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Using Clustering with Exchange Server 2003

December 3, 2004

Published: December 13, 2003

Please note: Portions of this transcript have been edited for clarity

Introduction

Moderator: KenM (Microsoft)
Welcome to today's Technet Chat. Our topic is “Using Clustering with Exchange Server 2003.” Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome.

Moderator: KenM (Microsoft)
I'll now have the hosts introduce themselves.

Host: Joe (Microsoft)
I'm Joe. I'm the writer responsible writing the document.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Hi, I'm David Emmick; the Exchange PM for clustering and disaster recovery

Host: Kurt (Microsoft)
Hi. my name is Kurt Friedrich (kurt_ms) and I am the Product Unit Manager for Micorsoft's Server Clusters.

Host: janc (Microsoft)
Hi and welcome to our chat. I’m a technical editor at Microsoft.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Hi my name is Dave Lalor and I was responsible for the OTG cluster designs A: response

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Hi, I'm Jan. I'm a technical writer who writes about server clusters (although I did not write the white paper that's the subject for this chat).

Moderator: KenM (Microsoft)
Ken McGrath here, TechNet/MSN Web and Communities Producer.

Moderator: KenM (Microsoft)
We're ready to go.

Start of Chat

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
What are the improvements of Exchange 2003 clusters on Windows 2003 with Exchange 2000 clusters on Windows 2000 ?
A: Will scale to 8 nodes on Adv server & Datacenter. Supports Kerberos. Support for mount points Supports IPSEC between FE/BE.

Host: David (Microsoft)
A:
Faster Failover - Dependency tree is flattened. Added security ( cluster service ac is currently EFA ). Better Disaster Recovery support. No reboot needed for VM frag on passive node

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Is there a guide of tuning tricks, best practices for Exch2k3 Cluster Setup on Win2k3 ?
A: There is a white paper on MSDN with details on the Exchange deployment in OTG and best practices. Search for OTG and Exchange, Clustering

Host: Joe (Microsoft)
Q:
Is it possible to do an unattended setup of a cluster node with Exchange 2003 ?
A: Yes, you can automate the addition of a node. However you cannot automate the configuration of the Exchange resources.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Are backups of Exchange databases hosted on clusters different than those hosted on a stand alone server?
A: From a product perspective there is no change. There are benefits available with cluster used within the internal design. We use a two stage backup, disk to disk on the active node, once complete we move the disks to a passive node to offload the content to tape

Host: Kurt (Microsoft)
Q:
does clustering involve front end and backend servers and if so what are the benefits and effects on network bandwidth
A: Not in general. Clustering is simply having a spare node to take over if a primary fails. It should not affect bandwidth.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Can you tell us more about Active/Active mode ?
A: Active/Active is supported but better results can be achieved with multiple nodes. In OTG we have an active/active/active/active/passive design, supporting 80 databases.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
You can scale better with a multimode design. In an active/active you are limited to 20 databases.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
Everyone wants high availability from Exchange, but is an Exchange Cluster solution always the right answer? Describe what you feel are customer requirements that would deem a clustered Exchange solution 'necessary'.
A: See the Exchange Green book chapter 5 of what’s new Guide on clustering and reliability < http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=84236bd9-ac54-4113-b037-c04a96a977fd&DisplayLang=en>

Host: David (Microsoft)
A:
continued and chapter 5 of planning Guide http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/Exchange2003/proddocs/library/MessSyst.asp

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Is it right that Exchange 2000/2003 can handle a lot more of 4 Storage Groups ? Is it just a UI limitation ?
A: We support 4 SG’s per Virtual Server, there is nothing to stop you having multiple virtual servers in a single multimode cluster.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
Internally in Microsoft we are hosting 16 Storage group across 4 virtual servers per cluster.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
Is there a tool to analyze/interpret the cluster.log file ?
A: The Clusdiag.exe tool doesn't specifically interpret the cluster log, but it does help you collect and analyze info about the cluster. See http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/techinfo/reskit/tools/default.mspx

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
Do we still use KB article 304736 to extend the shared disk?
A: this KB is still relevant for Windows 2003

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
In the article "Exchange 2003 Design and Architecture",, from MS, it says that OTG switched back to 100MB adapters. Can you elaborate further on why that was done. What was the "performance degradation" w the gigabit adapters
A: We had no performance issues with GigiE fiber during normal operations. The problem we experienced was due to GBIC degradation over time that caused issue.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
We moved from backing up over the network to backing up to fiber tape devices we did not need the throughput of GigE.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
With over 4000 200MB mailboxes per virtual server we see peak bytes on the wire of 3 to 4Mb/sec well within the sustainable capability of a 100Mb adapter.

Host: janc (Microsoft)
Q:
What is EFA?
A: Exchange Full Administrator.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
Could I run an Active/Passive with the FE on the passive node? Would failover be affected?
A: The FE is an instance of Exchange; only one instance is supported on a node. Failover would not occur.

Host: Per (Microsoft)
Hi All. My name is Per Farny (Per_MS) and I work in MCS on the EC3 Enterprise Messaging Team.

Host: Kurt (Microsoft)
Q:
We have 3500 users on a single exchange 2003 server, would this be enough to warrant clustering
A: You should cluster to get availability, if you have 10 users or 3500. If your business costs of mail being down are serious, then it is a good investment.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
The article also mentions that you are evaluating the use of volume shadowing w Exchange. How is the testing going?

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
We were on hold to test and deploy this technology due to a lack of availability of SAN providers.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
The providers are now becoming available (HP and EMC/Clariion as per our storage requirements) and we will start testing with the intent of deploying for a specific project.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
We will follow up with best practices which I expect to be available towards the end of Feb.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
Is it possible to have a virtual drive letter to see the contents of a previous Volume Shadow Copy snapshot ?
A: This is not supported

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Can we do SAN Snapshot to do backup of Exchange databases ?
A: Your dependency is on the SAN vendor to deliver a Provider. You also need a Requestor which will be supplied by your backup vendor.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
The writer in ready within Exchange 3003. All the components conform to the Volume Shadow Copy process.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
Are there any tools or documentation to help migrate from an Exchange 5.5 cluster to an Exchange 2003 cluster?
A: The key thing to learn about is migration of Exchange (not clustering). You would probably find the Exchange Server 2003 Deployment Guide useful.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
A:
cont'd It's at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/2003/library/depguide.mspx

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
If we chose to go Active/Active/Active/Active/Passive as you recommend, how many server licenses are required for Exchange and the OS it is running on?
A: You need a server license per host (cluster node) and Exchange license per virtual instance. In the case discussed you need 5 server and 5 Exchange

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
I have a customer that currently operates an Active/Passive Exchange cluster on SAN A. Customer is deploying a new SAN environment and needs to move the cluster to SAN B. Is this supported? If so, is there an article that describes the steps?
A: Best approach is to bring on a new cluster with SAN B and move mailboxes. Less downtime required to swap a SAN.

Host: Per (Microsoft)
Q:
We plan to implement Full Text Indexing on our Exchange 2003 Clusters. Is there some specific recommendation/best practices to do this ?
A: Take a look at the following paper that discusses this. Full text indexing has not significantly changed from Exchange 2000, so the content is still valid. http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=d7d73256-459c-4b5e-827f-256fa21dd38a&displaylang=en

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Sorry for the broken message. what would you recommend as a minimum config for testing purposes if you have limited machine resources?
A: Avoid SCSI attached J Try and use a fiber attached solution, there are many entry level storage options available. You can use any host (node) for getting familiar but follow Cluster Hardware Compatibility Lists for production deployment.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
Our Backup vendor is Veritas with Backup Exec 9.0 and our san vendor is HP. Do you know if it's ready ?
A: VSS Sanpshot support: Veritas - BackupExec 9.1 supports VSS; currently in beta; HP Network Array (HW provider) is released and HP Openview Data Storage Data Protector 5.11 is released.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
David_MS Thank you but BE 9.1 is a netware version. Are you sure of the version number ?
A: yes

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
In a previous beta of Exchange2k, it was possible to host more than 4 SGs on a Virtual Server. Why have you removed that feature ?
A: I remember early discussions on E2K beta for increased SG support. We are locked on 4 SG per VS in E2K and E2K3

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
In OTG we have 16 SG’s per cluster with 4 active exchange instances. We also support a new feature called an RSG (Recovery Storage Group) per virtual instance.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
This is in response to JakeW 's question, asking for more details about the backup config.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
cont'd... It's also just for general information, for people who don't have ready access

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
cont'd... to the link to the paper about the Exchange/cluster configuration.
A: Details about an example configuration are in "Using Clustering with Exchange 2003: An Example"

Host: jan (Microsoft)
A:
cont'd http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windowsserver2003/technologies/clustering/scenep2.mspx

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
We will go soon to production with our Exchange 2003 clusters. Is there some recommended hotfixes/rollup to install at this time for Exchange 2003/Windows 2003 (except the security ones) ?
A: If you’re using Emulex adapters I suggest you use A16 of the driver to prevent a throttle down condition after a bus reset.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
There’s also a stop D1 BSOD we experienced requiring hot fixed SCSIPORT.sys. Not sure of the KB number.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
The problem was experienced under very high loads. Otherwise I’m not aware of any.

Host: Per (Microsoft)
Q:
My understanding is to run OWA for Exchange 2003 you need to install a complete copy of Exchange 2003 on the OWA server. We plan on having a Exchange 2003 Active\Passive cluster. How many copies of Exchange do we need licenses for?
A: Two Exchange server license, 2 OS licenses.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
There has been talk about a bug in owa 2k3 when a user authenticates it takes them into a totally separate users mailbox, Is there a fix available yet, if not when will one be available
A: This was a regression caused by a Windows Update download. The problem has been identified and resolved.

Host: Kurt (Microsoft)
Q:
What are the most important causes of Exchange cluster failures ?
A: Mis-configured/mis-managed storage (SANs). It is critical that the SAN be a certified config, kept up to date with firmware/driver changes, and managed well.

Host: Kurt (Microsoft)
If the SAN is shared by other systems, LUN masking and switch zoning must be done correctly.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
Can we compare the contents of PFs replicas with a tool like PFInfo. I have seen that

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
cont'd.... PFInfo isn't supported anymore on Exchange 2003. In the past, we had some

Host: jan (Microsoft)
Q:
cont'd.... bad experience with PFs replicas where the status was "In Sync" but the content wasn't.
A: I don't have a very specific answer for you (& the q isn't specifically about clustering

Host: jan (Microsoft)
A:
cont'd... Exchange, the focus of this chat) -- but information about public folder

Host: jan (Microsoft)
A:
cont'd... replication is in the Exchange Server 2003 Administration Guide.

Host: jan (Microsoft)
A:
cont'd... So it might be useful. It's at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/2003/library/admingde.mspx

Host: Joe (Microsoft)
Q:
What are the performance improvements of Exchange 2003 between Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 ?
A: Please see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa997557.aspx.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
Q:
Your back strategy (each node to disk and then mount disk on another node to offload to tape) sounds interesting. Do you have the details of this config posted on the web somewhere? What are the advantages to doing backups like this?
A: Details are on MSDN, search for OTG, Backup and Exchange. The benefits are obvious in reduced backup windows.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
We are doing an online backup of 1TB of production database space in approx. 3.5 hours to disks.

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
This content is then moved to what we class as alternate passive nodes to offload the disk to tape backup process

Host: dave (Microsoft)
A:
This process can run at anytime during the day and not impact user experience on the active nodes.

Host: David (Microsoft)
Q:
What sort of training is recommended for administrators that want to implement and manage Exchange 2003 clustering?
A: See the "Deploying Exchange 2000 Server Clusters" white paper. http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/exchange2000/proddocs/articles/cluster/dme2ksc.asp

Host: Per (Microsoft)
There has been talk about a bug in owa 2k3 when a user authenticates it takes them into a totally separate users mailbox, Is there a fix available yet, if not when will one be available?

Host: Per (Microsoft)
A:
Disregard the above answer as we got some wires crossed. See information available at http://support.microsoft.com/?id=832769 and http://support.microsoft.com/?id=832749 for details and configuration guidance on how to avoid this issue.

Moderator: KenM (Microsoft)
Thanks for joining us today and thanks for the questions. It's time for us to go now.

Moderator: KenM (Microsoft)
Please see the chats schedule for upcoming topics.

For further information on this topic, please visit the following:

Newsgroups: Exchange Server

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