Use hypervisor features for the best Exchange virtualization platform

By Andy Grogan,

This is the second part in a series about choosing hypervisors to virtualize Exchange. Read part one here.

Virtualizing Exchange can greatly benefit enterprises. It can reduce reliance on hardware and cut data center operating costs, among other advantages. But those benefits vary according to company size and hypervisor use. Let's take a closer look at some features of the three main players -- VMware vSphere, Citirx XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V -- and how each hypervisor could work within your enterprise.

In small to medium-sized deployments, there is little functional difference between top offerings. Distinctions are sharper when building large, high-performance and highly available virtualization infrastructures. Because of their high-end scalability features, vSphere and Hyper-V make more sense in those situations.

Beyond cost and deployment scale, consider other criteria when contemplating platform options:

  • Reputation. Determine how important it is to select a product considered a market leader or one that comes from a favorite vendor.
  • Support. Assess how well a vendor supports its products. You don't want to be left on your own.
  • Internal skill sets. Figure out if the skills within your organization align to a particular virtualization platform.
  • Use case. If your organization doesn't require all of the high-end functionality in the VMware and Microsoft products, does XenServer become more attractive?


From a specification point of view, there are metrics worth considering when selecting a hypervisor (Table 1). Look at the virtualization features your version of Exchange supports. Check to see how much you intend to scale the environment over the next five years and how much money you have available to spend.

It's tempting to think it makes more sense to use Microsoft's Hyper-V to do the job as you consider whether to virtualize Exchange, but that's not necessarily the case. Exchange will virtualize well on almost any hypervisor as long as the underlying platform is designed well. Since the chosen hypervisor is only one part of the equation, you need to see the entire landscape. That means looking at hosts, storage, networking and the hypervisor to see how well they'll work together.

You can leverage some compelling licensing and platform unification by going the Hyper-V route to virtualize Exchange. From a technical perspective, you will not go wrong virtualizing Exchange on vSphere or XenServer.

When it comes to system performance, the hardware, storage infrastructure, networking/storage interconnects and other virtual workloads in the same virtualized cluster all play a part. Discuss which platform scales best for your organization's needs as they change over time.

Some critics insist Hyper-V isn't a valid deployment option because it doesn't scale the way vSphere can. Others argue Microsoft already provides services to hundreds of thousands of users daily based on systems running Hyper-V.


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