A newly released “flash” with a collection of information about Multi-site Data Replication and Exchange:
The Exchange Product Group has received numerous queries regarding deploying Exchange in a Multi-site/data replication environment. In order to respond to those queries, we have published a white-paper on deployment guidelines and a Knowledge Base article outlining support policies. The purpose of this posting is to increase the awareness of the white-paper and the KB article, and answer some common questions on this topic.
The Deployment Guidelines for Exchange Server Multi-Site Data Replication
To clarify Exchange replication support boundaries between Microsoft and third party vendors, we have published the following KB article (KB.895847): “Multi-site data replication support for Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2000”
Microsoft Exchange does not encourage nor discourage customers from deploying asynchronous data replication solutions. It is a business decision to choose how to achieve data redundancy and the tolerance for potential data loss. However, before making data replication technology decisions, customers should be clearly informed about the suitability of the technology for the intended purpose. The white-paper and the KB article contain information that may be useful to customers in making such determinations. This is general information, however, and customers should contact vendors to obtain more specific information. .
For example, consider the issue of replication write ordering. As a general guideline, Microsoft advises that it is critical to preserve correct write ordering. With regard to a specific solution, it is the customer’s responsibility to get assurance from the vendor that this requirement is met. Customers must also be aware of the support boundaries between Microsoft and the third party vendors.
2. What are the important tests that need to be covered before deployment?
Testing should be done in each of these categories:
For example, one issue that has been seen with some solutions is that replicated data may be stored in a cache at the primary site but is not immediately transferred to the replication site. When the cache becomes full; it may convert the data changes into a bitmap, and lose the time stamp and ordering for each data write. This could potentially lead to data corruption if the full bitmap is not updated on the remote site after a failure.
3. What tools can I use for the testing?
There are a couple of tools developed by Microsoft Exchange team which can be used to perform the testing mentioned above.
4. What is Microsoft Exchange support for replicating cold data?
When discussing data replication, both the white-paper and the KB refer to "hot" data. I.e. the data being replicated is also being accessed by the Exchange application.
Cold data refers to data has committed to the disk locally and is not being accessed by the Exchange application. e.g. The data has been backed up using VSS or streaming backup software. There are solutions provided by third party vendors which replicate cold data asynchronously to a secondary site. The benefit of such solution is to provide a second copy of the data for a standby DR solution.
Microsoft Exchange supports the replication or copying of "cold" data, provided that the Exchange data was backed up using a supported backup methodology. For example, if the database is backed up using VSS, the VSS solution must comply with KB.822896.
5. If a customer is deploying geo-clustering, do they still need a backup plan?
Yes. Geo-clustering provides site resiliency, but not cold data recovery and retention. Having an adequate backup plan allows you to restore the database to a past point in time. This may be necessary to meet legal requirements, to recover inadvertently deleted data or to recover from a database corruption.
6. Does Microsoft have any recommended storage design samples?
Each customer’s Exchange profile is different; therefore, there is no cookie cutter method to generate a generic storage design. The responsibility to provide a customized storage solution typically resides with the storage vendor. Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) can be engaged to review designs and work with storage vendors to provide advice about best practices for Exchange.