Virtualization Solutions For Microsoft Exchange Server Computer Science Essay

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The idea of this project initially generated from the research carried out in the module Project Skills, an interest of Bare Metal Virtualization and further more a Virtualized Exchange environment particularly in low budget. Regular discussions with Mr. Edwin Keen and Mr. Rob Campbell, the findings prior to extensive research, using a limited resourced hardware structure for virtualized and dedicated MS Exchange 2010 and observing performance issues in both environments. After final discussion and full support from Mr. Keen (Supervisor) this project will be shaped as a Mail Box performance comparison by using stress tools between a dedicated physical and various options of virtualized MS Exchange 2010 Server.

2.1 Introduction to Virtualization

Virtualization is a concept of specially designed software's which provides safe and smooth environment to run multiple operating systems on a single physical hardware/Server. (Ruest et al., 2009, p.25,30) The idea of virtualization emerged in 1960's and IBM was the first to implement. It was used to partition Mainframes to achieve better performance by creating separate virtual machines and having numerous applications running at the same time. As time went on and x86 processing took hold in the industry and personal computer became common in practice as clients and servers. In 1999 VMware introduced x86 processor virtualization which then was enhanced by the support of Hardware assisted technology in 2006 by the main processor vendors Intel and AMD as Intel VT-x and AMD-V type processors. (Available at; vmware.com)

Whereas on the other hand XEN was released in 2003 as open source in a university project research, using Para-virtualization techniques which provide software boundary in between Virtual Machine and the actual hardware so that it can simply execute program separately in a virtual environment without the involvement of Host operating system. In 2007 Citrix acquired XEN and leaving XEN Hypervisor Server as an open source free to all apart from their other enterprise virtualization products. (Archer, 2009)

XEN Hypervisor Server version 5.6 is being used in this project as open source free virtualization software which has the combination of Para-virtualization and Hardware assisted virtualization technology to achieve best possible performance to virtualizes Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.

2.1.1 VMware ESXi Hypervisor for Virtualization

VMware ESXi Server is an open source Hypervisor with hardware assisted virtualization and compatible to virtualization of Exchange Server 2010. According to VMware ESXi Server can be installed over known versions of Intel and AMD CPU's. (Available at; vmware.com)

In this project VMware ESXi 4.1 64 Bit version will also be used for Exchange 2010 virtualization in comparison with other virtualization environments.

2.1.2 Why not Consider VMware Workstation?

VMware workstation 7.1 is another new cheap and powerfully featured Virtualization Software which actually runs like an application over an existing host operating system. It maps the physical computer hardware resources into virtual machine resources which perform as a standard x86 machine with all its own hardware features like CPU, memory, hard disk, etc. VMware workstation 7.1 with its new feature of 8 virtual processor or 8 virtual cores can play a good role in exploring Exchange 2010 virtualization comparison. (Available at; vmware.com)

2.1.3 Why Citrix XEN Hypervisor for Virtualization?

First thing to know about virtualization of an MS Exchange Server is that whether it is supported by Microsoft for virtualization or not? The answer is Yes Microsoft does support Exchange Server's Virtualization. Now to be more precise about Exchange 2010 on Hypervisor, the answer is yes again fully compatible and supported on Microsoft Server 2008 Hyper- V and third party Hypervisors too. (Available at; windowsservercatalog.com)

2.2 Introduction to Microsoft Exchange Server

Exchange Server 4.0 RTM was the first Exchange Server version designed by Microsoft in 1996, since then six major versions are released and latest being MS Exchange Server 2010. (Richter, 2009)

Microsoft Exchange Server is designed for Emailing. Exchange server is used in a combination with Microsoft outlook as a client at the user end. Outlook collaborative features like share calendars and contact lists are one of the most essential requirements for organisations. (Available at; searchexchange.techtarget.com) As the technology is moving towards more advancement most of the systems are already moved to the 64 Bit platform for enhanced performance adoption, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 is claimed to be one of the stable and reliable emailing server system based on 64 bit platform, capable of fulfilling the industrial requirements. (Morimoto, et al., 2009, p.75)

SMTP, POP3, IMAP and HTTP Email Protocols are used to communicate between clients and Exchange server in various access situations. (Available at; emailaddressmanager.com)

2.2.1 Exchange Server Deployment, a Challenging Job

Deploying and configuring an Exchange Server is a challenging job as said by Bharat Suneja 'A healthy Exchange Server environment depends on the successful configuration and interaction of multiple variables. If even one aspect of your Exchange Server deployment isn't set up or maintained properly, it can create a cascade effect that hurts your entire Exchange Server ecosystem'. (Suneja, 2007)

There are some prerequisites for system hardware to have stable installation of MS Exchange 2010 which are as follows.

Minimum Hard Disk 1.2 GB of free space and at least 200 MB of additional free space required for further configurations of the server depending upon the actual requirements of the system.

Minimum of 4 to 8 GB Physical Random Access Memory and Maximum from 16 to 64 GB vary between actual Server Roles implemented.

Minimum Processor cores requirement starts from 1 to 2 and 12 or 24 being maximum depending upon the Server Roles. (Cyr, K. 2010)

In relation to software the prerequisites are as follows.

The Operating System required for Exchange Server 2010 installation is Windows Server 2008 Standard or Enterprise Edition with Service Pack 2; 64 Bit and other option is Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard or Enterprise R2 Edition.

Active Directory and Domain must be configured before installing Exchange as Exchange works in integration with Active Directory. (Available at; technet.microsoft.com)

3 Specification

3.1 Non- Technical Requirements

3.1.1 The End User Requirements

One of the top priority and vital requirements in an organisation is communication. No matter how the emailing solution is provided and configured for an organisation the Exchange Administrator is responsible for the reliability and stability of Electronic mail communication. (Desai, 2010)

If Exchange server 2010 is planned for deployment as an email server the end user requirements according to the budget and available facilities should be kept in mind too, some of them are mentioned below.

Understanding the need of end user for client usage or simply access email through Outlook Web Access.

The Planned Client Access software to Exchange 2010 for deployment, keeping budget, Compatibility and Performance in mind e.g if using Outlook then Licensing from Microsoft which is actually included with each Exchange Client Access License (CAL). (Posey, 2010)

Hands on training to keep the organisation's staff updated and fully functional to the new emailing client.

Mobile devices email access configuration and hands on training

3.2 Technical Requirements

The main technical requirements for this project are Software, Hardware and their Compatibility and appropriate usage.

3.2.1 Hardware Requirements

Following Hardware will be required to create this setup which will be personally purchased.

XEN Hypervisor Server Requirements:

Processor: AMD Phenom II X 6 1055T 2.8 to 3.3 GHz 64-Bit Processor: (AMD-V Hardware Assisted Technology)

Motherboard: Gigabyte, AM3 Socket, DDR 3 1800+ Bus Speed

Memory: 4 to 8GB DDR3, 1333 MHz Bus Speed

Hard Disks: 2 x 500 GB SATA 16 MB Cache 300 Mb/s

2 x Integrated Network Adaptor Interface 1 Gb/s or as required

DVD RW

XEN Centre Requirements:

Laptop or Desktop

AMD 64 Bit Processor

Memory: 2GB DDR2, 533 MHz Bus Speed

Hard Disk: 80 GB

1 x Integrated Network Adaptor Interface, 10/100Mb/s

A Multifunctional Device (Belkin Home Wired/Wireless Router/Switch/DHCP for Remote Access to XEN Hypervisor)

Testing Purpose if required borrowed from University:

2-3 PC Server Machines with Standard Xeon Processor 2MB level 2 cache from the C2-017 Lab

Memory: 2GB - 4GB RAM

250GB - 500GB Hard Disk

2 x Integrated Network Interface 1 Gb

DVD RW

Hardware Technical Conceptions

Processor

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has always provided more cores for fewer prices as compared to Intel. AMD Phenom II X 6 1000T Series is the first Desktop six cores processor launched by AMD in May 2010.

Phenom II X 6 1055T is chosen for this project as it is all based on performance Investigation. Phenom 1055T has 2.8 GHz normal Clock Speed and as it has a feature called Turbo Core Technology so it can achieve up to 3.3 GHz.

CPU Cache

A CPU Cache Concept is a memory built in a processor for a fast access as it is many times faster than the Random Access Memory (RAM). So when a request is made, the CPU needs instructions for execution of that request, CPU's looks for instruction in Level 1 (L1) cache, although there is a very small amount of data stored in Level 1 cache which helps making it faster, now if the instructions are not available in L1 it will go further and look in to L2 Cache which is slightly larger than L1 and there will be slightly additional latency, if no response from L2 then next look up is L3 Cache which is much bigger than L1 and L2, even though it is slower but still much faster than approaching RAM for execution. So that's how the Cache works in CPU architecture. So having more cache as chosen for this project will play a better performance role. (Kayne, 2010)

Hard Disk

Storage plays an important role in such kind of data base (data accessing) projects. An ideal configuration for an Exchange Server is SAN with Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) or Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) both have very high data transfer speeds from 3.0 Gb/s to 6.0 Gb/s. SATA and SAS both are full duplex which means switched serial point-to-point connection so there is no requirement of manually assigning of device IDs or ceasing connections and also data can be sent and received at the same time. (Schmid, 2007)

A 500 GB with 16 MB Cache and 300 MB/s bandwidth (data transfer speed) SATA Hard Disk is chosen for this project to carry out testing in Virtualized and Physical Exchange Server Environment.

Physical Memory (RAM)

As memory plays a major role in running applications and also Exchange has a minimum requirement of 4GB, so the memory chosen for this setup will be 8GB Dual Data Rate 3 (DDR3) Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM) with higher Bus Speed of 1333 MHz which provides high bandwidth data transfer rate to obtain better performance.

Difference between 32 and 64 Bit

As technology is moving towards advancement 64 Bit is one of the new innovation which provides better performance, the question is how? The computer hardware architecture is based on buses which plays the role of transportation of data through the linkage between memory and processor. Now to understand the concept of 32 Bit and 64 Bit, in 32 Bit the size of Data Bus is 32 Bit wide whereas 64 Bit is double width of data bus to 32 Bit which means more data can be accommodated for transportation which plays a significant role in better (Faster) performance. (Godbey, 2006)

In terms of software, 64 bit software's are designed to work in combination with 64 Bit hardware platforms to obtain optimized performance.

Why 64 Bit Platform Required for this Project?

The only version developed by Microsoft MS Exchange 2010 Server is 64 Bit, so the base platform Hypervisor for Creating Virtual environment also needs to be 64 Bit Compatible and the virtual machine will also be MS Server 2008 64 Bit version, apart from a client that does not need to be 64 Bit and will be 32 Bit MS XP operating system. Same 64 Bit combination will be used for physical dedicated environment.

3.2.2 Software Requirements

The Software used in this Project will be obtained from the Microsoft Student Alliance Account or Trial Versions directly from Vendors Website.

Citrix XEN Hypervisor 5.6 (Open Source)

VMware ESXi 4.1 Hypervisor (Open Source)

VMware Workstation 7.1

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with all required updates and Service Packs.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 with latest Service Packs

Microsoft Windows XP or Windows 7 with latest Service Packs (Client Operating Systems)

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with latest Service Packs.

Load performance testing tools

Software Technical Conceptions

What does Microsoft state about Exchange Server 2010 Virtualization by third party Hypervisor?

According to the Server Virtualization Validation Program from Microsoft, Citrix Systems, Inc. has assured to participate in the Server Validation program, so there won't be any compatibility issues regarding virtualization of MS Exchange Server over Citrix XEN Hypervisor. (Available at; technet.microsoft.com)

As a combination of Para-virtualization and Hardware assisted virtualization technology, Citrix XEN Hypervisor being a Bare Metal Virtualization solution, provides the best possible performance to virtualize Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.

What does Citrix state about MS Exchange 2010 Virtualization?

Testing for MS Exchange Server 2010 in a Citrix XEN Hypervisor environment is not available online yet, though Exchange Server 2007 has been tested and verified successfully in an ideal as required to a certain scenario hardware environment by Citrix on XEN Hypervisor.

Why Using Microsoft Outlook 2007 as a Client to Exchange?

Following are the compatible email access clients for Exchange 2010 can be used by end users. (Available at; xeda.ucdavis.edu)

Outlook 2003 Service Pack 3 (SP3)

Outlook 2007 SP1 or higher

Outlook 2010

Microsoft Outlook Web Access & Outlook Anywhere

Microsoft Entourage 2008 for MAC users. (Negrino, 2008)

Evolution (from Novell) Open Source (Available at; projects.gnome.org)

All of the above exchange client software's are compatible with MS Exchange 2010, to avoid unnecessary conflicts and issues that may distract the actual goal of this project; the chosen client for this scenario will be MS Outlook 2007 which is well matured in the Industry and officially recommended by Microsoft for being Exchange's Client.

Exchange Server Load performance testing tools

Varity of load performance testing tools are available by Microsoft which can be applied to test the load on exchange server according to the need and configuration of the actual scenario. Some of the Exchange testing software's are listed as follows.

MS Exchange Load Generator.

MS Exchange Stress and Performance tool.

Microsoft Exchange Jetstress.

Microsoft Exchange Server Profile Analyzer 2010.

Why Microsoft Exchange Load Generator?

The reason of choosing Microsoft Exchange Load Generator in particular for this scenario is that LoadGen is an officially designated tool by Microsoft for testing performance of an exchange server before bringing it to a live environment. It works uninterruptedly from one point to another from client to determine usual exchange behavior which includes Login, Mail Sending, and Creating Tasks, etc. (Hannon, 2009)

In this senario results will be measured using LoadGen regarding Email Latency observation in comparison with physical dedicated Exchange Server and Virtualized Exchange Server.

4 Strategy

The ultimate intention of this project is to Create a Guide for small company's Exchange Server 2010 Deployment in a limited budget with or without Virtualization Environment by measuring different parameters and achieving an excellence Mail Box performance, testing's of Virtualized and dedicated Exchange Server 2010 by the usage of appropriate software and hardware combination and further more recommendations of alternatives to MS Exchange Server. It requires a further in-depth research which will be a gateway to new perceptions.

4.1 Management structure and Assets Planning

The management structure of this project will be based on four main aspects.

Arrangement of all equipment as required within time and Budget.

Time Management for each and every Task. (Clearly detailed in Schedule)

Managing and resolving unforeseen issues.

Regular Discussions and progress report to Mr. Edwin Keen (Project Supervisor)

4.2 Operations Planning

To make this project operational and to achieve the intended Goals following steps of methodology will be adapted:

For Virtualized Environment:

Installation and Configuration of Citrix XEN and VMware ESXi Hypervisor 64 Bit.

Deploying a Router with DHCP functionality connected to XEN and ESXi Server (IP address allocation to XEN and ESXi through DHCP)

Installation of XEN and V Centre on Physical XP Laptop connected to router to have Remote access to XEN and ESXi Server

Installation and Configurations of Virtual Machines (Operating Systems MS Server 2008 SP2; 64 Bit & XP SP3; 32 Bit)

Setting up of Domain Controller and DNS Server

Installation and Configuration of MS Exchange Server 2010

Manual Creation of Mail Boxes (if required)

Installation and Configuration of Domain's and Exchange's Client MS Outlook 2007 on XP Machine

Installation and Configuration of MS Load Generator 2010

Mail Box Load Generator Testing's

All Testing's log Documentation

For Physical Dedicated Server Environment:

Installation and Configuration of MS Server 2008 SP2 on Physical Hard Disk

Setting up of Domain Controller, DNS Server and Static IP Allocation

Installation and Configuration of MS Exchange Server 2010

Manual Creation of Mail Boxes (if required)

Installation and Configuration of Domain's and Exchange's Client MS Outlook 2007 on XP Machine

Installation and Configuration of MS Load Generator 2010

Mail Box Load Generator Testing's

All Testing's log Documentation

4.3 Goals to Achieve

Both Virtualized and Dedicated environments will have identical hardware configurations and also similar Multiple Exchange Server roles running mentioned below:

Mailbox Server

Client Access Server

Unified Messaging Server

Hub Transport Server

Edge Transport Server. (Available at; technet.microsoft.com)

To calculate the Exchange performance following parameters will be measured using Microsoft Load Generator and Reliability and Performance Monitor as described in Citrix Technical White Paper. (Available at; citrix.com)

Send Mail action Latency: (by load generator) It will be the average time taken for the complete process of sending email successfully through exchange structure, Microsoft recommends Send Mail action Latency should be under 500 Milliseconds.

Send Mail action Latency, 95th percentile: (by load generator) It demonstrates the maximum measured Send Mail action Latency but it will not count the highest 5% point of the action considering as peculiarity in Exchange Server activities. Microsoft recommendation of Send Mail action Latency 95 percentile should be under 1000 Milliseconds.

CPU Percentage Utilization - Average: CPU utilization will be measured by the server 'PERFMON' utility and will be demonstrated in CPU average utilization rate which will be up to a maximum of 100 percent for the duration of the whole test.

CPU Percentage Utilization - Maximum: the maximum particular point of CPU utilization rate reached by the Exchange Server 2010 will be showed by the Servers 'PERFMON' utility.

Disk Input/output per Second (IOPS) Mailbox: System Monitor tool will be used to monitor the disk read I/O per Second Latency for actual time of communication between the database and the Exchange Server. Disk usage IOPS required per user is measured within the peak two hours on the Server. The highest suggested rate of Disk IOPS is 500 Milliseconds. Following formula is available on technet.microsoft.com to calculate IOPS/Mailbox.

IOPS/Mailbox = (average disk transfer/sec) / (number of mailboxes)

RPC (Remote Procedure Call) Latency - Average: RPC average Latency is store.exe process. The information store service can only provide service up to 100 RPC requests concurrently before it starts turning-down client requests. When server start facing handling problems with RPC requests in a required time, they start gathering which creates latency. The Microsoft's recommended average RPC latency for Exchange Server 2010 is less than 50 Milliseconds. (Available at; technet.microsoft.com)

RPC Latency, 95th Percentile: the maximum level of RPC Latency is measured during the test and not counting the highest 5% point of the action considering as peculiarity in Exchange Server activities. Microsoft recommends the maximum level of RPC Latency 95th percentile should be under 100 Milliseconds.

The intention of these tests is a finding of boundary line of quality performance within this scenario. These tests will be performed three times with three different hardware configurations on virtual and dedicated Exchange environments and the above mentioned measurements will be taken in three different hours of the tests as 2, 4 and 8 hours to obtain the accuracy and calculating the average. The three hardware configurations are as follows:

Change in Physical Memory as 3 GB with 2 Core Processor

Change in Physical Memory as 4 GB with 4 Core Processor

Change in Physical Memory as 4 GB with 6 Core Processor

Above Scenario Benchmark Description:

Changes in Processor Cores will only be configured in various virtual environments testing's.

2000 heavy user mailboxes for physical and virtualized Exchange Server 2010 Testing's carried out in the above three tests.

4000 heavy user mailboxes for physical and virtualized Exchange Server 2010 Testing's carried out in the above three tests.

Comparison and Recommendations:

A complete documentation and creation of a guide of the test results and Evaluation of Mail Box Performance Comparison between Bare Metal Virtual and other Virtual and Dedicated Physical Exchange Server Environment and recommendations through research and Case Study on alternatives for Exchange Server with regard to all aspects and needs of emailing system of organizations in general.

5 Schedule

Printed Copy Delivered at School Office in Microsoft Project Format.

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