Video: Exchange 2010 Storage Options DAS or SAN

The Exchange messaging continues from Exchange 2007, and customers are still being advised to make bad decisions (which is to run a large Exchange environment on cheap racks of disk). The customers I am working with are still finding value in their SAN’s and here’s some best practices based on the advice of some of our early adopters of Exchange 2010.  Most companies understand a SAN is a great way to lower the long-term operational cost of Exchange, but how about lowering the purchase price?

Are you looking to lower acquisition cost of your Exchange infrastructure?

1. Virtualize it. You’ll get more out of the new hardware you’ll have to buy to support 64 bit Exchange.Today’s new hardware is so beefy by default, it is likely that Exchange might not be able to stress it completely (SQL on the other hand is a different topic altogether). Put multiple Exchange VM’s on it, and it’s a new game. It also provides the foundation for a Cloud strategy, if you are thinking about going that way.

2. Put it on SATA drives. Exchange 2010 disk activity is so low; you can run the entire environment on affordable (and big) SATA drives.  You can also run a combination of Flash/FC/SATA and turn on EMC’s FAST and allow it to automatically adjust the workload depending on the performance measurements that FAST takes.  You can move some workloads to the cloud and easily re-purpose the SATA drives for something else. With DAS, if you move to the cloud, you’re stuck with a lot of direct attached disk that you can’t easily re-use.

3. Turn on Thin Provisioning (EMC calls this Virtual Provisioning). You can start small and monitor mailbox performance and capacity.  If necessary you can increase the space of the thin pool, dynamically. With DAS you are forced to overbuy storage and over-allocate a significant amount to provide for the large mailboxes that Microsoft wants you to have.  With EMC’s Virtual (thin) Provisioning, we can start small and grow as you need it.

Example Config and Comparison:

  1. Exchange 2010 DAS, 5000 users with 5GB mailboxes = 25TB
  2. Exchange 2010 on EMC SAN, 5000 users with 1GB mailboxes = 5TB

So in this example, the DAS configuration requires you to buy 5x the storage, UP FRONT, and pay for the power, cooling, space, and the real estate for those disks up front.  It’s most likely those disks don’t have a spin-down capability, so if you’re buying DAS for Exchange you’re buying a fleet of old gas guzzlers, turning them on, and leaving them in the driveway. If you buy the smart way, you’re getting something a lot more dynamic, that grows as you need it, something that’s a lot more efficient.  Almost like hybrid cars.  Except better.

Please watch my video and check out the picture – I am showing off how I can rub my belly and point to a whiteboard at the same time!


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