Sunday, December 28, 2008

Favorite URLs for my Exchange & Admin Work Posted...

Ehlo All,

I figured I would share the websites I use for my Exchange and other admin work so other admin's would benefit. So, enjoy. Any comments or suggestions for other sites, let me know in the comments.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exchange Server 2007 Rollups Existing for SP1 & non-SP version

So Everyone,

Question: which is the latest Update Rollup for Exchange Server 2007, 5 or 7? That was last night at the Exchange User Group meeting ( We had a discussion of the latest update for Exchange Server 2007. Some folks said roll-up 7 was the latest, and I said roll-up 5 was the latest. Turns out everyone was right. How can that be you may ask? Exchange Server 2007 is a DIFFERENT product than Exchange Server 2007 SP1 so they have different updates. Which explains why the tech who installed a rollup for non-SP1 broke his SP1 Exchange. He smartly do a snapshot before upgrading and disconnected the server from the network, so he quickly reverted to the pre-patch state. So, pay attention which updates are for your version of Exchange.

As of December 10, 2008, here are the latest updates for each version of Exchange Server 2007. I don't know why folks would stay on base version 2007 due to all the gains in SP1, but obviously many folks are and MS is paying attention to them.

Exchange Server 2007 - Update Rollup 7

Exchange Server 2007 SP1 - Update Rollup 5 (not on Windows Update yet, will be posted in 1-2 weeks, so you must know about it to download it)


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NYExUG Member Review of PowerShell Book

At one of our last NY Exchange User Group meeting which was focused on PowerShell and Exchange presented by PowerShell MVP Brandon Shell, Manning Publications provided us a copy of their Windows PowerShell in Action book to review. One of the winners of the book provided me this review.


Here is my review of the PowerShell book:

There are usually two different types of sysadmin who script: the ones who will find a script online, modify it for their needs (hopefully test it) and deploy it, and one that will figure out all the methods and procedures and write a script from scratch. This book while it says is geared to all beginner’s is really written for the later type of sysadmin. The book does a wonderful job of explaining in detail how the pipeline works but for most sysadmins they would want a more finished example of doing something versus how the pipeline itself works.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

In pursuit of my Exchange 2007 deployment - the ugly of VMware ESXi 3.5 and hard drive resizing for Windows Server 2008

Hello All,

How do you resize partition sizes in VMware ESXi 3.5 (version 110271, VI 2.5 build 103682, VCenter 2.5.0 build 104215) and Windows Server 2008 (these were MBR and Simple volumes)?

1) VI client built-in functionality (VI 2.5 build 103682)
2) DISKPART (as included with Windows 2003)
3) GParted (gparted-livecd-0.3.4-11.iso)
4) VMware Converter (3.0.3 build 89816)
5) vmkfstools (VMware ESXi 3.5 (version 110271)
6) none of the above. Re-install the OS.

Spoiler plot... this does NOT have a happy ending. The answer is 6. If you think you can prove me wrong with the versions above, please let me know how.

If you're a reader of my blog skip to the next paragraph, since this is an executive summary for the non-regulars. I'm in the process of finally upgrading to Exchange 2007 from 2003. I've decided to make it a challenge and do it on a platform I have had no experience with, Windows Server 2008. All my clients and all my servers are Windows 2003 or a variation (e.g. R2, x64, etc). To make it even more difficult, even though I have extensive experience with VMware Server and Workstation, I'm running it under VMware ESXi 3.5 [embedded & w/virtual center]. ESXi is a different beast than other VMware products. It contains a WHOLE lot more functionality especially when you add Virtual Center.

After a few months of planning on functionality & redundancy desired, hardware sizing, migration plans, and a number of other factors, I took the plunge into testing. So, I created my base OS images of Windows 2003 (x32) and Windows 2008 (x64) to test for 1 month which turned into 4 months. After I was done testing installs and configurations, I deleted all those images and started again. The party began.

So, I setup base OS images with 30GB partitions since I was planning on adding a minimum of 14 images & 12 virtual machines (aka vm's). Space is a concern since it is 6 x 300GB SAS 10k hard drives in direct attached storage (DAS) in a RAID 10 config. Problem was I mistakenly made the 2008 system partition size 30GB. I figured, it would be large enough. I'm blogging about this, so obviously it was not and the attempted fix wasn't a quick 1-2-3 or even a 2-3 hour fix.

Attempt #1 - How VMware hard drive resizing is suppose to work
So, after making my 2008 partition size 30GB, I figured the beauty of VMware would show of it's skills. Similar to VMware Server & Workstation, you right-click and enter the new larger hard drive size, and click OK, and a few seconds later it would be increased to 50GB. No such luck. Attempting this resulted in ESXi simply ignoring my request to enlarge the partition. No error, nothing. It stayed on 30GB. A bit of research indicated that Windows Server 2008 is NOT supported for hard drive increases via the VMware Infrastructure Client (aka VI). So, I looked into the other options.

Attempt #2 - Diskpart
This article talks about Diskpart, but all the screenshots are 2003 related, so I didn't even bother, since I figured since diskpart shipped with Windows 2003 SP1, it probably was a dead-end solution. Diskpar was Windows 2003 related, diskpart was 2003 SP1 related. You can find a good article about Exchange 2003 and align your partitions for database storage here.

Attempt #3 - GParted
As per attempt #2, that same techtarget article talks about using an open-source partition tool. I uploaded the ISO to the datastore, did the booting, and attempted to modify the partition to 50GB. It reported no additional space execpt for one more 1MB. Obviously, that isn't correct. Next....

Attempt #4 - VMware Converter
I tried this 2 different ways since some sites including the above techtech article here talked about running VMware Converter directly on the server you are attempting to modify the hard drive partition size, and via a remote server. In my case I attempted via Virtual Center. Both ways failed with the same error "Unable to determine Guest Operating system". Problem: Windows Server 2008 is not supported. Oops. Next attempt.

Attempt #5 - vmkfstools
Run a single command to enlarge your partition ("vmkfstools -X 50g ExchangeSrv.vmdk" ["50g" is for 50GB the size you want, and "ExchangeSrv.vmdk" is for the server name]) and all your troubles go away. Or that's how all the documentation sounded. Problem is, you can't run this command via VI or a command line on ESXi out-of-the-box. A number of advanced functionality for ESX require run command line based commands. The only way to do this with ESXi, is to enable console access. This is NOT supported on ESXi by VMware and use your judgement (similar warnings when using regedit). So, to gain console access, I found this handy blog posting that gave a summary how to enable SSH access for ESXi (I found it better than the VMware KB tech article). This is when I had to remember my days back on AIX with the vi editor. Since you need to modify a configuration file, and it's a bit tricky. You'll need to google "vi" if you need help. I then had ssh root access to my ESXi server.

So, I ran the command and then issued a "ls -l" and noticed the server vmdk had increased to 50GB. Awesome, I figured I was done. Nope. So, I then had to run the process in attempt #3, GParted. I ran that and it saw the extra 20GB and enlarged the partition. Almost there. Until I rebooted the server and it failed to boot with a non-bootable error of "winload.exe is missing or corrupt." I started the repair process and then realized I didn't want a base image to be off a corrupt partition or possible issues with files. So, at this point I scrapped the process and did a re-install of 2008.

The best part of Windows Server 2008 is I can install it under 40 minutes on the hardware I'm running. So, this makes it very fast. Also, I recommend you make OS partitions at least 40-50GB. I plan on using a secondary partition for Exchange databases, but I still wanted extra space on the 1st partition. Here are the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 System Requirements. So, I have my 50GB OS partition and a 2nd for the Exchange databases. I return to installing Exchange now.

Good site to explain VMware's resizing of Virtual Disks (primarily for Windows 2003)

Side Notes
- Windows Server 2008 annoyance, why is hibernation enabled on a server OS. I quickly noticed storage was being used up faster than it should. I found out a hibernate file is created on the root of c:\. To delete it and disable this "very useful" [note sarcasm] server feature, open a command prompt and enter "powercfg -h OFF". And it'll delete the file and disable the feature.

- thin provisioning capability (means, create a 50GB partition, and have it dynamically grow. So, only use what you need). Only downside of this, is a reduction in performance. It's only available to SAN based storage. I'll need to explore that in the future.

- I tend to recommend folks avoid Dynamic Disks and GPT based partitions unless there is a requirement to select these since compatibility can easily become a problem with these types of disks. GPT is used when you want partitions over 2TB, as per Dynamic disks, for online resizing (I think) and use of OS based RAID types.

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Emptying Those Pesky OLK Folders (Outlook design flaw)

Hello All,

This came up on the New York Exchange Server User Group (aka NYExUG) Google Group mailing list. See below to download the script to empty those pesky Outlook 2003 OLK folders.

Down Here: Magical Script to Purge the Outlook OLK Folder

Background on the issue. When an Outlook 2003 (not sure if Outlook 2007 has the same problem) user opens an attachment, Outlook creates a cached copy (with a similar name and a few digits) in a hidden OLK folder (random folder name) in the user's profile. Now, the issue is, if the user opens up the same file name (e.g. scanner creates PDF files named Scanned.pdf", eventually the random digits run out and user will not be able to open the new file due to a same file name error. Of course the error message isn't so clear cut. The reason I call this a design flaw, there isn't a way to clear the Outlook "cache" without manually doing this. I've looked for Group Policy adm add-ons, and a number of other solutions, but in the end, a co-worker of mine at REEF Solutions found and configured a script to empty all OLK folders on Startup. Now, we simply place that script in the startup folder, and "BANG!" every login solves the problem. I'm sure there's a better way to deploy it, but this was a quick and easy solution. If you know how to handle this via GP, post it in the comments.

Until next time.