Microsoft Exchange is often a server hog. Server hogs are increasingly being butchered for the juicy virtualised bacon within. So why aren't more Exchange deployments jumping on the virtualisation gravy train?
Picture by Linda N
It's hardly news that virtualisation is a major trend in enterprise IT deployments. Market leader VMware estimates that it will have its software installed on more than 50% of servers shipped worldwide by the end of the year.
The benefits of virtualisation are well understood: lower hardware costs, more efficient system utilisation, and much easier experimentation with dev and test environments are amongst the most obvious. However, when it comes to actual deployments, certain application environments are clearly being favoured.
According to VMware's own customer research, 67% of its customers use virtualisation for rolling out SharePoint deployments. However, that figure drops to 47% for SQL Server databases, and just 42% for Exchange systems. Those numbers are striking; many companies run SharePoint and Exchange in tandem, and running a single-purpose Exchange server seems like a waste of resources.
Australian businesses are keener on virtualisation than the global figures would suggest. "We see it earlier in Australia than anywhere in the world," VMware's ANZ senior manager products and solutions Michael Warrilow told Lifehacker.
Warrilow rejects criticisms that companies resist virtualising Exchange because the technology is too fiddly or Microsoft's pricing model discourages it. "I don't think that's fair anymore. They've done a pretty good job of making the licensing better."
One possible explanation is that a working Exchange server is something where tinkering produces less obvious benefits. Database servers often feature large numbers of single workloads — a prime candidate for virtualisation — where a fully-loaded, single-purpose Exchange server may not be such a high priority for alteration, Warrilow noted.
The relatively slow process of Exchange migration could also be a factor. "Anybody looking to Exchange 10 is thinking about virtualisation," Warrilow said. 2010 has been on sale since 2009, while its predecessor Exchange 2007 appeared in 2006, meaning anyone still running it will need to look seriously at shifting in the future to avoid continuing with an out-of-date platform.
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