How to get Exchange 2007 running on a virtual server

It's been a while since I blogged about something. Maybe it's because I've been busy lately, maybe it's because of I've spent a week at the TechEd conference (the best conference ever, by the way) and a week working on my tan at Daytona Beach, or maybe it's because I'm just getting old and lazy. But I digress...

I have recently had the "pleasure" of installing Microsoft Exchange 2007 SP1 on a virtual server running Windows Server 2008. I was eager to try Microsoft's latest and greatest product. Originally I wanted to install it on Microsoft Virtual Server, but unfortunately MS Virtual Server doesn't support 64-bit virtual servers on a 32-bit host server! So, to get virtual server running, I had to rebuild the physical server, which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Since I was willing to do that, I had no choice but to go with VMWare Virtual Server which fully supports 64-bit virtual servers on a 32-bit host server. VMWare's product turned out to be an excellent product with tons of easy to use features. Hopefully, Microsoft's product will soon catch up.

Usually, I would never recommend running Exchange 2007 virtually in the production environment, unless you have a kick-a$$ host server to run it or if you have fewer than 50 mailboxes. But if you have to - or want to - run Exchange 2007 on VMWare Virtual Server, you need to know that Microsoft does not support this scenario. Even though for the most part it runs fine, there is a problem with the way VMWare virtual adapters work with IP6, which causes the problem with Outlook Anywhere connectivity.

Fortunately, there is a great article on Microsoft Exchange Team blog that helps you to deal with that problem: http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2008/06/20/449053.aspx . Essentially, you need to turn off IP6 on your Exchange server NIC configuration and in the hosts.conf file. You also need to make sure that your Exchange server can talk to Global Catalogue servers by configuring RPCProxy port in the registry.

There is also a great online tool from Microsoft that helps you troubleshoot any connectivity issues with Exchange 2007/2003: https://www.testexchangeconnectivity.com/

In conclusion, kudos to VMWare for the great product, and kudos to Microsoft for their detailed documentation to get things working, as well as providing great online tools for troubleshooting.