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Plan digital asset library topology and architecture in SharePoint Server 2013

Published: December 18, 2012

Summary: Learn about logical architecture and topology decisions that are related to deploying digital asset libraries.

Applies to:  SharePoint Server 2013 

The SharePoint Server 2013 asset library, which is a kind of document library, is a collection of media files — such as image, audio, and video files — that are shared with other site users. Because the asset library is a SharePoint Server library with specialized content types for digital assets, the overall architecture and topology is minimally affected. The considerations that can potentially influence logical architecture and topology decisions include the following:

  • Where to locate digital asset libraries in the overall site structure.

  • What to do with content databases that store digital assets.

  • Whether to optimize a server farm with a binary large object (BLOB) cache or with Bit Rate Throttling.

  • Whether to scale out a server farm with dedicated databases or server hardware for digital assets.

In this article:

Logical architecture for managing digital assets

The essential tool for managing digital assets in SharePoint Server 2013 is the asset library. Users with Edit permissions can add the asset library to any site. If you will be storing a large total volume of data, such as thousands to tens of thousands of files in an asset library, or audio or video files that in total require hundreds of gigabytes of storage space, you must carefully plan the location in which the asset library is created and the content databases in which assets will be stored.

For example, if you have a collaboration site in which multiple individual teams each have their own sites but have to use a shared media set, you might create an asset library at the top-level site to store the assets that will be used by the individual teams. In this scenario, the content database is shared by all sites within the site collection so that the quantity and size of the files that are stored in the asset library might be significantly smaller than in Example 2.

Example 1 illustrates a logical architecture for when an asset library is located at the root of a site collection and shares a content database that has other sites in the site collection.

Single site collection

Example 2 illustrates a large corporate training site that contains training videos used by internal employees. In this scenario, you might locate the asset library in the top-level site of a site collection that uses its own content database, and that has no other sites under it in the site hierarchy. By doing this, you can ensure that there is sufficient storage space for the files that will be uploaded to the asset library. This also lets you plan for future expansion, because the content database is already isolated and does not share content with any other sites in your solution.

Two separate site collections

The following table summarizes these two approaches. (Note that you can implement a combination of these two approaches.)

Area Single site collection Separate site collection

Description

A digital asset library is contained within the same site collection as other content. Multiple digital asset libraries can be created within the site structure.

A separate site collection is deployed to host a digital asset library.

Usage

Teams can add digital asset libraries to their team sites or use the library contained at the top-level site.

Teams add and use media files from the centrally managed digital asset library.

note Note:

When using a publishing site, the URL for an asset library in a separate site can be added to the Suggested Content Browser Locations list for the publishing site. This will enable content creators to access the asset library when they insert assets into web pages within SharePoint Server 2013, or within Office 2013 suite applications, such as Word.

Management

Teams manage their own libraries. Media files are managed in the same manner as all other content in the site collection.

Because media files are located in a separate database, this content can be managed separately according to a different service level agreement.

Performance and capacity

A large total volume of media files can affect the overall performance of sites. If site collections approach or exceed database size limits, it is more difficult to scale out the overall server farm.

Because media files are located in a separate database, the database can be scaled out to dedicated hardware, if it is necessary, to reduce the performance effect this content has on the rest of the server farm.

When you plan to incorporate the management of digital assets into your solution, you should carefully consider the quantity and size of the files that will be stored and also how they will be used. This will help you design your site architecture when you determine where the asset library should be located.

Components of a digital asset library topology

Digital asset library topologies use the same elements as any standard SharePoint topology, such as web servers, application servers, and database servers. Components that are specific to managing digital assets are put in certain locations within the topology, but they do not change the overall structure of the topology. The following are components about which you must make configuration decisions for the digital asset library topology:

  • BLOB cache The disk-based BLOB cache controls the caching for binary large objects (BLOBs), such as frequently used image, audio, and video files, and other files that are used to display web pages, such as .css and .js files. The BLOB cache should always be enabled on every front-end web server in a server farm if your solution will include asset libraries.

  • Bit Rate Throttling Bit Rate Throttling is an Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 extension that meters the download speeds of media file types and data between a server and a client computer. Bit Rate Throttling can be enabled on every front-end web server in a server farm, and it should always be enabled if your solution will include audio or video files in asset libraries. For more information, see Bit Rate Throttling (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=155151).

  • Maximum file upload size The maximum file upload size is a web application setting that specifies the maximum size of a file that a user can upload to the server. You configure the maximum file upload size for every web application by using Central Administration to specify the size of files that will be uploaded to asset libraries. By default, the maximum video file upload size is 250 MB. You can increase the video file upload size to 2 GB.

  • Desktop Experience The Desktop Experience feature enables you to install many Windows 7 features on a server that is running Windows Server 2008. In SharePoint Server 2013, thumbnail preview images are created automatically when a video is uploaded to an asset library. For automatic thumbnail creation to work, the Desktop Experience feature must be installed on the front-end web server that hosts SharePoint Server 2013. For more information, see Desktop Experience Overview.

    note Note:

    The Desktop Experience feature is enabled by default on Windows Server 2012.

For more information, see Plan for caching and performance (SharePoint Server 2010).

If your digital asset library solution will be used to store a very large amount of content, consider using Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) to move the storage of large binary data from SQL Server 2008 to an external storage solution. RBS is not a feature of SharePoint Server 2013 or Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0. For more information, see Overview of RBS in SharePoint 2013.

Typical digital asset library topology

Digital asset libraries work well with any server farm topology that is supported by SharePoint Server 2013. The server farm can be a single server, a small server farm, or a large server farm.

When you decide to deploy BLOB cache or Bit Rate Throttling, you must deploy them to web servers in the following manner:

  • BLOB cache is enabled in IIS 7.0 and stored on every front-end web server.

  • If Bit Rate Throttling is used, you must install and configure it in IIS 7.0 on every front-end web server.

Additionally, the server that hosts the Central Administration website is used to configure the maximum file upload size for each web application.

note Note:

Depending on the size of your server farm and the kind of solution that you are implementing, you might have additional servers that are designated for specific roles — for example, hosting query processing components and index partitions, or crawl components and content processing components for the search system.

The following illustration shows a typical three-tier server farm topology with components added for a digital asset library topology.

Basic farm topology for digital asset management

Callout Element

1

Front-end web servers, each with their own BLOB cache and Bit Rate Throttling enabled (if applicable).

2

The application server that hosts the Central Administration website is used to configure the maximum file upload size for each web application.

3

Database servers that contain one or more SharePoint content databases.

Scaling topologies for digital asset libraries

When planning and scaling a solution that includes digital asset libraries, the two main factors that you must consider are capacity planning and performance. Because video and audio files can be much larger than images or other kinds of files, you will potentially reach storage capacity more quickly. And depending on the number of users who must access these files at any time, the rate at which requests for the files are made to the server and then sent to the client browser can affect network performance.

For example, if you plan to use an asset library to store training videos, you must consider the average size of each video, and how many videos will be needed for your organization. You must also consider how many users will view the videos, and which videos are likely to be requested most frequently.

For each main component in a digital asset library topology, consider the following issues:

  • Database storage. Is there sufficient storage capacity on the database server for all the files that users will upload? It is important to understand the average size of the files and the number of files that you expect the users will upload to the server.

  • BLOB Cache storage. Is there sufficient storage capacity on the front-end web servers for the files that will be cached?

  • Remote BLOB storage (RBS). If you will have large volumes of content, consider using RBS to move storage of BLOBs out of the content database and into an external storage solution. For more information, see Overview of RBS in SharePoint 2013.

The logical architecture of your digital asset library plan will influence options for scaling out a server farm. If a digital asset library is contained in a dedicated site collection, you can easily move the database to a dedicated server, if it is necessary, to improve capacity and performance.

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