Areas to Consider For a Smooth Exchange 2010 Installation (Part 1)

If you would like to be notified of when Neil Hobson releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our MSExchange.org Real Time Article Update newsletter.

Introduction

Running the Exchange Server 2010 setup program to actually install a server should be a smooth process once you’ve planned the installation carefully. In this two-part article I want to look at a number of configuration areas that you should consider if you want to help the installation of your Exchange 2010 servers run smoothly. By taking the time to review a number of configuration areas before you actually run setup.exe or setup.com, you should be in a position to avoid some of the unnecessary issues cropping up in the first place.

Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer

Before you actually get around to installing the first server running Exchange Server 2010, you will most likely want to understand if there are any issues with your existing infrastructure that will prevent deployment of the first server. Microsoft offers the Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer tool that will help you do this and you can download this tool here.

The Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer will perform a scan of your existing environment to help ensure that you will be able to deploy Exchange Server 2010. It is very similar to the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer tool and produces an output report that focuses on critical and warning events. You can see the main screen in Figure 1-1.


Figure 1-1: The Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer Main Screen

Figure 1-2 shows you how the report looks and here you can see that the tool has found an issue with Exchange Development Kit (EDK) connectors. The tool will also find issues such as the forest functional level of the Active Directory forest being at the wrong level to support Exchange Server 2010.


Figure 1-2: Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer Report Screen

Operating System Version

Before you actually install Exchange Server 2010, you will need to ensure the operating system is configured correctly. However, before you go configuring the operating system, check whether the correct version has been installed. For example, a potential issue is where a server destined to become a Mailbox server that is part of a Database Availability Group (DAG) has been installed with the Standard Edition of the Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. While this version is supported as an Exchange 2010 server, it is the incorrect version of the operating system if your design requires the server to be part of a DAG. This is because DAG membership requires the Enterprise Edition of either Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2. Therefore, take the time to ensure that the correct version has been installed.

Additionally, ensure that none of the other non-supported versions of Windows have been installed, such as Server Core or Web Server.

Other Operating System Checks

Once you have confirmed that you have the correct version of the Windows operating system installed, there are a number of areas that you really should check before you proceed. These are:

  1. Have the correct Windows Updates been applied to this server? In other words, are you simply deploying all available updates at the time of installation or are you installing only the specific updates that you performed testing with?
  2. Does the server have remote desktop enabled if that’s part of your standard build and administration procedures?
  3. Does the server have the correct server name assigned? It is not supported to rename a server once Exchange Server 2010 has been installed, so take the time to ensure that the server has the correct name before you deploy the Exchange Server 2010 software.
  4. Has the server been installed into the correct forest and domain? To install any Exchange Server 2010 role other than the Edge Transport server role, the server will need to be a member of an Active Directory domain. However, it is still prudent to ensure it has been installed into the correct domain!
  5. Has the server been installed into the correct Organizational Unit (OU)? This could prove to be particularly important if your organization applies Group Policy Objects (GPOs) at the OU level.
  6. Has the server been installed into the correct Active Directory site? There are the obvious reasons why this is important, such as the fact that Client Access arrays can only contain Client Access servers from within the same Active Directory site. However, there are other considerations that I will explain in the next section titled Client Access Server Active Directory Site. Checking Active Directory site membership may be as simple as looking within the Active Directory Sites and Services snap-in but equally you may choose to run the nltest.exe program. Here’s how to do this:
    a.     Bring up a command prompt on the server
    b.     Run the command nltest.exe /server:%computername% /dsgetsite

You can see this command being run in Figure 1-3 and in this example we can see that the server is installed into the default Active Directory site called Default-First-Site-Name.


Figure 1-3: Running the NLTEST Utility to Confirm Correct Active Directory Site Membership

  1. Has the server been installed with the correct language and time zone? This is a quick and easy check that should be performed.
  2. How is the server performing time synchronization and has this been configured?
  3. Has the page file been configured correctly? This particular item warrants a deeper explanation and so this is covered in the section titled Page File Configuration in part two of this article.
  4. Check that the server is not reporting any Active Directory connectivity issues. Since Exchange Server 2010 will make important use of Active Directory connectivity, it is important to ensure that there are no such connectivity issues prior to deploying the Exchange Server 2010 software. This can be accomplished by running the dcdiag.exe utility. This is achieved by performing the following steps:
    a.     Bring up a command prompt on the server
    b.     Run the command dcdiag.exe /s:{domain controller name} /f:{log file name}
    c.     This will produce a log file such as the one shown in Figure 1-4. Review this log file for any issues and perform the necessary corrective action.


Figure 1-4: Running the DCDIAG Utility to Confirm Correct Active Directory Connectivity

  1. Check that the server has been configured with the correct number of processor cores.
  2. Check that the server has been configured with the correct amount of memory.
  3. Check that the server has been configured with the correct disk layout. For example, does the server have the required number of disks attached? If you’re using mount points, has the mount point root been configured along with the correct number of mount points? Also, if you are separating your mailbox databases and transaction logs from each other, has this been correctly accounted for in the disk design?

Summary

That completes part one of our look at areas to consider for a smooth Exchange 2010 installation. Here in part one we’ve covered the Exchange Pre-Deployment Analyzer, the operating system version, and then moved on to look at the first 13 areas of operating system configuration that can be considered. In part two, we will look at two more remaining areas of operating system configuration, then move on to look in depth at areas such as page file and network configuration.

If you would like to be notified of when Neil Hobson releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our MSExchange.org Real Time Article Update newsletter.

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