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Retailer takes Microsoft Exchange virtual

Service deal with Azaleos gives iFloor Exchange on VMware without the support headaches

By , Network World
February 06, 2008 09:57 AM ET

Network World - Kevin Sonney and his colleagues at iFloor are going virtual with any environment they can, so when it came to Microsoft Exchange, Sonney was intrigued by the prospects but not the fact that Microsoft doesn't support the implementation.
So Sonney, IT director for retailer iFloor, did the next best thing. He contracted with a service provider to take on the support issue and now he is moving full steam ahead.

Sonney is using managed services from Azaleos to run Exchange 2007 within his VMware environment. All the software runs on premise, his data is stored locally and Azaleos manages the installation. The company monitors both the host and guest environments and offers disaster-recovery options from its offices in Seattle.

"If we were going to mange this internally and put Exchange on VMware ourselves that would cause us to pause," Sonney says. "But Azaleos will fully support it, they do the [quality assurance], they get the calls, if they are comfortable providing an [service-level agreement] for the virtualized environment than I am fine with that."

Sonney's pause would be over the fact that Microsoft does not support Exchange running on VMware. And because Microsoft does not have a virtualization platform that supports the 64-bit Exchange 2007, many users feel they have only the choice of waiting for Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization to ship this fall or going without support.

Microsoft does afford some wiggle room. If users have a physical server running a mirror of the virtualized Exchange environment and can recreate any issues on that platform than Microsoft will provide support. Azaleos has just that set-up as part of virtualized Exchange service, which was first introduced in September.

The company provides iFloor with its Azaleos OneServer as a virtual image preconfigured with Exchange 2007 or one or more of the messaging server's five roles such as remote client access, transport/routing, and unified messaging. Exchange's design allows those roles to run on virtual machines loaded on a single box.

IFloor, which started off as an online store, now has 36 brick-and-mortar locations to go along with its Web presence. Another 10 stores will come online this year. The employees in each store are given e-mail, which previously was provided by a hosting service.

"The biggest thing for me was that [the service provider] had our data," Sonney says. "If I needed to dump something to tape, or if we needed to do some discovery, it was a big complication to get it from those guys. Having an expert company managing, maintaining and patching while we keep the data inside our data center, we get the best of both worlds."

Sonney says having the Azaleos virtual Exchange 2007 server layered on top of the virtualization environment iFloor has built and understands also is a great benefit.

"We have an initiative here to try and go virtual as much as possible and the fact that we can leverage our virtual infrastructure and not have to bring in a separate service specifically to run Exchange is important. Virtualization for us in terms of disaster recovery, failover, uptime, our development environment, it is a huge productivity gain for us."

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