Introducing the Exchange Solution Reviewed Program (ESRP) – Storage


The Exchange Solution Reviewed Program – Storage (ESRP) is a Microsoft Exchange Server program designed to facilitate third party storage testing and solution publishing for Exchange Server.  The program combines a storage testing harness (Jetstress) with solution publishing guidelines.  Microsoft Gold Certified or Certified Storage Partners can use the ESRP framework provided to test their storage solutions targeted for Microsoft Exchange deployment.  The tested storage solution performance data and the best practice whitepaper are submitted to the Microsoft Exchange product group for review. Reviewed solution whitepapers will subsequently be linked from the Microsoft ESRP website.


 


The program was launched in September, 2005. We have a number of Exchange partners signed up for it. Right now, HP and Lefthand Networks have reviewed solutions listed.


 


In the past, through the issues we have dealt with our customers, we found that:


 


An effective storage solution is critical to the success of an Exchange deployment:  Exchange depends on the storage to provide data availability. Poorly designed storage will not only translate in to a poor user experience (performance), but can also decrease the Exchange server availability (storage failure/data loss).


 


Exchange storage problems are costly and difficult to investigate and remediate:


Correcting poorly designed storage architecture after it has gone in to production is extremely painful and costly, since it often requires building out a new storage system (with the correct design).


 


There is a huge variation in quality and configuration best practices across storage solutions used for Exchange:  Since storage is so critical for Exchange, there is a need to provide consistent storage testing and best practice guidelines.


 


To address these issues, the Exchange product team has put together ESRP-Storage to enable vendors to produce tested and well documented storage solutions which can expedite exchange deployments, provide confidence for a given storage solution and ultimately improve overall customer satisfaction.


 


ESRP – Storage is not a Microsoft certification, qualification or logo program.


 


Through the program, we would like to achieve:


 


Better tested storage solutions for Exchange


 


The program provides a testing, result validation and whitepaper publishing framework. It standardizes on the test cases and targets the tests for the Exchange environment.   ESRP-Storage listed solutions have passed a known set of reliability and performance tests above and beyond the testing performed to meet WHQL requirements.


 


More storage solutions tested for Exchange


 


The program addresses the problem space by enabling vendors to perform Exchange specific storage testing and by providing a framework from them to publish their results and best practices in a structured whitepaper. The recommendations are based on the tests conducted using the testing framework; the tested configuration and storage design are listed in details in the whitepaper. Today, there is a vacant space for storage best practices for Exchange; the goal of this program is to improve the situation.


 


Higher confidence in Exchange storage solution


 


Storage architectures for Exchange are not simple due to the various factors that need to be taken in to account (performance, reliability, backup/restore methodology etc.)  ESRP-Storage solutions have gone through Exchange specific storage testing so reviewed solutions provide are well tested and well understood by the vendor.  This translates in to improved confidence for both the solution integrator and customer for the given storage solution.


 


Reduced deployment time for Exchange storage solutions


 


The program is not designed to eliminate pre-deployment testing. However, reviewed solutions have gone through a set of reliability and performance testing, so the data in the published whitepaper can provide a good baseline, this can help to reduce the deployment time by weeks or even months for large/complex deployments.


 


Currently available web sites are:


ESRP download website:  


 http://www.microsoftstoragepartners.com/


 


Microsoft ESRP Website: 


 http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/2003/esrp.mspx


 


ESRP is for our Gold or Certified partners. Currently, we have a number of vendors participating in the program and have several solutions being tested.  HP has completed the first ESRP-Storage solution with a 10,000 mailbox solution based on the EVA 8000.


 


FAQ


 


What is the process a storage vendor goes through to list an ESRP-Storage solution?


 


The storage vendor needs to sign up for the program at the www.microsoftstoragepartners.com website, and navigate to the download page. If it is the first time for vendors to get the ESRP package, they will need to request for download access. Once they are approved, they can download the ESRP zip file which contains three documents: the program overview document; testing procedure document and the whitepaper template document; and Jetstress kit. The vendor should go through the testing procedure document to complete all the tests, and follow the guidelines in the whitepaper template to develop the solution whitepaper. Exchange will review the submitted solution whitepaper and performance data. Reviewed solutions will be linked from the Microsoft ESRP Web Site.


 


Is ESRP-Storage a certification/qualification/logo based program?


 


No, ESRP-Storage is not a certification/qualification/logo based program. This program is to provide a storage testing framework and solution publishing guidelines for Exchange. We ask the vendors to conduct tests, validate the results, and present the data. ESRP-Storage is an optional storage testing/best practice publishing framework Microsoft storage partners can choose to use.


 


Is there any Exchange Product Group support criteria based on ESRP-Storage?


 


No, ESRP-Storage is not used for any official Microsoft support criteria.  ESRP-Storage is a program that provides a storage testing and results publishing framework but is not directly related to Microsoft supportability. For any technical issues, send mail to esrp AT microsoft DOT com.


 


Are there ESRP’s for other 3rd party Exchange solutions?


 


The ESRP framework has been designed to accommodate other types of Exchange solutions but Storage is the only program available at this time.


 


Storage requirements are vastly different, how can this program help if the tested storage solutions are configured in just one of an infinite number of ways?


 


Having infinite number of configurations has been problem contributor in many solutions. A goal of this program is to establish a "storage template" for a given storage solution which is tested well and then scale it appropriately.  Many storage solutions can implement a "brick" type model where a known good configuration can be easily scaled up.  ESRP-Storage can be the base configuration for this template and provide a powerful starting point for designing the storage for the specific needs.


 


Does ESRP-Storage include tests for VSS backup/restore solutions?


 


Released ESRP-Storage does not have VSS test cases at this time.  This functionality is being considered for future releases.


 


Does this program have any effect on Microsoft's support stance around 3rd party solutions such as volume management and replication?


 


ESRP-Storage solutions that contain 3rd party solutions (such as asynchronous replication) does not change Microsoft's support position on these solutions and/or methodologies. Microsoft Exchange has released a number of KB articles addressing the support statement around various 3rd party Exchange solutions, those statements are still valid regardless if a solution has gone through ESRP or not.


 


Which version of Exchange does the ESRP test against?


 


ESRP requires vendor to use the released versions of Jet files (i.e. ese.dll, eseperf.dll etc). Currently, the latest release for Exchange 2003 is SP2.


 


Does ESRP present an End to End messaging system solution, especially the host model and configuration?


 


No. The ESRP-Storage program does not present an End to End messaging system solution. It focuses on storage solution testing to address performance and reliability issues with storage design. However, Storage is not the only factor to take into consideration when designing a scale up Exchange solution. Other factors which affect the server scalability are: server processor utilization, server physical and virtual memory limitations, resource requirements for other applications, directory and network service latencies, network infrastructure limitations, replication and recovery requirements, and client usage profiles. All these factors are beyond the scope for ESRP-Storage. Therefore, the number of mailboxes hosted per server as part of the tested configuration may not necessarily be viable for some customer deployment. Especially, we see a trend that the mailbox servers being bottlenecked on the kernel memory.


 


For more information on identifying and addressing performance bottlenecks in an Exchange system, please refer to Troubleshooting Microsoft Exchange Server Performance, available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=23454.  Please refer to the Optimizing Storage for Exchange Server 2003 paper for additional details on Exchange storage design.


 


- Jian Yan

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