Microsoft recently released the final version of Exchange Server 2007 SP1, bringing many features into production that didn’t make the cut for the original RTM. Some of the more notable enhancements include improvements to Outlook Web Access (OWA) and the management console and native IPv6 support. Arguably the most significant addition is Standby Continuous Replication (SCR). SCR enables organizations to replicate storage groups to stand-by servers or clusters at remote or secondary data centers. The SCR target can be manually activated if there is a failure at the primary data center. Existing disaster recovery (DR) solutions using native Microsoft tools were scarce and complex, especially compared to other platforms like Domino. To date, third parties like Symantec, NetApp, and Mimosa Systems have filled the gap for customers looking for true rapid failover in site-level failures, but some companies like to see more native options. SCR could be an interesting alternative for firms looking to balance cost and their recovery SLA’s. It will be interesting to see how quickly firms integrate this into their DR planning and what kind of issues or limitations, if any, they come across.
High availability (HA) and DR options in Exchange are rapidly evolving and shifting the reliance on expensive storage hardware for resiliency up into the application. Windows Server 2008 brings significant improvements to clustering that will make it simpler to deploy and increase its flexibility and effectiveness in creating greater separation between sites, having a direct impact on HA and DR planning. Server virtualization’s benefits in Exchange environments are still being explored as to how it can best compliment or enhance the resiliency of the different Exchange server roles. The addition of SCR is a great step for Microsoft in adding native site resiliency for the Exchange message stores, but firms still must look at contingency planning for all of the ways their users rely on email, whether that be mobile devices, OWA, or other business applications that leverage Exchange. If any of these are unavailable, Exchange is still “down”.
By Chris Voce
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