Bloody Exchange 2003...

Today, being a generally boring admin-style day (Writing presentations, reports, invoices, expenses and so forth), I thought I'd keep the technical side of my brain occupied with slapping a copy of Exchange 2003 onto my test environment. I've not done this for a few years - I tend just to slap in the Small Business Server disks when I need a test environment.

Why ? Well, I needed a laugh. No. Thats not the reason. You see, FirM now manages Active Directory objects, and I was interested to see how much more work it would be implementing an Exchange Mailbox add/remove feature.

I mean Exchange is really simple - cc:Mail for the new millenium and all that, and basically adds a HUGE access v2 database (Jet Blue or Jet red, I cant remember) onto the side of Active Directory. So one really interesting feature would be a "move this person from Exchange to Notes". (Especially handy for those *very* large UK based banks at the moment, snicker, snicker). Now given that our tool already does the Active Directory bit, and the Domino bit, creating an Exchange mailbox is going to be a walk in the park, right ? So to try this I need a test environment.

So, at 9am or so, I start. And apologies for writing this out longhand..

  • I install win2k3 standard server and attach it to my domain.

  • I then download OS patches. (2 hours nailed so far).

  • Put in the Exchange 2003 Standard edition disk, and stare in wonder at the 8-point checklist, at which the last point is "Install Exchange..".. Mmm.

  • Damn. The Exchange server *has* to be a domain controller. Now that sucks, as each AD Domain controller you add is added to the shonky Active Directory replication topology.. Okay. So I add it as a Domain Controller, and reboot a few times. (Usual metrics for Exchange, I understand, is 500 or less users per server, so a 10k environment would need 20 servers, all of which would then be Domain Controllers, all replicating away. Its starts to get busy..)

  • Do a Domain Connection check. Odd.. Its not finding my domain controller. Oh. Of course MS DNS assigns DNS addresses for *all* interfaces on all machines, so my main DNS controller - as it has VMware server on it, has three separate IP networks + addresses. And of course somthing is resolving to the *wrong* one. Lets just hack those shonky DNS addresses out. And reboot, And Reboot.

  • Phew. Made it past the check. Now we have to do something called "ForestPrep". Prep is actually a misnomer here - it should be "Change". It extends the AD schema to accomodate MS Exchange. Which is rather painful, etc. Still, no choice - I mean - its *their* directory, not mine. Ah. ForestPrep is complaining that it cant find my Schema Master. Damn.

  • Schema master is one of these four Mysterious Active Directory Roles that you cannot find nor manage using the standard set of management console plug ins. Each of these roles have to be assigned to a specific machine in the AD domain, and you cannot have any form of Failover for them. So those machines running those four Roles - you'd better PRAY they work.. Dont worry - Lots of other folks have had this issue, and at this point, Google is very much your friend. Again, the GUI tool that you end up using assumes that both the old and new Schema master machines are okay - in my case, the previous one was dead. So - another technote, and a command line utility this time. This basically hacks the AD infrastructure, and sets up my Schema master again. And another few reboots. (its around 2pm now).

  • Phew. ForestPrep and Domain Prep (again, it messes with your domain-level AD infrastructure) now comples. A few more reboots.

  • FINALLY. I'm at the "Install Exchange" part. I'm in the HOME STRAIGHT! Ahhh. Whats this ? I have to install the IIS SMTP Server (fair enough) and the NNTP server ? What ? What does a mail server - especially one as simple as Exchange - have to do with a legacy News propogation system (Which I last used back in the year my daughter was born - some 18 years ago)

  • Ah. No choice. You have to install NNTP. Another few curses, CD-ROM shuffles, swears, and reboots.

  • FINALLY. Exchange is installed. At 5pm. I started at 9am.

  • Now to download the 108mb Service Pack 2 before I actually get some stuff done.

Compare and contrast with Domino.

  • Download the kit relevant to your platform.

  • Install server software.

  • Configure server software.

  • Start Server.

  • Go to pub.

Nowhere in there does it say "Perform fundamental changes to your directory infrastructure", "install shonky operating system specific software from the crypt", etc, etc.

And Domino is a Public/Private Key certificate system, application infrastructure, and contains a directory authentication system, web server, etc.

And people think Exchange is somehow *simpler*. Why ?