Cloud Services

Why Run Your Exchange Environment In A Hybrid Cloud Model?

By David Hill

VMware vSphere has always been a premier destination for virtualizing packaged applications like Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange. Being built on the same trusted foundation of vSphere, vCloud Hybrid Service continues to see the hosting of these packaged applications as one of the five common starting points to hybrid cloud.

I thought I would expand on this, specifically around why would you would host Microsoft Exchange in VMware vCloud Hybrid Service.

Let’s initially think about the use case of Exchange itself. Microsoft Exchange provides email services to users. Exchange is sometimes considered a static workload that is not a suitable candidate for cloud deployment. However by the very nature of the Exchange use case where users are the key, it becomes a great candidate for deployment in a cloud.

Growth

Let’s think about an actual business and how they grow. No company wants to remain static, so one of their ultimate goals is growth. As a company grows, they take on more and more staff, and maybe then acquire companies, which again brings in even more staff. This in turn causes growth in your messaging systems; more staff equals more users, more users equals more data, more data equals more resource requirements and so it continues until your current infrastructure becomes too constrained and more capital investment is needed. This is where the potential for cloud comes in.

Cloud or IaaS provide the speed and agility IT departments need today. Gone are the days where a project to increase Exchange capacity could take 6 months. Businesses need to expand quickly and need IT to keep up with this expansion as quickly as possible. By leveraging cloud, you get the flexibility to grow your environment as you need to.

Leveraging Your Existing Infrastructure Through Hybridity

By leveraging a hybrid cloud model, you have the ability to leverage your existing investments in your on-premises environment. For example, consider backups that are typically a big investment for your Exchange environment. If you have invested in on-premises backup infrastructure, you will want to continue to leverage this investment. You’re not going to throw it away. This is one of the key benefits of hosting Exchange in a cloud. By designing and building a hybrid cloud, you can continue to leverage this existing infrastructure, while gaining the benefits like agility and ultimately reducing the time to resolve your capacity issues.

Disaster Recovery

Out of all the tools that are used for communication and collaboration, email services are probably the most critical of them all. Ensuring that a robust disaster recovery plan is in place for email is critical for most businesses.

In my personal blog, I talk about how you can leverage the built-in disaster recovery features of Exchange to build a fully redundant email infrastructure across multiple sites. Not all companies have multiple data centers and data centers are expensive to build and maintain, even if we use data center colocation. By leveraging a hybrid cloud model, you gain geographic diversity without the high costs and outlay of capital expenditure required to build multiple locations and data centers. You can simply purchase the amount of resources you need when you need them.

See the diagram below for a high level overview of how you might achieve this.

dc1

Why Not Office 365

Microsoft offers Exchange Online and Office 365 as their cloud-based email solution. They recommend you use this service alongside your current existing on-premises Exchange environment instead of hosting Exchange in the cloud. So why would you host Exchange rather than just pay for a SaaS offering? It comes down to three concerns: investment, control and compliance. Many companies have invested heavily in 3rd party tools and utilities that improve their existing on-premises Exchange environments. These include spam-filtering tools and backup solutions as described earlier. Some of these tools are used specifically to meet compliance and regulation standards. You cannot install these 3rd party tools in an Exchange Online environment – and the ecosystem is not yet mature enough to offer the same capabilities that are offered by an on-premises solution today. Also, some companies need control over when software is upgraded or patches are applied in order to conform to company policies. These companies need access to the Exchange server while still gaining the geographic reach and scale of a cloud-based solution. That is possible in a hosted environment.

Summary

The key to hosting a successful Exchange environment in the cloud is to understand all the benefits of that move. Some of the benefits that we have mentioned are:

  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Cost
  • Ability to leverage existing infrastructure

When making your decision on where to host Exchange, it’s important to consider supportability. Not all vendors and providers support Microsoft Exchange running in their clouds, so making sure that your environment and design is supported by both is critical. With vCloud Hybrid Service, you can run Exchange in one of the five different data centers across the United States or two data centers in the UK and still call the same Global Support team that you’ve always worked with – a great example of true hybridity.

For more information on migrating Exchange to vCloud Hybrid Service and to see how VMware’s own IT department deployed this, come to my VMworld breakout session “Architect the Hybrid Cloud for Microsoft Exchange and Lync”.

For future updates, follow us on Twitter at @vCloud and on Facebook at Facebook.com/VMwarevCloud.

For more information about VMware vCloud Hybrid Service, visit vCloud.VMware.com.

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