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My company Exchange sys problems: server sizing, anti-spam, ver upgrade ?

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  • My company Exchange sys problems: server sizing, anti-spam, ver upgrade ?

    Hi everyone,

    My com is using Exch 2000 Fe/Be system with rather high ratio of increase in mailbox number. The system include 4 BEs and 1 FE, 2 DC (global catalog too). All win 2k adv sp4. 3 of 4 BE are server IBM 235 xeol CPU 2,8G Ram 2G and 3*36G scsi 320 ultra (all Raid 5), with 400 mailbox. The other BE is IBM 236 with 2*CPU 3.0G xeol, Ram 4G, 3*76 SCSI 320 ultra (Raid 5), 900 mailboxes.

    The FE server is IBM xSeries 206, CPU 3G, Ram 1G, 1 SCSI 36G 320 ultra.

    2 DCs (GC too): IBM 235, CPU 3G, Ram 1G, 1 SCSI 36G 320 ultra (AD, DNS, DHCP)

    Performance logs show that CPU usage is rather low in all servers, avg % total usage about 15% at 3 BE 235, 7% at BE 236, max often about 60% in all. RAM also seem no problem with the mailbox number above. Page file avg usage about 20%. But disk usage (mainly write) rather high, and RPC operation per user rather high too (about 0.2 to 0.3 at business hours, maybe 3.0 to 4.5 or sometimes 5.5 or 6 at peak hours, especially at BE 236 which has 900 mailbox). Outlook 2003 users often observe delay when requesting data from server.

    BEs run Exch and Symantec antivirus/filtering for Exch. FE still not run AntiSpam (spam is high, but we will use GFI or st like that after upgrading to version 2003).

    With the picture above, one of the main issues relates to Disk system. Each BE server now has 1 Raid card with 6 slots. Someone recommend move Raid 5 to Raid 1 (all) with 3 array (in 1 raid card): 1 for System files (OS, Exch, pagefile), 1 for Trans Log, 1 for Exch Database (mailbox, not public folder now). Each BE now use 4 Storage Group, each SG has 4 or 5 database. I see that moving Raid that way can improve performance, and scale-up storage capacity. But I think it maybe better if using 2 Raid card, and even better using Raid 10 for database (though Raid 1 seem OK with the mailbox number now). But i still hesitate what, how, and trade-off.

    Mailbox increase ratio rather high, about 40% per year. Scale-up 3 235 BEs with 2 CPU 2.8, 3 or 4 G of Ram, more disks (6 disk with 3 raid 1 arrays), and scale-up 236 BE with more disk (6 disk in 3 arrays), I think can double the mailbox number now at 3 IBM 235 BEs (so each server can handle 400 added mailbox, for the total of 1200 mailbox increase), and IBM 236 BE can handle about 300 added mailbox, giving the total increased mailbox that system can handle to 1200+300 = 1500 mailbox. That's my estimation, but not sure.

    Version upgrade to 2003 (exchange, AD) is also very concerned. I hope 2003 system will optimize the performance, as well as enlarge capacity each server can handle, and many other benefits (that i don't know). Exch sys now is all homed and administered centrally in one place (so st like sites, routing groups ... not mentioned here). We know it's better to upgrade all to 2003 ver, but not sure exactly what benefits will be achived (over the 2000 system now), the sequence/steps to upgrade (in-place is easy but high risk, migration better that require at least 1 added server to move one after another sequentially: i mean the added server run server 2003, exch 2003, AD 2000), and what hardware/infrastructure will best suite ver 2003 system (especially we will add anti-Spam/virus soft after upgrade: spam maybe placed at FE ?).

    In conclusion, some issues that we, new system team, are facing relates to scaling up the existing system (more cpu, ram, hdd and change Raid ...), and/or scaling out system if needed; upgrading system to version 2003 (what real benefits in comparision, in-place or migration, steps and sequence: like upgrade AD first or last ...); then the very concerned anti-spam/virus problems (what products: we seem to prefer GFI, where to place: maybe FE, but still consider a relay agent if that affects FE badly ...); as well as a backup soft (maybe veritas for speed, though Windows backup feature still good).

    That's our new system team's issues we love to share and hope to be guided. Deadline's coming and we are just running by all that can move.

    Sorry for language since i'm from non-English speaking country.
    Waiting for your replies ...
    Thank you so much.

  • #2
    Re: My company Exchange sys problems: server sizing, anti-spam, ver upgrade ?

    Long and detailed post, but I must say it was hard for me to find the actual question...

    Exchange 2003 will undoubtedly bring you more power and hardware scalability, not to mention all the security and mobile advantages. However if I were you I'd think strongly about getting a decent storage. You're hosting many mailboxes and your DBs are growing in a fast rate. A storage (either NAS or SAN, although a SAN will scale better) will let you grow and also add very useful snapshot capabilities.

    Good luck.

    Daniel Petri
    Microsoft Most Valuable Professional - Active Directory Directory Services


    • #3
      Re: My company Exchange sys problems: server sizing, anti-spam, ver upgrade ?

      Hi uncles,

      As mentioned above, Exchange noobie's facing some issues. Now noobie want to focus on Upgrade strategy. The FE/BE ratio now is 1/4, and we just want to Scale-up (not scale out) to meet the mailbox increase in 1 or 2 coming year (for the total user of about 5000). We hope the upgrade to Ver 2003 help enlarge the capacity each server can handle, improve performance, and enrich funtions. We are thinking about following situations:

      - For in place or mailbox move Upgrade, the rule is always FE first, BE second. With BE, we can choose between in place or mailbox move upgrade. But what about upgrading FE ? We have only in place option, or we can introduce a new FE server into the system then remove the existing FE ?

      - Though we must always extend Schema (via ForestPrep switch in Exchange 2003 setup CD) before installing Exchange 2003 (in-place, or add new server), we still have options with running ForestPrep of ADprep (in Win 2003 setup CD): run it at DCs before installing Exchange 2003 (then run Win 2003 setup on DC, making all DCs version 2003), or run it the last (meaning upgrading to AD 2003 after installing Exch 2003 and Win 2003 at FE, BEs) ?

      Mail-move upgrade is often recommended over inplace upg. And we want to make the upgrade to ver 2003 (exchange, windows, ad) reliable and with as less downtime as possible. We know mere techical not easy to have the final answer, so we hope to get some light from experienced experts, to make the night bright, not mare.

      Thank you so much,


      • #4
        Re: My company Exchange sys problems: server sizing, anti-spam, ver upgrade ?

        If you care about system uptime and stability you do not in place upgrade.
        I never in-place upgrade Exchange under any circumstances.

        Therefore you would replace your front end servers with Exchange 2003 on new hardware (which is the only downtime you will need - as you cannot install Exchange 2003 while you have any Exchange 2000 front ends, so you have to turn off their front end options to get Exchange 2003 to install. Once E2003 has installed you can turn them back on again).

        Once the front ends have been installed and fully updated with Service Packs and Updates, new back ends are built and a swing migration is carried out. Swing migration will involve zero downtime to the user community, just good planning to move mailboxes when the users are not in the office.

        You will need to have replicated public and system folders from E2000 to the new E2003 servers before you start moving mailboxes.

        There are lots of articles on the internet and here on Daniel's site about how to carry out a swing migration.

        Simon Butler
        Exchange MVP

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