telephones can be used as messaging clients in conjunction with Unified Messaging servers.

Benefits

Reasons for an organization to standardize its entire messaging environment on Exchange Server 2007 include increased scalability, reduced operational complexities, seamless integration of all messaging components, and lower TCO, in comparison to heterogeneous environments that include previous Exchange Server versions or third-party solutions. For Microsoft IT, another advantage is the ability to decommission outdated server hardware. In preparation of the Exchange Server 2007 rollout, Microsoft IT began to purchase 64-bit server hardware in the first quarter of 2005. All servers purchased since that time are capable of running Exchange Server 2007.

At Microsoft, each server role provides specific features to the overall Exchange Server environment. In combination, Exchange Server 2007 Mailbox servers, Client Access servers, Unified Messaging systems, Hub Transport servers, and Edge Transport servers provide advantages that enable Microsoft IT to realize the following benefits.

Note: For more information regarding the hardware design per server role, see Appendix A at the end of this paper.

Reduced Costs

Exchange Server 2007 Mailbox servers support server clustering without shared storage. Log shipping is the technology to keep the databases on primary and standby servers synchronized. Eliminating shared storage in the mailbox server design is the basis to replace SAN-based storage with DAS-based storage solutions. By using this approach, Microsoft IT can lower storage costs per user while increasing mailbox sizes by up to a factor of 10 in comparison to Exchange Server 2003.

With the deployment of Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft IT also replaced tape-based backups with backups to disk. Eliminating tape-based backups was possible because Microsoft IT is not required to keep data on tape, and it was necessary to support large mailbox databases with quotas of 2 GB per mailbox. The new backup strategy will save Microsoft IT $5 million per year in backup tape costs alone, and it builds the foundation for improved service level agreements (SLAs) for backups.

Increased Productivity and Efficiency for Employees

Unified Messaging servers are the foundation that Microsoft IT uses to integrate Exchange Server 2007 with the corporate IP telephony infrastructure. This integration turns the standard telephone into a full-featured messaging client. This capability is particularly useful for revenue-generating employees who want to use their mobile phones to get the latest information while driving to customers.

Unified Messaging also enables Microsoft IT to replace voice mail systems with Exchange Server 2007. Delivering voice and fax messages directly to the user's mailbox helps to support productivity and efficiency because employees do not need to check separate systems by using different devices in order to stay informed. Voice mail, faxes, e-mail messages, appointments, tasks, and calendar information are available over a variety of devices that range from standard computers to the telephone. With increased mailbox quotas, Microsoft employees can keep all information centrally available on the mailbox server.

Decreased Helpdesk Calls

Client Access servers provide users with access to Office Outlook Web Access, which enables users to resolve many of the most common sources of Helpdesk calls on their own. For example, a Microsoft employee can use Office Outlook Web Access to request a Unified Messaging personal identification number (PIN) reset or perform a remote wipe of his or her mobile device if the device is lost or stolen.

Enforcement of Regulatory Compliance

In an Exchange Server 2007 environment, all messages, including messages sent between users that have their mailboxes on the same server, must pass through Hub Transport servers. This functionality enables Microsoft IT to establish and enforce regulatory policies on internal and outbound messages, voice mail, and faxes. For example, Microsoft IT uses the compliance features of Exchange Server 2007 to perform message journaling based on sender, recipient, and content, and to append disclaimers to outgoing messages.

Reduced Business Risks

One of the most important advancements that enabled Microsoft IT to reduce business risks is Continuous Replication based on log shipping. With Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft IT performed daily backups on all mailbox servers between 8:00 P.M. and midnight. As a result, the backup solution did not protect the most recent, and therefore the most important, messaging data. If a disaster occurred, all messages received after the last completed backup operation would be lost permanently. With Exchange Server 2007 and Continuous Replication, all data is readily available on a standby server.

Another important enabler to reduce business risks (specifically risks coming from the Internet) is the Edge Transport server role. Microsoft IT deployed Edge Transport servers isolated from the corporate messaging environment to increase network security. Microsoft IT also increased security by configuring one-way synchronization of configuration, recipient, and sender reputation data. By using Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft IT fine-tuned spam and virus filters to eliminate unwanted messages with higher precision before threats reach the production environment, while at the same time decreasing the number of false positives.

Conclusion

Exchange Server 2007 on the 64-bit platform is the answer that Microsoft IT needed to keep pace with ever-increasing demands for performance, mailbox capacity, and advanced messaging features. The new Exchange Server version supports five separate server roles, which enable Microsoft IT to structure the internal messaging environment by using a multiple-tier design that separates users, business logic, and data. The multiple-tier design increases the flexibility, scalability, and maintainability of the messaging environment.

Exchange Server 2007 provides advanced and new features not available in previous versions, including native support of 64-bit server hardware, continuous replication of transaction logs, and built-in IP telephony features for Unified Messaging. Based on these capabilities, Microsoft IT ensures that the corporate messaging environment supports mission-critical and revenue-generating employees better than ever before. With Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft IT can increase service levels and messaging protection, comply with emerging regulatory requirements, reduce business risks, improve backup operations, and lower costs by more than $5 million per year.

To maximize the return on investment (ROI), Microsoft IT used Exchange Server 2007 to replace all 32-bit Exchange servers. This approach provides the most business benefits because it reduces operational complexities and provides seamless integration of all messaging components in the production environment.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (800) 563-9048. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information via the World Wide Web, go to:

http://www.microsoft.com

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itshowcase

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