A Server By Any Other Name

....hums along smoothly, if the PDC is migrated correctly in this reader's NT-to-Windows 2003 upgrade. The Exchange 5.5-to-Exchange 2003 migration may be a tad more problematic.

Bill: We're planning an upgrade to Windows 2003 Server and AD. We're a single domain operation. Our current PDC+OS is Windows NT 4.0 with an Exchange 5.5 server running on Windows 2000. This server will be upgraded to Exchange 2003 and Windows 2003 server after the domain upgrade.

Here's our problem: Our current domain name is similar to DOMAIN_NT with an underscore in the name. We want to change the domain name when we upgrade to something without an underscore, such as: domain.com.

How will this affect our Exchange server if we first upgrade the domain to a new name? From my reading it seems that the server will be orphaned.

What steps must I take to ensure a reasonably smooth domain name change and somehow transition my email accounts to the new server (and new domain)?

Get Help from Bill

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Stan: The first step in the migration to Exchange 2003 is to upgrade your domain to Active Directory, which means upgrading your current PDC either to Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003. (Unless you have some overriding reason to use the older platform, I highly recommend Windows 2003 because it has superior features, performance, and security.)

The PDC upgrade happens in two phases. The first phase upgrades the operating system. The second phase installs Active Directory and imports the parameters from the SAM. During this second phase, you'll be prompted to enter a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) for the domain, such as domain.com. The domain retains the current flat name of DOMAIN_NT.

Essentially, you'll have one domain with two names, sort of like Spiderman and Peter Parker. You'll see the same flat DOMAIN_NT name in the Winlogon drop-down box and in My Network Places, but in DNS you'll see host and SRV records that use the new FQDN.

The Windows 2000 member server will recognize the upgraded domain (it checks DNS every startup for SRV records) but the Exchange 5.5 services running on the Windows 2000 member server won't care. They interact only with the flat name of the domain and domain controllers, not their FQDNs. The legacy Exchange services will continue to verify user identities with the same passthrough authentication it always used.

Now, about the Exchange server upgrade. There's no direct upgrade path to Exchange Server 2003 from Exchange 5.5, even though it's running on Windows 2000. You'll need to install the ADC service and a new Exchange 2003 server. Then you'll move all the mailboxes and connectors and public folders to the new server, remove Exchange from the old server, and shift to Exchange Native mode.

At that point, if you want to retain the old hardware, you could wipe the drives on the old server, install Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003, then move the mailboxes, connectors, and public folders back, if you wanted to, or split the load between them. You could use the older server as a front-end server if you have lots of OWA users or you want to use RPC-over-HTTP.

Hope this helps.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.


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