Before we go into what “Ready” really means. Every great journey has a story behind it. This will be a multi-part series starting with how I joined Nutanix and evolved myself to build a world-class program called “Nutanix Ready”. Stay Tuned, Part 1 coming very soon! Rob
To continue on my last blog post on Exchange...
As I mentioned previously, I support SE’s from all over the world. And again today, I got asked what are the best practices for running Exchange on Nutanix. Funny enough, this question comes in quite often. Well, I am going to help resolve that. There’s a lot of great info out there, especially from my friend Josh Odgers, which has been leading the charge on this for a long time. Some of his posts can be controversial, but truth is always there. He’s getting a point across.
This blog post will be updated on a regular basis as things change. It will also be moved to a permanent part of the netwatch.me resources section. This is meant to be a general best practice guide to help with planning and maintaining a healthy Exchange environment on Nutanix. I will specify hypervisor specifics when required. Now on the post…..
Let’s start out with the basics…
MS Exchange on Nutanix Support
Nutanix provides a 100% supported solution for MS Exchange running on vSphere, Hyper-V or Acropolis Hypervisor using iSCSI (Block storage)
Here is a breakdown of supported configurations by hypervisor:
|vSphere (ESXi)||Use In-Guest iSCSI (Volume Groups) for full support|
|Hyper-V||Use SMB 3.0|
|AHV||Use native vDisks (iSCSI) – SVVP Certification for AHV|
Also, check out Josh’s post “Fight the FUD – Support for MS Exchange on Nutanix” that outlines this very topic. In summary, the customer has the choice to deploy in multiple configurations to suit their needs. But, one of the most often questions I get is, “does your SVVP Certification cover running Exchange on all your supported hypervisors?” The answer is not simple. The SVVP was submitted for the Acropolis Hypervisor, while this does not cover all of them, we technically are supported for all hypervisors as per Microsoft supported storage architectures. Microsoft does not specifically mention Hyperconverged, it only mentions ISCSI in regards to SAN. IMO, that covers ESXi and AHV.
Now let me explain….SAN’s are one of the biggest modern datacenter bottlenecks. Data has gravity, so co-locating storage and compute eliminates network bottlenecks = Hyperconverged is way better than SAN and hence SUPPORTED IMO 😉
To end this topic and move on, a Nutanix customer has the choice to deploy in multiple configurations to suit their needs. Being pushed to one particular hypervisor for a customer is not always in their best interest. Having choices now and later is a much better approach with the overall goal of simplifying the datacenter. As Josh said in one of his blog posts ,”Running a standard platform and storage protocol for all workloads is a simple model which reduces the unnecessary complexity of multiple protocols and/or in-guest storage configurations”, I can’t agree more with that statement. 🙂
Exchange Performance on Nutanix
Now this subject will always be controversial and potentially subject to criticism. Internal testing performed by the Nutanix Performace and Engineering team shows that AHV and Hyper-V performance are roughly the same from a hypervisor perspective and ESXi was 10% higher. That being said, usually, the next question is how is performance versus traditional SAN/NAS. And again, I have to point out, it’s all about Data Locality. Can’t change the laws of physics. Data has gravity, hence we will always beat traditional SAN architecture.
Check out Josh’s posts on “Peak Performance vs Real World – Exchange on Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor”. It gives you a better understanding of are realistic benchmarks of Exchange in general and on Nutanix. I wholeheartedly agree with Josh when he says “Benchmarks are of little value without context specific to customer requirements!” Spending close to over 15 years building and maintain Exchange systems, I learned one hard fact, no generic simulator (like JetStress) can show real world metrics.
Data Reduction Technologies with Exchange on Nutanix
1 vDisk per Database, 1 vDisk per DB Logs
1 Container with RF2, In-Line Compression & EC-X for Databases
1 Container with RF2 for Logs
Do not use Dedupe with MS Exchange!
Microsoft does not support Data deduplication (Note: Underlying storage deduplication such as Nutanix dedupe is not mentioned, but implied)
Data Reduction Estimates:
Rule of thumb: Always size without data reduction if possible.
Conservative assumption for compression for Exchange = 1.3:1
Aggressive assumption for compression for Exchange = 1.6:1
Conservative assumption for EC-X for Exchange = 1.1:1
Aggressive assumption for EC-X for Exchange = 1.25:1
Questions to ask yourself when planning an Exchange Environment:
How many Users? e.g.: 10000, 10000, etc.
How many user profiles do you need? e.g.: 2 , Standard and Executives
How large Mailbox (excluding archiving) per User? e.g.: 1GB, 2GB , 5GB
How many messages per day do you want to support per user? Light = 50 , Medium = 100 , Heavy = 150+
Do you require site resiliency?
These are among some of the basic questions you need to answer. This is where the Exchange Server Role Calculator comes in. It’s a great tool, but like any tool, you do need to give it good input to get out good output. The function of the tool is as the name implies.
Exchange Server Role Calculator Defined
Now, at the time of this writing, version 7.8 is the latest and greatest. Now, do note, I would not call this tool perfect, but its gets you pretty close. Like anything else, the Exchange team is still learning real world behavior and this is where a good experienced Exchange engineer comes into play.
IMO..there is an Art and Science to sizing Exchange. The days of Exchange just being a simple mail server are far over. These days, it’s much more complex with supporting multiple forms of ingress and egress traffic for different functions (Mobile, Web, SMTP, Skype Integration, etc.). Each of these different functions has varying load considerations and supports more visible features like Outlook Web Access and Exchange Activesync. Also, I still am of the opinion that it does not take into consideration the number of devices that 1 mailbox services.
Considering this complexity, you can see that undersizing or oversizing can happen easily. If you size correctly at the beginning with Nutanix, then it just an easy scale out, buy as you need it situation. Then you know what happens, finally for the first time, predictability in your budgets. I remember the days, not that long ago, when I had to have a client retire a SAN, not for space constraints, but for IO constraints. And at the time, all I got from the client was “can’t we use it for something else” and ya, I’ve replied with “use it as a WSUS repository for patching the Exchange environment” 😉
During my next post, I will dive into the Exchange Role Calculator much more and go over some examples of sizing on Exchange. We’ll mainly focus on mailbox storage and then move on to other role sizing considerations. I also plan to cover the other aspects to maintain a healthy Exchange environment (i.e. Message Hygiene, Global and Local Load balancing, Integrations and End User Experience) in subsequent posts.
Below are the Office Best Practices Guides from Nutanix and some public case studies.
Until next time, Rob…..
Nutanix Offical Best Practice Guides
MS Exchange on Nutanix / vSphere Best practice guide: http://go.nutanix.com/VirtualizingMicrosoftExchangeonWeb-ScaleConvergedInfrastructure.html
Public Case Studies for Nutanix customers using Exchange
Technology has been integral part of my life since I can remember…..
My mother tells a story that I don’t recall and it goes something like this: I was 5 years old (1979) and we were in a checkout line at a Sears. While waiting, the computer system crashed and they could not check anybody out. Everyone was upset as they were going to close the store and send people home until it was fixed the next day. I said to my mother, “I can fix that” and my mother said, “What? You don’t know anything about computers” and I replied, “yes I do.” I walked right up to the manager and said, “I can fix it”. The manager looked at me and continued to talk to the other store personnel. I then proceeded to the computer register, crawled under the desk and checked and pushed in all the cables. Next, I powered off and on the computer. At that point, people started to notice and that the screen was coming alive. After a bit, it came back up and became functional. My mother tells me the manager was shocked and end up giving us our items for free. My first practical application for OSI and I didn’t even know it. This memory summarizes my passion for technology that has not waviered to this day.
During the next few years (6-10 Years old), I spend my time taking things apart like stereos and radios and rebuilding them to make them better or just work. I would sell the items door to door in the neighborhood to help support my single mom.
From hobbying with PDP-8’s, Commodore’s, PC’s Jr’s and Apple IIc’s, it was a big world. But the real fun started when I got my first Tandy 2000 and it had MS-DOS. I spent many days and nights programing BASIC and loving it. And then in early 1990’s when Windows 3.0 hit, I fell in love and have been a fan ever since. In fact, in one of my first IT jobs, I setup a DEC Alpha running NT 3.5.1 for a search engine company in Cambridge, MA.
Over the subsequent years, during elementary and high school, I spent my time volunteering at different organizations utilizing my technology skills to teach others. Some include Boston Computer Society, Museum of Science – Computer Discovery Space, political campaigns, and various programming clubs.
My other passion during those days was music. I started playing Trombone in 7th Grade and continued on to learn and pay other instruments including Tuba, Baritone, Piano, Trumpet and Guitar. I was the first freshman at Revere High School to play a solo in the spring concert. I soloed on the Tuba and my piece was “In the Hall of the Mountain King” the final piece of the Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1. The reason I bring up music is that I believe it helped to frame both my creativity and logic when it came to technology.
During my junior year of high school, I decided to join the US Army because financially I didn’t have many options. The Army seemed the logical choice at the time to help pay for college. After taking the Army intake testing, I was told I scored high and was placed with a support company as a Intelligence Analyst. At the time, the Army had a program called split training, which meant, I went to boot camp during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school.
Well, the Army was a great experience. But all and all, I would say that boot camp was the most challenging. You didn’t know what to expect at the time and no movie prepares you for the intensity of boot camp. I spent 4 years in the Army traveling the world as an Intelligence Analyst setting up various secure network connections to the US from foreign soil.
Towards the end of my 4 year commitment, I decided to come home and go to college to earn my bachelors degree. I had earned an associates degree in Computer Science in the US Army Junior College. Once I got home, I got a job at a computer store called Computer City selling computers. I wanted to be close to it and this is all I could find at the time. I also had a second job dishwashing and had started Northeastern University night program. Within two and a half years I had enough credits to receive my BS in Computer Science.
The real start to my career was when I was working at Computer City. An partner from a large accounting firm(one of the Big 5 at the time) came in one day to purchase a computer. I spent over an hour helping him with his purchase. He was so impressed, that he offered me a job on the spot working in his company’s IT department.
I joined as a Help Disk admin and was quickly promoted to Network Admin within months. I spent a year at that firm then decided to move on. For the next few years, I worked at various corporate companies and advanced quickly through the IT ranks.
After spending 5-6 years in the corporate arena, I decided I wanted to join the consulting world. Initially, I joined a small IT consulting firm to learn the ropes of consulting. I spent about a year with that consulting partner and then finally decided to break out on my own. I launched my own consulting company called Netwatch Techs. I spent close to 9 years building out a great SMB practice and started doing some enterprise level work. And then spent four years more working as the lead with various Microsoft Gold Partners consulting for enterprise clients.
That bring me to the current chapter in my life….Nutanix.
For a number of years, it was a dream to work for a Silicon Valley Company. I decided to open up my options. A recruiter contacted me via Linkedin from Nutanix. They were looking for a Microsoft Solutions Architect. That night I researched Nutanix, and to my surprise, it was an up and coming technology that builds the future of datacenter. I was very interested and emailed the recruiter back immediately. I spoke to the recruiter and the hiring manager over the next few days and it sounded great, but there was one caveat, they wanted someone local to Silicon Valley. After speaking with my wife and kids, I decided to withdraw my application. We didn’t want to move from the Boston area and away from family……..
Fast forward six months….I get an email from the Nutanix recruiter asking me if I was still interested and that the location requirement had been changed. Within a few days, I was en route to Nutanix HQ for in-person interviews. After intense interviews, I was so impressed. I felt the oozing of intelligence, teamwork and something real.
After a few days, I was offered the position of Microsoft Solutions Architect with the Technical Alliances team. If you have read my blog since the beginning, my career with Nutanix starts there and so continues my journey.
As a part of the Business Development team, my job is to be all things Microsoft technically or not across all our teams. I help build the story around Nutanix and Microsoft Solutions. I also lead the Nutanix Ready program, an interoperability program for our partners.
For anyone reading this and aren’t familiar with an Microsoft MVP Award you can click this link.
Before I end this post I want to thank the people who really helped inspire me during the my lifetime.
First, I thank my mother, for the years of supporting my passion from the beginning. There was a lot she never understood about what I do, but was very, very proud of me, because she felt I was fulfilling my dreams. Thank you Mom…You are always in my heart. 🙂
The next notable influence on my life is my wife Lea. There are so many things to list about her, but I will summarize a few things about Lea and some of what I have learned. Honesty, Respect, Encouragement, Support, Kindness, Loyalty and Attentiveness. For her, it’s second nature. I knew the second I met her that there was something about Lea I needed. Turns out, 16 years later, it wasn’t something about her at all. It was just Lea. 🙂
I have to thank each and every one at Nutanix. The teamwork and helpfulness of everyone I work with has been the one of the best experiences of my life. This includes my manager Andre Leibovici, who has been a great manager and mentor. He is the one that encouraged me to start blogging. He has taught me and continues to teach me what it is to be on an Alliance team and to be the best at it.
And finally, I can’t end this without thanking you, yes you, who are reading my posts. You, who shared my previous posts, who dropped me a comment saying thanks for the efforts, or asked a question! You are the reason for inspiring me to learn more, share more, and blog more!
No one can feel the excitement and joy of blogging and sharing knowledge if s/he hasn’t tried it. So my recommendation is to start a blog and write about something you are passionate about. Do not be shy, just start sharing your ideas with the community and I’m sure your journey will be pave itself and be fruitful for all!
Until next time, Rob….
On February 16, 2016, Nutanix announced the Acropolis NOS 4.6 release and last week was available for download. Along with many enhancements, I wanted to highlight several items, including some tech preview features.
Also, checkout this excellent video with Nutanix’s Tim Isaacs and Raghu Nandan in which they go into more detail on the updates included in Acropolis 4.6 and the interviewer is my buddy Chris Brown.
Tim Isaacs and Raghu Nandan from Nutanix HQ about some of the important updates in Acropolis 4.6.
1-Click Upgrades – BIOS and BMC Firmware
The 1-Click upgrade for BIOS and BMC firmware feature is available for Acropolis hypervisor (AHV) and ESXi hypervisor host environments running on NX-xxxx G4 (Haswell) platforms only.
Acropolis App Mobility Fabric: Windows or Linux Guest Customization
Customize or clone Windows or Linux guest VMs hosted by AHV. Includes automated OS installation and custom ISOs by using sysprep (Windows) or cloudinit (Linux).
Acropolis Drivers for OpenStack
These drivers facilitate consuming the Nutanix Acropolis infrastructure as a cloud service or for use in a data center. For example, an OpenStack implementation might require using features such as single sign-on, orchestration, role-based access control, and so on. Drivers include Acropolis compute, image, volume, and network drivers.
Convert Cluster Redundancy Factor from RF-2 to RF-3
Convert a cluster created with redundancy factor 2 (RF-2) to RF-3 through the ncli cluster set-redundancy-state command. This increases the cluster fault tolerance.
Cross Hypervisor Disaster Recovery
Cross-hypervisor disaster recovery provides an ability to migrate the VMs from one hypervisor to another (ESXi to AHV or AHV to ESXi) by using the protection domain semantics of protecting VMs, taking snapshots, replicating the snapshots, and then recovering the VMs from the snapshots. To perform these operations, you need to install and configure NGT on all VMs.
Guest VM VLAN Trunking
AHV supports guest VM VLAN tagging, where the tag passes through a single port from the physical network to a VM. It allows the VLAN ID tags to be included in an Ethernet packet to be passed to the guest VM. Guest VM operating systems can use this feature to enable Virtual Guest Tagging (VGT) and simulate multiple virtual NICs.
More Backup and Data Recovery/Replication Features
- Snapshot and Async DR for volume groups.
- Application-consistent snapshots on AHV and ESXi by using the Nutanix native in-guest Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) agent for all VMs that support Microsoft’s VSS. Nutanix Guest Tools provides application-consistent snapshot support for Linux VMs by running specific pre-freeze and post-thaw scripts on VM quiesce.
- Integrated snapshot management from an AHV cluster to a CommVault solution
Nutanix Guest Tools
- Nutanix Guest Agent (NGA) service. Communicates with the Nutanix Controller VM.
- File Level Restore (FLR) CLI. Performs self-service file-level recovery from the VM snapshots.
- Nutanix VM Mobility Drivers. Facilitates distribution of drivers required for VM migration between ESXi and AHV, in-place hypervisor conversion, and cross-hypervisor disaster recovery (CH-DR) features.
- VSS requestor and hardware provider for Windows VMs. Enables application-consistent snapshots of AHV or ESXi Windows VMs.
- Application-consistent snapshot for Linux VMs. Supports application-consistent snapshots for Linux VMs by running specific scripts on VM quiesce.
Self-service restore allows a user to restore a file within a virtual machine from the Nutanix protected snapshot with minimal Nutanix administrator intervention. This feature is supported on Nutanix clusters running the ESXi and Acropolis hypervisors only.
Tech Preview Features
In-Place Hypervisor Conversion
This 1-click feature available through the Prism web console allows you to convert your cluster from using ESXi hosts to using AHV hosts. Guest VMs are converted to the hypervisor target format, and cluster network configurations are stored and then restored as part of the conversion process.
Native File Services
Provides file server capability within a Nutanix AHV cluster, as one or more network-attached VMs, to form a virtual file server.
To download the update, you can go to my.nutanix.com and go to support, downloads section or you can upgrade to 4.6 within Prism. Until next time, Rob
The Exchange Server Role Requirement Calculator is your one stop calculation tool for Exchange 2013\2016 design. The tool covers design calculations for both the Mailbox and Client Access server role. Exchange 2013 reduced the number of roles from previous versions of Exchange by making the design and implementation as simple as possible and Exchange 2016 furthers that into a single role. The Server Role Requirement Calculator helps us to size virtually and it provides in-depth sizing of every component of the hardware like CPU, Memory, Network, Storage, Backup, servers, datacenter etc.
Exchange Server Role Calculator is an excel spread sheet with an option to input your requirements. The current version v7.8 of the calculator introduces support for Exchange 2016! Yes, that’s right, you don’t need a separate calculator, v7.8 and later supports Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016 deployments.
When you open the calculator you will find a new drop-down option in the Input tab that allows you to select the deployment version. Simply choose 2013 or 2016:
When you choose 2016, you will notice the Server Multi-Role Configuration option is disabled due to the fact that Exchange 2016 no longer provides the Client Access Server role.
As discussed in the Exchange 2016 Architecture and Preferred Architecture articles, the volume format best practice recommendation for Exchange data volumes has changed in Exchange 2016 as they now recommend ReFS (with the integrity feature disabled). By default, for Exchange 2016 deployments, the calculator scripts will default to ReFS (Exchange 2013 deployments will default to NTFS).
Before we can properly size, we need to understand the below criteria and input to build our design:
- User profile: The number of User mailboxes, mailbox size and the message profile. You can refer the following articles in order to get the profile details for both exchange 2007 and 2010
- HA (High Availability) Architecture – This is where you need to understand how many copies of the mailbox databases you want.
- DR Architecture – There is you need to understand where & how many copies of DR mailbox databases can be kept.
- Storage Architecture – There is you need to understand details on the – type of disk, Speed, Size, HypverConverged, RAID, & JBOD,etc.
- Network Architecture – There is you need to understand details on the availability of Network bandwidth and latency between primary and DR site.
- CPU Architecture – There is you need to understand details on the Speed, Core & Sockets. To get SpecInt2006’s Rate value for your solution, you need to refer the below link for Exchange processor Query Tool.
Once we have determined all of the above, we should be ready to input those details into the input worksheet of Exchange Server Role Requirement Calculator. The Input worksheet is divided into 7 Parts:
1. Environmental configuration: This is where you input details of the AD architecture, Server roles, Vitalization, number of DAGs, number of nodes in the DAG, number of nodes in primary and DR datacenter. It also includes the number of DB copies in both primary and secondary datacenter with some transport message configurations like message queue expiration and safety net expiration.
2. Mailbox Configuration: This is where you may need to input user profile details based on your existing profile and the projected mailbox growth percentage. There is an option to input different types of Tier profiles. The Existing user profile can be determined by using the Exchange profile analyzer scripts, mentioned above. Profile analyzer helps us to determine the messages sent & received per mailbox /day and average message size.
This part also has an important on IOPS and CPU Megacycles multiplication factor, which plays an important role for the users while designing mobile users & application users- as there is no clear information about the CPU and IOP’s requirement.
3. Backup Configuration: There is where we need to input the details of the required backup type, backup frequency and the log truncation tolerance days, in case of backup failure.
4. Storage configuration: Storage configuration is one of the most important factors during the design. This is where we input the type of disk you have for the Exchange database. Microsoft recommends an inexpensive SATA Just Bunch of Disk (JBOD) in the event there are three or more database copies. Exchange 2013\2016 also provides an option of multiple Database / volume, allowing for more than one database/volume on high disk capacity of 2-4 TB.
5. Processor Configuration: While this is considered “optional” to input factor, I would highly recommend you have the CPU cores determined with SPECint2006 Rate using the processor query tool and input under processor configuration for both primary and secondary datacenter mailbox servers.
6. Log Replication Configuration: This configuration is optional and it is only used if the database is replicated between physical locations. You just have to input the logs generated/ hour percentage, network bandwidth type, and available latency between the primary and secondary datacenter.
Log Replication Configuration
7. Environment Customization: The Environmental Customization is actually optional. You’ll need to input the server names from both primary and secondary datacenter and DAG names, which will be used in the production environment. These names will be used for pictorial representation of the DAG, servers, and database. It is also used for DB creation scripts, which we will be discussing in the next part.
In this part we have covered all available input options in the Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator. The Exchange calculator will use the imputed data and calculate the role requirement, storage design, network configuration, backup configuration, DAG configuration etc. for the organization and updates the results in the result worksheets.
Until next time, Rob…
Happy New Year Everyone!!! I know Azure Stack is just around the corner, but I still get lots of questions around configuring WAP and portals. So to follow-up my Windows Azure Pack (WAP) series, I am going to talk about reconfiguring server names and ports as well as assigning trusted certificates to my WAP Portals.
If you missed other parts of the series, check links below:
Part 1 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack
Part 2 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack – Deployment Scenarios
Part 3 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack – How to guide with Express Edition on Nutanix – Environment Prep
Part 4 – Deploying Service Provider Framework on Nutanix
Part 5 – Understanding Windows Azure Pack – How to guide with Express Edition on Nutanix – Windows Azure Pack Install