Microsoft Announces Virtualization Support for OCS Monday, May 18 2009 

Well, not all of OCS, but for specific server roles. The roles include: front-end, back-end SQL Server 2008 64-bit; group chat channel; group chat compliance; archiving; monitoring (CDR only); and edge access. The roles that are not supported are: audio/video/web conferencing servers, audio/video/web edge conferencing servers, dial-in conferencing, Communicator Web Access, enterprise voice, or Remote Call Control “may not be deployed as part of the virtualized pool.”

In my recent research on cost savings best practices, interviewees consistently mentioned server consolidation. Virtualization goes hand-in-hand with server consolidation efforts. However, communications technologies – in general – are difficult to run virtualized because of high server transactional costs that lead to high CPU utilization, heavy disk IO, and large quantities of attached data. As a result, support for virtualization of communications technologies has lagged behind other server applications. IBM has done well in this area with support for both Notes and Sametime available.  

A whitepaper from Microsoft is available that details the architecture, methodology, and performance.

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E-mail as a Managed Service Wednesday, Sep 24 2008 

I had the opportunity to speak with Scott Gode, VP of Marketing and Product Management for Azaleos, yesterday. Azaleos provides managed service offerings for organizations using Exchange.  They also have a beta going for SharePoint managed services.

A couple of insights that I came away with after the conversation:

1. The interest in SaaS e-mail offerings is also creating interest in managed services for e-mail.  Not all organizations are willing or able to make the transition to a hosted e-mail service, but still want some of the advantages hosted e-mail offers for their IT departments.  

Under a managed service model, the organization still has the solution on premise and pays for licenses and hardware, but the management and monitoring of the solution is outsourced to a third party, saving on internal IT resources.  

So, the managed services model still gives an organization complete control (and the associated expenses) of their e-mail solution (especially important to an organization concerned about the security of the e-mail content) as it is still on premise, but the day-to-day work to maintain is outsourced for a predictable recurring cost.  

2. Virtualizing Exchange can successfully be done, but you need to know the limits and optimize.  

Scott’s team lives in the Exchange world and has developed expertise in virtualizing Exchange.  Scott stated that they have benchmarked a virtualized Exchange implementation as high as 3,000 users. The metrics Scott’s team used were reasonable. However, keep in mind that any benchmark with an e-mail solution is just an indicator, your mileage will vary.  

For example, I once worked with a luxury home construction company with e-mail users that were pretty average in their use (volume, frequency, etc.) except… they liked to add CAD drawings as attachments. The large file attachments created unanticipated loads within their system and caused issues for outgoing e-mails.