The Impact of Windows Server 2008 on Exchange Server Environments

The release of Windows Server 2008 earlier this year marked a long awaited upgrade to the Windows Operating system. For Exchange Server administrators it happened at a precarious moment in time. Many organizations had already deployed Exchange Server 2007 prior to the release of Windows Server 2008. This, of course meant, that they had already deployed Exchange 2007 on the Windows Server 2003 64-bit platform. Those that have decided to upgrade their Exchange 2007 servers from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 had some additional hurdles to cross. Up until recently I felt that most administrators understood the impact. However, in the classes I have been teaching over the last month I have noticed an increase in the number of students whose organizations are just now beginning their move to Windows Server 2008 both for Active Directory servers and for Exchange Servers. Surprisingly, many of them were unaware of the impact that deploying Windows 2008 will have. I felt it was important to write about the specific challenges that Exchange 2007 administrators will face in this process. I’ve also put some references in this blog for further reading on the subject.

Regardless of the challenges you may face upgrading from Windows 2003 to Windows 2008 there are a number of compelling benefits that Windows Server 2008 Provides to Exchange Server 2007. Here are some of the top reasons people are upgrading:

  • Hyper-V
  • Failover Clusters – CCR and SCC Geographically Dispersed
  • AD Federated Rights Management
  • SMB V2 for 40% increase in throughput / performance for log shipping
  • IIS 7.0
  • New TCP/IP Stack
  • Dynamic Hardware Partitioning for reduced outages
  • Self-healing NTFS
  • Server Manager and PowerShell
  • IPv6 for HUB and Edge (Not UM)
  • Storage manager for SANs
  • Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor – System Stability Report
  • Integrated SCW

For additional information on the benefits see http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2008/03/05/448338.aspx and http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc753208.aspx .

When upgrading to Windows Server 2008 there are a number of provisions for Exchange Server that must be made or adhered to. You cannot for instance upgrade Windows 2003 to Windows 2008 and then Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2007 SP1. You cannot upgrade Exchange 2007 RTM to Exchange 2007 SP1 and then upgrade Windows 2003 to Windows 2008. In short you must install Windows 2008 on a server that doesn’t have Exchange 2007 and then install Exchange 2007 SP1. After that you can move the mailboxes over to the new server. If you currently have a Windows 2003 Cluster you will not be able to do a rolling update from Windows 2003 to Windows 2008 for the same reasons you cannot do that on a standalone server. You will have to deploy a Windows 2008 Failover cluster on new hardware, Deploy Exchange 2007 SP1 and then move mailboxes from the 2003 cluster to the 2008 failover cluster. More detail is available in Microsoft’s official guidance at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc296562.aspx .

You should be aware of Exchange Server and Windows 2008 server scenarios that are not supported as well.

  • Exchange 2000 and Windows 2008 DCs cannot exist in the same AD Site
  • Exchange Servers do not use RODCs or ROGSs
  • Exchange 2003 will not install into a child domain of a pure 2008 forest
  • SCR does not support cross-platform (Windows 2003 – Windows 2008) replication

You will need to become familiar with the steps to provision Windows 2008 for Exchange 2007 you can find details on the requirements for each Exchange 2007 role at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb691354.aspx

Finally, I think one of the biggest surprises to Exchange administrators is that currently you cannot back up Exchange Server with the built in Windows 2008 Backup utility. Current options include using Microsoft System Center DPM 2007 VSS backups or Third-party VSS backup solution. Good news for those that have waited until now is that Exchange Server 2007 SP2 will include an Exchange 2007 VSS-based plug in for Windows Server Backup. For more information on Exchange 2007 you can see my previous blog “Paving the way for Exchange 2010 with Exchange 2007 Service Pack 2”.

-Rich Luckett

Related Courses:

Configuring, Managing, and Maintaining Server 2008

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

Ultimate Exchange Server 2007

Author: Richard Luckett

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