The dynamic disk management functionality in Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Server and in Microsoft Windows Server 2003 is based on technology licensed to Microsoft by VERITAS Software Corporation. VERITAS Volume Manager for Windows (now called VERITAS Storage Foundation for Windows) provides additional dynamic disk management and replication functionality above that available in the default Windows dynamic disk management services.
Many customers have asked us about the supportability of a Microsoft Exchange system that replaces the native Microsoft Windows dynamic disk management services with VERITAS Volume Manager or Storage Foundation services. In short, if you install VERITAS Volume Manager or Storage Foundation, then VERITAS, rather than Microsoft, becomes responsible for support of dynamic disks, and Microsoft will continue to support other aspects of the Exchange system.
This Exchange CXP Flash will explain in more detail how VERITAS Volume Manager and Storage Foundation affect Exchange, and define support boundaries between Microsoft and VERITAS. It will also explain and define the terms “supported” and “unsupported” as they apply generically to third party products and components used in a Microsoft Exchange system. However, there may be specific agreements or restrictions that apply to a particular solution that modify or supersede the generic guidelines. Microsoft publishes specific statements of supportability in its KnowledgeBase, and you can search for such statements at:
What is VERITAS Storage Foundation?
The dynamic disk management drivers included with Microsoft Windows are based on technology licensed from VERITAS Software Corporation. VERITAS Storage Foundation provides extended versions of those drivers and provides additional disk management features, including:
- Support for dynamic disks with Microsoft Windows clustering. (Native Windows drivers support only basic disks in clusters.)
- Snapshot backup of disks.
- Transferring disk ownership between systems.
- Dynamic reconfiguration of online storage.
- Replication of disks between servers.
Does Exchange work with VERITAS Storage Foundation?
Microsoft Exchange databases can be stored on disks managed by VERITAS Storage Foundation, and VERITAS states that Exchange databases will function normally in both clustered and non-clustered environments.
There are many Exchange servers running today on platforms that use VERITAS Storage Foundation. However, Microsoft has not performed in-depth testing of Exchange on disks managed by VERITAS Storage Foundation. Therefore, VERITAS Storage Foundation is not supported by Microsoft, but is supported by VERITAS with Microsoft Exchange.
If VERITAS Storage Foundation works with Exchange, then why isn’t it supported?
It is supported—but by VERITAS, rather than by Microsoft.
VERITAS Storage Foundation replaces core Microsoft Windows disk management services with a proprietary VERITAS solution. The result is a solution that is in part supported by Microsoft and in part supported by VERITAS.
To be very clear: Microsoft will provide support for Microsoft Exchange issues if you run Exchange on a VERITAS Storage Foundation platform. However, Microsoft will only troubleshoot and attempt to resolve Exchange-specific issues up to the point that the source of the problem can be reasonably attributed to an issue or incompatibility with VERITAS software. This same principle also applies to other third party products.
Doesn’t the term “unsupported” imply “not recommended”?
Saying that VERITAS Storage Foundation is not Microsoft-supported does not mean that it doesn’t work or that a solution using VERITAS Storage Foundation is of inferior quality. It means that Microsoft does not control or have access to the VERITAS code, and Microsoft has not performed in-depth testing of Exchange with VERITAS Storage Foundation.
In the absence of rigorous testing and full access to the product, Microsoft cannot provide information about the actual performance or interaction of VERITAS Storage Foundation with Microsoft Exchange. Exchange has, however, been thoroughly tested with the native Microsoft Windows dynamic disk management drivers, and Microsoft does have full access to and control of these drivers. Therefore, the native Windows dynamic disk management services are fully Microsoft-supported.
Many Microsoft Exchange customers are made uneasy by the word “unsupported” for a very good reason: they have been refused support by a vendor simply because of the presence of an unsupported component, and this in advance of any determination that the unsupported component has anything to do with the problem.
If an Exchange server is down or is malfunctioning, Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) will assist with the issue, as is their practice, regardless of the cause. If troubleshooting indicates that a third party product or platform is the source of the problem, then PSS may be unable to resolve the problem. Of course, Microsoft PSS is familiar with many third party products and assists customers in resolving routine issues with them every day. But there will be cases where a customer will need to involve a third party's support organization.
If Microsoft Exchange is running on a VERITAS Storage Foundation platform, Microsoft remains ready to assist its customers with Exchange-specific issues and to troubleshoot Exchange-identified problems. But if troubleshooting indicates the problem lies in the VERITAS platform, then customers must be ready either to involve VERITAS in finding a solution or be ready to revert to a fully Microsoft-supported platform.
Microsoft will not require you to remove VERITAS or other third party products as a precondition of providing support, unless there is a reasonable basis for doing so and less disruptive troubleshooting efforts have not been effective. If neither Microsoft nor VERITAS are able to resolve a particular storage-related problem, it may be necessary to remove VERITAS components from the system and revert to a fully Microsoft-supported platform. This follows the usual troubleshooting procedures of “last resort.”
What do you mean by a "fully Microsoft-supported platform"?
A fully Microsoft-supported Windows installation is one that uses only Microsoft-provided software drivers and services. In addition, for Exchange, a fully Microsoft-supported platform uses only native Microsoft Exchange services and components.
When running Exchange in a fully Microsoft-supported configuration, Microsoft has the ability to fully debug and isolate problems. But if third party components are involved, Microsoft may not be able to fully troubleshoot or resolve an issue.
Microsoft does not typically have access to source code or other proprietary information that may be necessary to resolve some issues with a third party component. Resolution of some issues may require a change to the design or code of a third party product, or require that customers reconfigure the product. Customers must rely on the vendor rather than on Microsoft for support and resolution of such issues.
If a third party software component or software application replaces native Microsoft Windows or Exchange drivers, program files or services, then support for those components becomes the responsibility of the third party.
Hardware vendors are also responsible for support of their hardware as well as any software components that might accompany the hardware.
Microsoft strongly recommends that you install Windows on hardware that has been qualified through the WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) program. WHQL qualification confirms that a product has passed rigorous testing for compatibility with Microsoft Windows. However, achieving WHQL qualification does not transfer responsibility for support to Microsoft.
So how do I determine whether a problem is the responsibility of a third party vendor or of Microsoft?
In some cases, it will be obvious that a problem is the responsibility of one vendor or the other. In other cases, it will not be so clear.
When there is difficulty establishing the root cause of the problem, a very effective strategy is to involve troubleshooting teams from all parties involved.
Can Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) directly involve VERITAS or other third party vendors in the troubleshooting process?
The customer, not PSS, is primarily responsible for involving a third party vendor's support organization. PSS is happy to work with other support organizations in resolving customer issues, but should not be considered the primary liaison between customers and third party vendors.
Every Exchange solution will, necessarily, be a multi-vendor solution. Microsoft strongly recommends that customers develop support relationships with each vendor involved in the end-to-end solution.
Is there a certification program for third party products with Exchange?
At this time, there is not.
The feasibility of a Microsoft Exchange certification program similar to the Windows programs has been considered. Microsoft has no current plans for such a program. Microsoft provides extensive guidance and tools for designing Exchange systems and testing their capabilities. For more information, please visit the Exchange web site at:
Microsoft does recommend that you run Exchange on hardware platforms that have passed Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) qualification tests and with software that has passed Certified for Windows testing. Passing these tests indicates that the platform meets a baseline definition of features and quality goals for compatibility with Windows.
You can learn more about WHQL testing and the Windows Logo program at:
VERITAS Volume Manager and Storage Foundation for Windows have both passed Certified for Windows testing by VeriTest. VeriTest is an independent testing company that tests third party products for Microsoft’s Certified for Windows program.
The Certified for Windows logo attests that a product meets certain published criteria and has passed rigorous tests for availability, reliability, security and supportability in a Windows Server® environment. The Certified for Windows program does not certify products for a specific use or application (such as Microsoft Exchange).
Obtaining Microsoft certification for a hardware or software product does not imply that support of that product thereby becomes the obligation of Microsoft. Certification and support are separate issues that are often confused.
Microsoft publishes detailed certification specifications and requirements. Certification attests that a product has in fact met those specifications and requirements. Support for certified products remains the responsibility of each vendor, regardless of certification status. Microsoft frequently and actively works with third party vendors of Microsoft-certified products to improve compatibility and interoperability.
NOTE: The goals of the Certified for Windows program are to validate product availability, reliability, security and supportability. As used in this context, the term “supportability” refers to features and policies that improve the ability of customers to troubleshoot and manage a product. This includes such things as allowing complete uninstallation through the Add/Remove Programs interface, logging of diagnostic data in Windows event logs, support for unattended installation and the availability of vendor support.
The Certified for Windows program also defines a Supported for Windows classification. To be on the Supported for Windows list, a vendor does not have to submit products for testing, but instead promises to provide technical support for the product.
You can learn more about the Certified for Windows program here:
Detailed reports on the exact testing done with each VERITAS product on each edition of Microsoft Windows are available at the VeriTest web site:
Why doesn’t Microsoft test Exchange with VERITAS Storage Foundation?
VERITAS Storage Foundation is intended to present an alternative platform for disk management and clustered application support that is transparent to and useable by Microsoft Windows applications, including Exchange. The primary responsibility for testing and validating the general purpose suitability of the platform therefore lies with VERITAS.
Storage management is a rapidly evolving technology and new versions and innovations are released frequently by competing vendors. Primary responsibility must rest with each vendor for ensuring that their technologies correctly and transparently implement standard protocols.
Microsoft tests Exchange on standard, established disk and server technologies, but it would be impossible for Microsoft to test with each and every new technology and application in the market.
Even if Microsoft were to devote the immense resources required to rigorously test every third party product, the primary expertise with and understanding of these products still lies with the vendor. Each vendor has proprietary knowledge, tools and understanding of their own products that must be leveraged to solve complex problems. There is no substitute for the involvement of each vendor in supporting issues with their products.
For information about how to contact VERITAS Software, check the VERITAS Software product support site:
Microsoft provides third-party contact information to help you find technical support. This contact information may change without notice. Microsoft does not guarantee the accuracy of this third-party contact information.
The third-party products and services that are discussed in this article are manufactured by companies that are independent of Microsoft. Microsoft makes no warranty, express, implied or otherwise, regarding the features, performance or reliability of these products and services.
- Mike Lee