In a previous article, I suggested virtualization or the consolidation of server roles as a method for minimizing Exchange deployment costs by reducing the number of physical servers and the number of Exchange 2007 licenses that you would be required to purchase. In that article I mentioned that while these techniques usually work really well for small and medium sized companies, there are some performance issues that you have to consider. That being the case, I want to conclude the series by showing you some ways that you can figure out if these approaches will work for your Exchange organization. I also wanted to take the opportunity to mention some other approaches for lowering your deployment costs.
Any time that you are considering making any sort of major architectural change to your Exchange Server organization, I recommend using the System Center Capacity Planner to get a feel for how those changes are going to affect your Exchange Server deployment. You can download the System Center Capacity Planner from Microsoft here.
Unfortunately, the System Center Capacity Planner is a fairly complicated tool, and there is no way that I can show you step by step how to use it within the amount of space that I have to work with. Even so, I wanted to at least mention it. This tool allows you to create a simulation of your proposed Exchange Server installation. You can enter information about your hardware, your user base and the volume of traffic that they produce, and about your intended architecture. Once you input all of this information, you can run a simulation, and the System Center Capacity Planner will show you any anticipated performance problems, and tell you why those problems may occur.
Exchange Server virtualization and server role consolidation are definitely the approaches that I would recommend looking into first if you are trying to cut costs. These methods aren’t your only options though. Sometimes you may find that the extreme economic situations that we are all facing may require you to use some approaches that you might otherwise not consider.
If you really need to cut costs, then one idea is to deploy Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2008. This product includes Windows Server 2008, Exchange 2007 Standard Edition, Microsoft ForeFront Security for Exchange Server, and a few other unrelated products. This product is far less expensive than purchasing Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server separately. Windows Standard 2008 with client access licenses is usually $999. Exchange 2007 Standard Edition sells for $699. The CALs cost $67 each, so for five CALs, the cost would be $335, bringing the total cost to $2033. By way of comparison, Windows Small Business Server 2008 Standard costs $1089, and includes the five CALs, plus ForeFront, and a few other things.
As you can see, Small Business Server is about half the cost of an Exchange 2007 Standard Edition deployment. So what’s the catch? For starters, it can only be licensed for use with up to 75 desktops. Another limitation is that the license does not allow you to split the products that come with Small Business Server so that they can be virtualized or run on separate physical machines (the Premium version does however include licenses for two physical servers). You can however have other servers in the same domain as a Small Business Server. That way you won’t get stuck running Exchange on a domain controller.
The last option that I want to talk about is outsourcing your Exchange 2007 deployment to a hosting provider who offers a subscription based approach to running Exchange. I have to be honest and tell you that I am not a fan of software as a service. Even so, this approach eliminates up front hardware and licensing costs. Over time though, the ongoing subscription costs will almost certainly exceed what you would have spent on purchasing your own hardware and software.
As you can see, there are quite a few different approaches that you can take to cutting Exchange Server deployment costs. No one single approach works well for everyone, so you will need to use the method that makes the most sense for your own organization.