The mission of one of the top public universities in the United States is to provide the best possible educational experience for its students through excellence in teaching, research and creative activity, and service to the state and society. As a part of that mission, the school’s IT team strives to offer students, faculty, and staff a secure and reliable communication solution that enhances the everyday activities that comprise university life. To improve e-mail capabilities for faculty and students, the university deployed a pilot of Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010. With this upgrade, the university will be able to benefit from increased performance and redundancy, reduced storage and backup costs, reduced compliance costs, and the ability to grow the communications network as the university population demands it.
With an annual operating budget of U.S.$1.48 billion, the university enables its IT department to provide the latest technology—whether in widely available wireless networks or in physical hardware—to students, leading PC Magazine to rank it as one of America’s Top Wired Colleges for 2008.
||By using the compliance features in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, we can save about $400,000 in hardware and software costs. That’s a big savings.
The university struggles with frequent power outages and the possibility that severe weather could take one or more of its servers offline, so reliable disaster recovery is critical. With its commitment to maintaining highly available services, the IT team manages a system that provides both geographic and hardware redundancy. With its current solution based on Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 e-mail messaging and collaboration software, the team uses cluster continuous replication (CCR) for its high-availability solution, with four CCR clusters providing network redundancy at two data centers that are several miles apart around the main campus.
Beyond maintaining service availability, the university’s IT team has put a solution in place that provides students, faculty, and staff unlimited mailboxes. With the current solution, the university faced increasing storage costs for maintaining network and backup data, as well as diminishing performance. Because it provides unlimited storage for users, the IT team continually had to monitor the size of mailbox databases and move users’ mailboxes to keep them sized similarly. The team frequently had to move mailboxes in the middle of the night to balance performance and avoid taking users offline during the day, when the campus is most active.
Although the current solution works smoothly, the IT team continues to look for ways to improve performance and reduce the costs of maintaining an ever-expanding environment.
As part of the Microsoft Rapid Development Program, the university decided to deploy a pilot of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 after learning about the high-availability, storage, and performance improvements in this latest offering. A particular draw was Database Availability Groups, a high-availability solution that combines on-site data replication and off-site data replication into a single framework, which would enable the team to reduce the number of active mailbox servers from eight down to four. “Our existing primary network operations center is an old building, and we have power and heating issues. We have many instances where we have to shut down, and with our current CCR solution, passive nodes come online in another building to maintain mail service. Database Availability Groups provide the same thing, except they’re more flexible,” explains Joseph Nguyen, Systems Architect. Using Database Availability Groups, the IT team will configure four mailbox servers in the primary site, along with two mailbox servers for disaster recovery at an additional location, providing further redundancy.
The university will also be able to reduce the amount of storage required because replicated database copies reduce the need for data redundancy at the disk level. “Our plan is to keep three database copies—two that are up-to-date and one that lags by about a week,” explains Aaron Bighorse, Business Architect. “We will load balance the database copies, so no one server will get the full load from a server that is down.” Another way that the university will reduce overall storage is by applying retention policies. The IT team can set university-wide retention policies, and users can also manually select items to archive, thereby reducing the amount of data that needs to be stored in the database.
While less data means that the IT team will not be required to move mailboxes as frequently, the Online Move Mailbox feature in Exchange Server 2010 will enable the team to plan and carry out moves on a scheduled basis, even during the day. “Because we can move mailboxes or perform routine maintenance during business hours, we can reserve nights or weekends for larger network deployments that might be disruptive,” adds Bighorse. “Being able to schedule and complete moves at specific times helps a great deal.”
The university plans to take advantage of the support for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) hard disk drives in Exchange Server 2010. Exchange Server 2010 delivers a 70 percent reduction in disk input/output (I/O) from Exchange Server 2007, lowering the bar for the minimum disk performance required to run Exchange Server.
||Because we can move mailboxes or perform routine maintenance during business hours, we can reserve nights or weekends for larger network deployments that might be disruptive. Being able to schedule and complete moves at specific times helps a great deal.
Another area of potential cost savings for the university is in compliance features, specifically legal discovery. Using Exchange Server 2010, the security team can preserve copies of users’ deleted and edited mailbox items by placing a legal hold on individual mailboxes or across larger groups. The IT team investigated another vendor’s solution, until it realized that Exchange Server 2010 could offer the features it required at a much lower cost.
By the beginning of the 2009 fall semester, the university deployed Exchange Server 2010 to 4,000 students and faculty. By the end of 2009, the system should be fully migrated and deployed to all users on campus. The IT team sees significant advantages of the new system for returning and new students, such as Microsoft Outlook® Web App, which provides Web-based access to Exchange Server mailboxes.
Several other client features also motivated this decision, including MailTips and Conversation View. With MailTips, workers can see—before they click the send button—whether a message recipient is out of the office or an attachment is too large to send. With Conversation View, employees accessing Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging and collaboration client on their computer, the Web, or from their Windows® phones can view messages organized into conversations or threads to make it easier to follow a topic. Messages will show up in the conversation even if they have been filed in different folders. Entire conversations can be deleted or ignored, meaning future messages for that conversation will no longer show up in the inbox.
“Expanded browser support for Outlook Web App is a huge deal for Macintosh and Linux users who are on browsers other than Windows Internet Explorer®. Now they will all have the option of using Outlook Web App as their main client,” says Nguyen. Because the university allows students and faculty to access e-mail through any technology they choose, it is also providing support for people who use Windows Mobile® software. “With Windows Mobile 6.5, Conversation View is as good as it is in Office Outlook and Outlook Web App,” says Bighorse. “Users can definitely look through e-mail much faster.”
As it continues to look for ways to improve communication for students, faculty, and staff alike, the university’s IT team has started investigating a unified communications solution from Microsoft, and it looks forward to deploying the pilot for Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging and collaboration client as soon as it is available.
By migrating to Exchange Server 2010 from Exchange Server 2007, the university will improve system performance and ensure availability for users across the campus, while reducing operating costs for storage and compliance. Most importantly, it provides a cornerstone for solutions such as unified messaging and Outlook 2010, both of which unlock key features in Exchange Server 2010 that enable increased productivity and efficiency.
Improves Performance and Redundancy
Using Database Availability Groups, the university will provide improved availability for its 40,000 users, without the additional cost of new hardware. The university will also take advantage of Database Availability Groups to add an additional disaster recovery site into its architecture. “We get better built-in site redundancy with Exchange Server 2010, without having to install and configure additional hardware, which saves us money in the long run,” says Nguyen.
Reduces Storage and Compliance Costs
The migration of data from a storage area network (SAN) to a direct-attached storage (DAS) solution using SATA disks will help the university reduce storage costs by almost $150,000. The university also plans to implement the discovery features that are a part of Exchange Server 2010 instead of implementing a third-party solution, which will save hardware and software costs. “By using the compliance features in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, we can save about $400,000 in hardware and software costs. That’s a big savings,” says Nguyen.
Enables Future Growth
By deploying Exchange Server 2010, the university has laid the groundwork for a more robust communications solution for its users. In addition, Outlook 2010 will unlock many key features in Exchange Server 2010, including enhancements for Conversation View, MailTips, and other user productivity tools that offer students the latest technology before they enter the workforce. “Outlook 2010 has some nice features that make Exchange Server 2010 shine,” says Nguyen.
With Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, the university can continue to provide the services that made it a “top-wired” university in 2008.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Exchange Server 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange Server delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, which combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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