Planning and Migrating a Small Organization from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2013 (Part 6)

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Getting the servers ready for Exchange

Depending on the base Windows Operating System you choose, you will have to perform different tasks to prepare the servers for Exchange installation. Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 both have a slightly different list of supported operating systems, too.

Exchange 2010 supports way back from Windows 2008, through to Windows 2012. Exchange 2013 however supports one version on – Windows 2008 R2 to Windows 2012 R2. This has the unfortunate side effect that you can’t use the latest version of Windows Server for both Exchange servers.

In our series we’ll use Windows 2012 for the Exchange 2010 staging server and Windows 2012 R2 for the Exchange 2013 server.

Exchange 2010 Base Server

Our first of two servers is our staging server for Exchange 2010. As a reminder we’ll take a look at the specification determined in part five of this series:

Hostname Virtual CPU RAM OS Disk Page file Disk Physical disks required Database virtual disks Log virtual disks Restore LUN
LJD-E1401 2 x vCPU 8GB 80GB 10GB 4 x 4TB 5 x 112GB 5 x 22GB 1 x 124GB

Table 1

We’re building our example server as a virtual machine. From the specification above we’ll be dedicating 4 x 4TB disks to Exchange 2010 configured as RAID 10.

Our Virtual Machine, running within Hyper-V, then uses individual Virtual Disks. These are provisioned as fixed-sized, fully provisioned virtual disks to ensure it’s supported by Microsoft, as shown below in the New Virtual Hard Disk Wizard:

Figure 1: Creating a fixed size virtual disk in Hyper-V

It’s also important to note that each virtual disk is a separate virtual disk – it’s not a single virtual disk partition. When configuring memory resources, we’ll ensure that we do not use dynamic memory options:

Figure 2: Our Exchange 2010 server configuration

We’ll then install Windows Server 2012 on this virtual machine.

In this article we won’t walk through the installation of Windows Server itself, but after installation we’ll ensure the server is up to date and joined to the domain.

Exchange 2013 Base Server

Next we’ll install and setup our second server, which will run Exchange 2013. This will eventually be the only server left running in Exchange in our example organization. Just to recap, we’ll use the following settings for our Virtual Machine:

Hostname Virtual   CPU RAM OS   Disk Page   file Disk Physical   disks required Database   virtual disks Log   virtual disks Restore   LUN
LJD-E1501 2 x vCPU 24GB 100GB 29GB 8 x 4TB 5 x 1707GB 5 x 27GB 1 x 1246GB

Table 2

As with our Exchange 2010 server, we’ll be using physical disks to support Exchange 2013 and then creating virtual disks atop our Hyper-V environment. In Hyper-V, our new VM looks like this:

Figure 3: Our Exchange 2013 server configuration

We’ll then proceed and install Windows Server 2012 R2 on the virtual machine used for Exchange 2013, then configure it with correct network settings, install the latest Windows updates and join it to our domain.

Configuring storage

Both Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 expect disks – virtual or otherwise – to be formatted in a particular way to ensure best performance. In the old days pre-Windows 2008, disks needed to be aligned.

That’s taken care of for us automatically by Windows these days but to ensure that the underlying disk subsystem is configured optimally we’ll need to ensure that disks are formatted with a 64KB NTFS allocation unit size.

In addition to making sure we’re using the optimum NTFS allocation unit size we will create mount points on disk, identical on both servers to represent the disks and their purpose:

Disk Mount Point
Page file E:
Database 1 C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB01
Database 2 C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB02
Database 3 C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB03
Database 4 C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB04
Database 5 C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB05
Database 1 Log C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB01_Log
Database 2 Log C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB02_Log
Database 3 Log C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB03_Log
Database 4 Log C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB04_Log
Database 5 Log C:\ExchangeDatabases\DB05_Log
Restore LUN C:\ExchangeDatabases\Restore

Table 3

We will then perform identical tasks on both the Exchange 2010 server and Exchange 2013 server to bring storage online, initialize and then format and mount the storage. These tasks are the same because although storage sizes are different, both servers use the same number of disks – 1 Page file, 5 Database, 5 Log and 1 Recovery LUN.

We will begin this task by launching Computer Management, from Server Manager:

Figure 4: Accessing disk management tools

Within Server Manager, navigate to Disk Management. We will see in the upper panel the system disk, C: and the System Reserved Partition. These also display in the lower page, contained as partitions within the primary disk.

All newly added disks will typically be shown as offline. We’ll need to first change each of these disks to an online state before we prepare them. This is accomplished by right clicking each disk and simply choosing online. Perform this step, as shown below, across all new disks before proceeding:

Figure 5: Changing disks to online status

After bringing the disks online, we will now select one of the disks, right click and choose Initialize Disk:

Figure 6: Initializing disks for Exchange use

This will allow us to initialize all new disks in a single operation. We’ll ensure all disks are selected (in our case all 12 additional disks), then select GPT (GUID Partition Table), which is recommended for Exchange and supports disk sizes over 2TB, should they be required:

Figure 7: Choosing the GUID Partition Table

We’ll now create our first volume, for the Page File. In our design, this is not to be located on a mount point, so we don’t need to create a folder structure to support it. We can simple right click and choose New Simple Volume:

Figure 8: Creating a new Simple Volume

The New Simple Volume Wizard will launch. We’ll be provided with the opportunity to assign our drive letter, mount in an empty folder (which we will use for the database and log volumes) or not to assign a drive letter or path. We’ll choose a drive letter, in this case, D:

Figure 9: Assigning a drive letter to our page file disk

After choosing the drive letter, we’ll then move onto formatting our first disk. It is recommended to use 64KB allocation unit sizes with Exchange. This helps with performance, as Exchange will be reading and writing large database block sizes, large log file sizes and uses lazy commits. Rather than break the writes into smaller, unnecessary chunks we will use the largest unit size possible. This is mirrored somewhat with Page File disks as although memory pages are 4KB in memory they may be flushed and returned in bigger chunks.

Figure 10: Selecting the correct allocation unit size and volume label

After formatting our page file volume, we’ll move straight onto our database and log volumes. We need to first create mount points, which we will create on our system drive using the values specified in the table above. For simplicity, we have used the command line to create the mount points using the mkdir command:

Figure 11: Creating volume mount points

Next we will start the process of formatting and assigning mount points to use disk, by right-clicking each individual volume and choosing New Simple Volume. We will go through the same process as the page file disk with one difference; we will specify the mount point for each disk, as shown below:

Figure 12: Assigning a new simple volume mount point

As with the page file disk we will choose a file system type of NTFS, and specify an allocation unit size of 64KB. We’ll specify a volume label that will make it easy to identify the purpose of the volume:

Figure 13: Formatting the volume with correct 64KB allocation unit settings

After formatting each new volume, assigning a mount point and label we will see the list of volumes within Disk Management’s upper pane. You will see the benefit of specifying a label at this point, as without using drive letters to identify disks it is hard to see the purpose of each disk:

Figure 14: Examining our disk configuration

We’ll perform the same tasks on both Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 servers. As our disk and database layout is identical, we’ll expect the process and end result to look the same, except for disk sizes.


In this part of the series we’ve built our servers, and then prepared our storage for Exchange – a critical task that must be done correctly to ensure that Exchange is reliable and meets performance requirements. In part 7 of this series we will complete preparation of the servers, before moving onto JetStress testing.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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