Resilient File System (ReFS)

Exchange 2016

Microsoft Resilient File System (ReFS for short) was introduced with Windows server 2012 and while it is not a direct replacement for NTFS as the name suggests it is designed to be a more resilient file system for (very) large amounts of data.

Quoting from TechNet

[su_quote]ReFS is a newly engineered file system for Windows Server 2012 that is built on the foundations of NTFS. ReFS maintains high degree of compatibility with NTFS while providing enhanced data verification and auto-correction techniques as well as an integrated end-to-end resiliency to corruptions especially when used in conjunction with the storage spaces feature. For more information on ReFS[/su_quote]

When talking of “large amount of data” the first example coming to mind are Exchange databases which do have a theatrical limit of 16TB per database file but that in the real world we try to keep much smaller despite I do have direct experience with customers running database as big as 2TB.

Does Exchange support ReFS?

The ReFS is supported since Exchange 2013 and with the release of Exchange 2016 Microsoft even recommends it as the preferred file system.

Exchange 2013

ReFS can be used with Exchange 2013 with the following limitations/guidelines

  • You need to install hotfix KB2853418
  • It is not supported for volumes containing Exchange binaries
  • It is not supported for volumes containing the system partition
  • ReFS data integrity features must be disabled for the database (.edb) files
  • It is supported for volumes containing the Exchange database, log and content index files

As you can see in the above list you need to continue using NTFS for the operating system and Exchange installation partitions but you can consider the use of ReFS for the volumes hosting the database, log or index files.

Exchange 2016

As already mentioned Microsoft recommends using ReFS when deploying Exchange 2016 with the following limitations and guidelines

  • It is not supported for volumes containing Exchange binaries
  • It is not supported for volumes containing the system partition
  • It is supported for volumes containing the Exchange database, log and content index files

What’s next?

If you are already running Exchange 2013 database or log files on a NTFS partition the time and effort required to migrate the data to a new volume are not worth the advantages brought with ReFS.

If you are deploying a new Exchange 2013 server or adding new databases you could consider the implementation of ReFS volume to host the new databases keeping in mind guidelines and limitations outlined above.

For an Exchange 2016 deployment Microsoft reccomends hosting datbase and logs on a ReFS Volume so there is not much of a choice to be made.

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