Software

Preparing for Exchange 2000

Ready or not, Exchange 2000 is here. Before you grab the Exchange 2000 CD and run Setup, there are a few preparations you must make on your network. In this Daily Drill Down, Brien Posey discusses some of them.


Exchange 2000 is finally here. With all the hype that’s surrounded this new release, it’s tempting to run right out to buy it and install it immediately. Installing Exchange 2000 isn’t a simple process, however. There’s a lot of planning and preparation that you must do before running the Setup program, especially if you have Exchange 5.5 servers in your organization. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll discuss some of the planning and prep work.

Hardware planning
Before you even think about installing Exchange 2000, the first thing you need to do is verify that your servers meet the hardware requirements. Exchange 2000 is even more of a resource hog then Exchange 5.5. For example, in a pinch, I once ran Exchange 5.5 on a machine that had only 64 MB of RAM. Of course, this wasn’t the recommended amount of memory, but it worked. Microsoft has stated that the minimum amount of memory for Exchange 2000 is 128 MB. However, Microsoft has also stated that Exchange 2000 doesn’t run very well on 128 MB. They recommend having 256 MB or more for a smooth running system.

Microsoft at one point claimed that Exchange 2000 would run on a 133-MHz processor. Don’t even think about it. Your Exchange 2000 server should have at least a 400-MHz Pentium II or equivalent processor.

A single fast processor may not even be enough. Although not a stringent requirement, Microsoft recommends using at least two processors on Exchange servers. Keep in mind, though, that if you start with a single processor and then decide that it’s too slow, adding a second processor won’t double the speed. There are several reasons for this. First, part of the processing power must be used to delegate tasks between the two processors. Also, the two processors share a common system board, hard disk, memory, etc. and must sometimes wait for these resources to become available.

Another important consideration is the network connection. Exchange 2000 can place a huge load on your network. Not only does it route messages within your organization, it also routes messages to and from the Internet. At a minimum, I recommend making sure that each of your Exchange servers has a 10/100-Mbps Ethernet connection. You can go far beyond that, though. For example, you might upgrade to FDDI (fiber optics) or Gigabit Ethernet. Another alternative is to use multiple network cards in each server. For example, you might use one network card in each server as a dedicated backbone between Exchange servers. With the correct configuration, Exchange 2000 will send most of the inter-server communications along this dedicated path and save the primary route for communications with clients.

Now, let’s look at the hard disk requirements. Few things can cause as many problems for an Exchange server as hard disks that are too small, too slow, or both. At a minimum, your hard disks must have enough space to store the Windows 2000 operating system, Internet Information Server, Exchange 2000, some directory information, the Exchange information stores, and the transaction logs. To get an idea of the space requirements, consider that a basic Windows 2000 Advanced Server running IIS and Active Directory requires about 750 MB of disk space. A basic Exchange installation will consume another 180 to 200 MB. As with Exchange 5.5, the transaction log files are still 5 MB each.

These disk space requirements are a bit misleading, though. The figures that I’ve just quoted imply that you can put a 2-GB hard disk into a server and run Exchange 2000. While this may be true, it’s impractical for several reasons.

For starters, a 2-GB hard disk doesn’t leave much space for a page file or for the information store. Sure, an empty information store is only a few MB. However, it’s not at all uncommon for an information store to grow to 30 GB or larger. Therefore, it’s critical that your server has lots of free hard disk space.

This doesn’t mean that if you simply put a 75-GB hard disk into the server everything will be fine. Obviously, 75 GB is plenty of space, but using a single hard disk is a bad idea from a speed and fault tolerance standpoint. Remember that Exchange 2000 is extremely disk intensive. Therefore, Microsoft recommends placing the information store on a stripe set so that your server can read from or write to multiple hard disks at once. I recommend using a stripe set with parity (RAID5), so that if there’s ever a hard disk failure, you won’t lose data.

Microsoft also recommends placing the transaction logs on a separate hard disk. That way, Exchange can write transaction logs and read and write to the information store simultaneously. Remember, though, that to get any performance gain from this separation, you must use a separate physical disk, not just a separate partition on a single hard disk or a separate partition on a RAID array.

Another reason for separating the information store from the transaction logs is that the transaction logs are used in disaster recovery situations. The transaction logs build a record of everything that’s changed since the time of the last backup (new messages, calendar entries, etc.). In a crash situation, you’d restore the backup, and then Exchange would use the transaction logs to fill in everything that had changed since the time of the backup. If the transaction logs are stored on the same volume as the information store, then there’s a good chance that both the information store and the transaction logs could be destroyed during a crash, making it impossible to completely recover the server. Finally, it’s a bad idea to put the transaction logs and the information store in the same location, because the two components can both grow and fill up the hard disk.

With Exchange being so hard-disk hungry, your first instinct may be to make the RAID array containing the information store absolutely huge. Going overboard may be a bad idea, however. Remember that regardless of the size of your RAID array, your backup device has a limited capacity. Even if your backup device had unlimited capacity, it’s only capable of processing so many MB of data per minute. You don’t want your information store to grow to a size beyond what you can back up in a night. If your storage needs require you to exceed your backup device’s capabilities, consider either upgrading the backup device or adding another Exchange server.

There’s definitely something to be said for small information stores. I used to work at a location that had very large information stores. The information stores were well within our backup capabilities, but one day we had a system crash. It took six hours to restore our backup because the information store was so large. In the meantime, we were twiddling our thumbs waiting on the restore to complete while the users were waiting impatiently for us to fix the server.

Make sure that the drive where you’re going to place the information stores is formatted with the NTFS file system. You can format a drive smaller than 500 MB with the FAT file system and gain some performance advantages over NTFS if you want. However, it’s probably also a good idea to format log drives in NTFS, especially if they’re over 500 MB.

Preparing the OS
Now that you know something about Exchange 2000’s hardware requirements, let’s talk about the software requirements. Exchange 2000 requires Windows 2000. However, you can’t just set up a Windows 2000 member server in the middle of a Windows NT domain and expect to be able to load Exchange 2000 on it. Exchange 2000 is highly dependent on the Windows 2000 Active Directory. Therefore, the domain controllers must also be Windows 2000-based machines running in Active Directory mode. But just because Exchange 2000 is Active Directory-dependent doesn’t mean that your Exchange 2000 servers have to be domain controllers. Exchange 2000 actually runs better if the server isn’t a domain controller. The server must simply be a Windows 2000 server that belongs to a Windows 2000 domain.

Don’t forget—Exchange 2000 is dependent on Active Directory. Active Directory is dependent on Windows 2000 and its DNS. That means you must make sure that your Windows 2000 DNS is installed and functioning properly before you can implement Exchange 2000 or Active Directory.

Once you have upgraded to Windows 2000, you’ll have to make sure that any Exchange servers are running Internet Information Server (IIS). Exchange 2000 is very dependent on IIS. Fortunately, Windows 2000 installs IIS by default. However, Exchange 2000 also requires IIS to support NNTP. The default Windows 2000 installation doesn’t load NNTP, so you’ll have to install it.

To install NNTP, open the Control Panel and double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon. When you see the Add/Remove Programs dialog box, click the Windows Setup button. After a brief delay, you’ll see a window displaying all of the installed Windows components (this window often appears behind the existing window, so you may have to move it to the foreground).

Navigate through the list of Windows components until you locate Internet Information Services (IIS). Select IIS and click the Details button. You’ll now see a list of the available IIS components. Select NNTP Service from the list and click OK. You’ll be returned to the Windows Components Wizard. Follow the remaining prompts to copy the files from your Windows 2000 installation CD.

Finally, before you install Exchange on your Windows 2000 server, make sure you’ve applied Service Pack 1 to your server. While Exchange 2000 doesn’t require that you install Service Pack 1, it’s a good idea to have the latest patches applied to your server before making any changes to it. Don’t forget that you’ll have to reapply the Service Pack after installing Exchange 2000.

Chances are that you’re using TCP/IP as the protocol on your network. (You could be using only NetBeui or IPX/SPX on your Windows 2000 network, but if you are, then maybe you should rethink your career choice.) Exchange 2000 demands that you run TCP/IP on your network. You can run the other protocols on your network if you want, but you must install TCP/IP to use Exchange 2000.

Conclusion
In this Daily Drill Down, I explained that there is a lot of planning and preparation work necessary before you can install Exchange 2000. I discussed some of the many issues that you’ll have to take into account before you run the Setup program.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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