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Capacity planning for SharePoint Server 2010

Published: June 17, 2010

This article describes how to plan the capacity of a Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 farm. When you have a good appreciation and understanding of capacity planning and management, you can apply your knowledge to system sizing. Sizing is the term used to describe the selection and configuration of appropriate data architecture, logical and physical topology, and hardware for a solution platform. There is a range of capacity management and usage considerations that affect how you should determine the most appropriate hardware and configuration options.

Before you read this article, you should read Capacity management and sizing overview for SharePoint Server 2010.

In this article, we describe the steps you should take to undertake effective capacity management for your environment. Each step requires certain information for successful execution, and has a set of deliverables that you will use in the subsequent step. For each step, these requirements and deliverables are outlined in tables.

In this article:

Step 1: Model

Modeling your SharePoint Server 2010-based environment begins with analyzing your existing solutions and estimating the expected demand and targets for the deployment you are planning to set up. You start by gathering information about your user base, data requirements, latency and throughput targets, and document the SharePoint Server features you want to deploy. Use this section to understand what data you should collect, how to collect it, and how it can be used in subsequent steps.

Understand your expected workload and dataset

Proper sizing of a SharePoint Server 2010 implementation requires that you study and understand the demand characteristics that your solution is expected to handle. Understanding the demand requires that you be able to describe both the workload characteristics such as number of users and the most frequently used operations, and dataset characteristics such as content size and content distribution.

This section can help you understand some specific metrics and parameters you should collect and mechanisms by which they can be collected.

Workload

Workload describes the demand that the system will need to sustain, the user base and usage characteristics. The following table provides some key metrics that are helpful in determining your workload. You can use this table to record these metrics as you collect them.

Workload Characteristics Value

Average daily RPS

Average RPS at peak time

Total number of unique users per day

Average daily concurrent users

Peak concurrent users at peak time

Total number of requests per day

Expected workload distribution

No. of Requests per day

%

Web Browser - Search Crawl

Web Browser - General Collaboration Interaction

Web Browser - Social Interaction

Web Browser - General Interaction

Web Browser - Office Web Apps

Office Clients

OneNote Client

SharePoint Workspace

Outlook RSS Sync

Outlook Social Connector

Other interactions(Custom Applications/Web services)

  • Concurrent users – It is most common to measure the concurrency of operations executed on the server farm as the number of distinct users generating requests in a given time frame. The key metrics are the daily average and the concurrent users at peak load.

  • Requests per second (RPS) – RPS is a commonly used indicator used to describe the demand on the server farm expressed in the number of requests processed by the farm per second, but with no differentiation between the type or size of requests. Every organization's user base generates system load at a rate that is dependent on the organization's unique usage characteristics. See the Glossary section in Capacity management and sizing overview for SharePoint Server 2010 for more information on this term.

  • Total daily requests – Total daily requests is a good indicator of the overall load the system will need to handle. It is most common to measure all requests except authentication handshake requests (HTTP status 401) over a 24 hour period.

  • Total daily users - Total users is another key indicator of the overall load the system will need to handle. This measurement is the actual number of unique users in a 24 hour period, not the total number of employees in the organization.

    note Note:

    The number of total daily users can indicate the growth potential of the load on the farm. For example, if the number of potential users is 100k employees, 15k daily users indicates that the load may significantly grow over time as user adoption increases.

  • Workload Distribution – Understanding the distribution of the requests based on the clients applications that are interacting with the farm can help predict the expected trend and load changes after migrating to SharePoint Server 2010. As users transition to more recent client versions such as Office 2010, and start using the new capabilities new load patterns, RPS and total requests are expected to grow. For each client we can describe the number of distinct users using it in a time frame of a day, and the amount of total requests that the client or feature generates on the server.

    For example, the chart below shows a snapshot of a live internal Microsoft environment serving a typical social solution. In this example, you can see that the majority of the load is generated by the search crawler and typical end user web browsing. You can also observe that there is significant load introduced by the new Outlook Social Connector feature (6.2 percent of the requests).

    Typical daily load distribution of requests

Estimating your production workload

In estimating the required throughput your farm needs to be able to sustain, begin with estimating the mix of transactions that will be used in your farm. Focus on analyzing the most frequently used transactions the system will serve, understanding how frequently they will be used and by how many users. That will help you validate later whether the farm can sustain such load in pre-production testing.

The following diagram describes the relationship of the workload and load on the system:

Capacity - Workload Diagram

To estimate your expected workload, collect the following information:

  • Identify user interactions such as typical web page browses, file downloads and uploads, Office Web Application views and edits in the browser, co-authoring interactions, SharePoint Workspace site syncs, Outlook Social Connections, RSS sync (in Outlook or other viewers), PowerPoint Broadcasts, OneNote shared notebooks, Excel Service shared workbooks, Access Service shared applications and others. See the Services and Features section of the article Capacity management and sizing overview for SharePoint Server 2010 for more information. Focus on the identifying the interactions that may be unique to your deployment, and recognize the expected impact of such load, examples can be significant use of InfoPath Forms, Excel Service Calculations and similar dedicated solutions.

  • Identify system operations such as Search incremental crawls, daily backups, profile sync timer jobs, web analytics processing, logging timer jobs and others.

  • Estimate the total number of users per day that are expected to utilize each capability, derive the estimated concurrent users and high level Requests per second, there are some assumptions you will be making such as present concurrency and the factor of RPS per concurrent users that is different across capabilities, you should use the workload table earlier in this section for your estimates. It is important to focus on peak hours, rather than average throughput. Planning for peak activity, you are able to proper size your SharePoint Server 2010-based solution.

If you have an existing Office SharePoint Server 2007 solution, you can mine the IIS log files or look to other Web monitoring tools you have to better understand some of the expected behaviors from the existing solution or see the instructions in the section below for more details. If you are not migrating from an existing solution, you should fill out the table using rough estimates. In later steps you will need to validate your assumptions and tune the system.

Analyzing your SharePoint Server 2010 IIS Logs

To discover key metrics about an existing SharePoint Server 2010 deployment, such as how many users are active, how heavily they are using the system, what kind of requests are coming in, and from what kind of clients they originate, it is necessary to extract data from ULS and IIS logs. One of the easiest ways to acquire this data is to use Log Parser, a powerful tool available free for download from Microsoft. Log Parser can read and write to a number of textual and binary formats, including all the IIS formats.

For detailed information about how to analyze SharePoint Server 2010 usage using Log Parser, read Analyzing Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies Usage (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=f159af68-c3a3-413c-a3f7-2e0be6d5532e&displaylang=en&tm).

You can download Log Parser 2.2 at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=890CD06B-ABF8-4C25-91B2-F8D975CF8C07&displaylang=en.

Dataset

Dataset describes the volume of content stored in the system and how it can be distributed in the data store. The following table provides some key metrics that are helpful in determining your dataset. You can use this table to record these metrics as you collect them.

Object Value

DB size (in GB)

Number of Content DBs

Number of site collections

Number of web apps

Number of sites

Search index size (# of items)

Number of docs

Number of lists

Average size of sites

Largest site size

Number of user profiles

  • Content size – Understanding the size of the content that you expect to store in the SharePoint Server 2010 system is important for planning and architecting the system storage, and also for properly sizing the Search solution that will crawl and index this content. The content size is described in total disk space. If you are migrating content from an existing deployment you might find it simple to identify the total size that you will move; while planning you should leave room for growth over time based on the predicted trend.

  • Total number of documents – Other than the data corpus size, it is important to track the overall number of items. The system reacts differently if 100 GB of data is composed of 50 files of 2 GB each versus 100,000 files of 1 KB each. In large deployments, the less stress there is on a single item, document or area of documents, the better performance will be. Widely distributed content like multiple smaller files across many sites and site collection is easier to serve then a single large document library with very large files.

  • Maximum site collection size – It is important to identify what is the biggest unit of content that you will store in SharePoint Server 2010; usually it is an organizational need that prevents you from splitting that unit of content. Average size of all site collections and the estimated total number of site collections are additional indicators that will help you identify your preferred data architecture.

  • Service applications data characteristics – In addition to analysing the storage needs for the content store, you should analyse and estimate the sizes of other SharePoint Server 2010 stores, including:

  • Total size of the Search index

  • The profile database total size based on the number of user in the profile store

  • The social database total size based on the expected number of tags, colleagues and activities

  • The metadata store size

  • The size of the usage database

  • The size of the Web Analytics data base

For more information on how to estimate database sizes, see Storage and SQL Server capacity planning and configuration (SharePoint Server 2010).

Setting Farm Performance and Reliability Targets

One of the deliverables of Step 1: Model is a good understanding of the performance and reliability targets that best fit the needs of your organization. A properly designed SharePoint Server solution should be able to achieve "four nines" (99.99%) of uptime with sub-second server responsiveness.

The indicators used to describe the performance and reliability of the farm can include:

  • Server availability – Usually described by the percent of overall uptime of the system. You should track any unexpected downtime and compare the overall availability to the organizational target you set. The targets are commonly described by a number of nines (i.e. 99%, 99.9%, 99.99%)

  • Server responsiveness – The time it takes the farm to serve requests is a good indicator to track the health of the farm. This indicator is usually named server side latency, and it is common to use the average or median (the 50th percentile) latency of the daily requests being served. The targets are commonly described in sub seconds or seconds. Note that if your organization has a target to serve pages from SharePoint Server 2010 in less than two seconds, then the server side goal needs to be sub seconds to leave time for the page to reach the client over the network and time to render in the browser. Also in general longer server response times are an indication of an unhealthy farm, as this usually as an impact on throughput and rarely can RPS keep up if you spend more than a second on the server on most requests

  • Server spikiness – Another good server side latency indicator worth tracking is the behaviour of the slowest 5% of all requests. Slower requests are usually the requests that hit the system when it is under higher load or even more commonly, requests that are impacted by less frequent activity that occur while users interact with the system; a healthy system is one that has the slowest requests under control as well. The target here is similar to Server Responsiveness, but to achieve sub-second response on server spikiness, you will need to build the system with a lot of spare resources to handle the spikes in load.

  • System resource utilization – Other common indicators used to track the health of the system are a collection of system counters that indicate the health of each server in the farm topology. The most frequently used indicators to track are % CPU utilization and Available Memory; however, there are several additional counters that can help identify a non-healthy system; more details can be found in Step 5: Monitor and Maintain.

Step 2: Design

Now that you have finished collecting some facts or estimates on the solution you need to deliver, you are ready to start the next step of designing a proposed architecture that you predict will be able to sustain the expected demand.

By the end of this step you should have a design for your physical topology and a layout for your logical topology, so you should be able to go ahead with any necessary purchase orders.

The hardware specifications and the number of machines you layout are tightly related, to handle a specific load there are several solutions you can choose to deploy. It is common to either use a small set of strong machines (scale up) or a larger set of smaller machines (scale out); each solution has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to capacity, redundancy, power, cost, space, and other considerations.

We recommend that you begin this step by determining your architecture and topology. Define how you plan to layout the different farms and the different services in each farm, and then pick the hardware specifications for each of the individual servers in your design. You can also execute this process by identifying the hardware specifications you are expected to deploy (many organizations are constrained to a certain company standard) and then define your architecture and topology.

Use the following table to record your design parameters. The data included is sample data, and should not be used to size your farm. It is intended to demonstrate how to use this table for your own data.

Role Type (Standard or virtual) # of machines Procs RAM IOPS need Disk size OS+Log Data drive

Web servers

Virtual

4

4 cores

8

N/A

400 GB

N/A

Content database server

Standard

1 cluster

4 quad-core 2.33 (GHz)

48

2k

400 GB

20 disks of 300GB

@ 15K RPM

Application servers

Virtual

4

4 cores

16

N/A

400 GB

N/A

Search Crawl Target Web server

Virtual

1

4 cores

8

N/A

400 GB

N/A

Search Query server

Standard

2

2 quad-core 2.33 (GHz)

32

N/A

400 GB

500 GB

Search Crawler server

Standard

2

2 quad-core 2.33 (GHz)

16

400

400 GB

N/A

Search Crawl database server

Standard

1 cluster

4 quad-core 2.33 (GHz)

48

4k (tuned for read)

100 GB

16 disks of 150GB @ 15K RPM

Search Property Store database + Administration database server

Standard

1 cluster

4 quad-core 2.33 (GHz)

48

2k (tuned for write)

100 GB

16 disks of 150GB @ 15K RPM

Determine your starting point architecture

This section describes how to select a starting point architecture.

When you deploy SharePoint Server 2010, you can choose from a range of topologies to implement your solution; you may deploy a single server or scale out many servers to a SharePoint Server farm with clustered or mirrored database servers and discreet application servers for various services. Later you will select the hardware configurations based on the requirements of each of the roles, based on your capacity, availability, and redundancy needs.

Start by reviewing the different reference architectures and figure out your farm structure, decide if you should split your solution across multiple farms, or federate some services, such as search, on a dedicated farm. See the Reference Architectures section in Capacity management and sizing overview for SharePoint Server 2010 for more information.

SharePoint Server 2010 Technical Case Studies

Capacity management guidance for SharePoint Server 2010 includes a number of technical case studies of existing production environments that present a detailed description of existing SharePoint Server-based production environments. Additional technical case studies will be published over time; these can serve as a reference on how to design a SharePoint Server-based environment for specific purposes.

You can use these case studies as a reference while designing the architecture of your SharePoint Server solutions especially if you find the description of these deployment specific key differentiators similar to the demands and targets of the solution you are architecting.

These documents describe the following information for each documented case study:

  • Specifications, such as hardware, farm topology and configuration;

  • Workload including the user base, and the usage characteristics;

  • Dataset, including contents sizes, content characteristics and content distribution

  • Health and performance including a set of recorded indicators describing the farm's reliability and performance characteristics

For more information, download relevant documents from the Performance and capacity technical case studies (SharePoint Server 2010) page.

Select your hardware

Selecting the right specifications for the machines in your farm is a crucial step to ensure proper reliability and performance of your deployment, one key concept to keep in mind is that you should plan for peak load and peak hours; in other words, when your farm is operating under average load conditions, there should be enough resources available to handle the greatest expected demand while still hitting latency and throughput targets.

The core capacity and performance hardware features of servers reflect four main categories: processing power, disk performance, network capacity, and memory capabilities of a system.

Another thing to consider is using virtualized machines. A SharePoint Server farm can be deployed using virtual machines. Although it has not been found to add any performance benefits, it does provide manageability benefits. Virtualizing SQL Server-based computers is generally not recommended, but there may be certain benefits to virtualizing the Web server and application server tiers. For more information, see Virtualization planning (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/71c203cd-7534-47b0-9122-657d72ff0080(Office.14).aspx).

Hardware Selection Guidelines

Choosing Processors

SharePoint Server 2010 is only available for 64-bit processors. In general, more processors will enable you to serve higher demand.

In SharePoint Server 2010, individual Web servers will scale as you add more cores (we have tested up to 24 cores); the more cores the server has the more load it can sustain, all else being equal. In large SharePoint Server deployments, it is recommended to allocate either multiple 4-core Web servers (which can be virtualized), or fewer stronger (8-/16-/24-cores) Web servers.

Application servers' processor capacity requirements differ depending on the role of the server and the services it is running. Some SharePoint Server features demand greater processing power than others. For example, the SharePoint Search Service is highly dependent on the processing power of the application server. For more information on the resource requirements of SharePoint Server features and services, see the Services and features section of the article Capacity management and sizing overview for SharePoint Server 2010.

The processor capacity requirements for SQL Server also depend on the service databases that a SQL Server-based computer is hosting. For more information on the typical behavior and requirements of each database, see Storage and SQL Server capacity planning and configuration (SharePoint Server 2010).

Choosing Memory

Your servers will require varying amounts of memory, depending on server function and role. For example, servers running Search crawl components will process data more quickly if they have a large amount of memory because documents are read into memory for processing. Web servers that leverage many of the caching features of SharePoint Server 2010 may require more memory as well.

In general, Web server memory requirements are highly dependent on the number of application pools enabled in the farm and the number of concurrent requests being served. In most production SharePoint Server deployments, it is recommended to allocate at least 8 GB RAM on each Web server, with 16 GB recommended for servers with higher traffic or deployments with multiple application pools set up for isolation.

Application servers' memory requirements differ as well; some SharePoint Server features have greater memory requirements on the application tier than others. In most production SharePoint Server deployments it is recommended to allocate at least 8 GB RAM on each application server; 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB application servers are common when many application services are enabled on the same server, or when services that are highly dependent on memory, such as the Excel Calculation Service and SharePoint Server Search Service, are enabled.

The memory requirements of database servers are tightly dependent on the database sizes. For more information on choosing memory for your SQL Server-based computers, see Storage and SQL Server capacity planning and configuration (SharePoint Server 2010).

Choosing Networks

In addition to the benefit offered to users if clients have fast data access through the network, a distributed farm must have fast access for inter-server communication. This is particularly true when you distribute services across multiple servers or federate some of the services to other farms. There is significant traffic in a farm across the Web server tier, the application server tier, and the database server tier, and network can easily become a bottleneck under certain conditions like dealing with very large files or very high loads.

Web servers and application servers should be configured with at least two network interface cards (NICs): one NIC to handle end-user traffic and the other to handle the inter-server communication. Network latency between servers can have a significant impact on performance, so it is important to maintain less than 1 millisecond of network latency between the Web server and the SQL Server-based computers hosting the content databases. The SQL Server-based computers that host each service application database should be as close as possible to the consuming application server as well. The network between farm servers should have at least 1 Gbps of bandwidth.

Choosing Disks and Storage

Disk management is not simply a function of providing adequate space for your data. You must assess the on-going demand and growth, and ensure that the storage architecture is not slowing the system down. You should always ensure that you have at least 30 percent additional capacity on each disk, above your highest data requirement estimate, to leave room for future growth. Additionally, in most production environments, disk speed (IOps) is crucial to providing sufficient throughput to satisfy the servers' storage demands. You must estimate the amount of traffic (IOps) the major databases will require in your deployment and allocate enough disks to satisfy that traffic.

For more information on how to choose disks for database servers, see Storage and SQL Server capacity planning and configuration (SharePoint Server 2010).

The Web and application servers have storage requirements as well. In most production environments, it is recommended to allocate at least 200 GB disk space for OS and temp and 150 GB of disk space for logs.

Step 3: Pilot, Test and Optimize

The testing and optimization stage is a critical component of effective capacity management. You should test new architectures before you deploy them to production and you should conduct acceptance testing in conjunction with following monitoring best practices in order to ensure the architectures you design achieve the performance and capacity targets. This allows you to identify and optimize potential bottlenecks before they impact users in a live deployment. If you are upgrading from an Office SharePoint Server 2007 environment and plan to make architectural changes, or are estimating user load of the new SharePoint Server features, then testing particularly important to make sure your new SharePoint Server-based environment will meet performance and capacity targets.

Once you have tested your environment, you can analyze the test results to determine what changes need to be made in order to achieve the performance and capacity targets you established in Step 1: Model.

These are the recommended sub steps you should follow for pre-production:

  • Create the test environment that mimics the initial architecture you designed in Step 2: Design.

  • Populate the storage with the dataset or part of the dataset that you've identified in Step 1: Model.

  • Stress the system with synthetic load that represents the workload you've identified in Step 1: Model.

  • Run tests, analyze results, and optimize your architecture.

  • Deploy your optimized architecture in your data center, and roll out a pilot with a smaller set of users.

  • Analyze the pilot results, identify potential bottlenecks, and optimize the architecture. Retest if needed.

  • Deploy to the production environment.

Test

Testing is a critial factor in establishing the ability of your system design to support your workload and usage characteristics. See Performance testing for SharePoint Server 2010 for detailed information on testing your SharePoint Server 2010 deployment.

  • Create a test plan

  • Create the test environment

  • Create Tests and Tools

Deploy the pilot environment

Before you deploy SharePoint Server 2010 to a production environment, it is important that you first deploy a pilot environment and thoroughly test the farm to ensure that it can meet capacity and performance targets for your expected peak load. We recommend that the pilot environment is first tested with synthetic load particularly for large deployments, and then stressed by a small set of live users and live content. The benefit of analyzing a pilot environment with a small set of live users is the opportunity to validate some of the assumptions you made about the usage characteristics and the content growth before you go fully into production.

Optimize

If you cannot meet your capacity and performance targets by scaling your farm hardware or making changes to the topology, you may need to consider revising your solution. For example, if your initial requirements were for a single farm for collaboration, Search and Social, you may need to federate some of the services such as search to a dedicated services farm, or split the workload across more farms. One alternative is to deploy a dedicated farm for social and another for team collaboration.

Step 4: Deploy

Once you have executed your final round of tests and confirmed that the architecture you have selected can achieve the performance and capacity targets you established in Step 1: Model, you can deploy your SharePoint Server 2010-based environment to production.

The appropriate rollout strategy will vary depending upon the environment and situation. While SharePoint Server deployment in general is outside the scope of this document, there are certain suggested activities that may come out of the capacity planning exercise. Here are some examples:

  • Deploying a new SharePoint Server farm: The capacity planning exercise should have guided and confirmed plans for a design and deployment of SharePoint Server 2010. In this case, the rollout will be the first broad deployment of SharePoint Server 2010. It will require moving or rebuilding the servers and services that were used during the capacity planning exercises into production. This is the most straight-forward scenario because there aren't any upgrades or modifications needed to an existing farm.

  • Upgrading an Office SharePoint Server 2007 farm to SharePoint Server 2010: The capacity planning exercise should have validated the design for a farm that can meet existing demands and scale up to meet increased demand and usage of a SharePoint Server 2010 farm. Part of the capacity planning exercise should have included test migrations to validate how long the upgrade process will take, whether any custom code needs to be modified or replaced, whether any third-party tools need updating, etc. At the conclusion of capacity planning you should have a validated design, and understanding of how much time it will take to upgrade, and a plan for how best to work through the upgrade process – for example, an in-place upgrade, or migrating content databases into a new farm. If you're doing an in-place upgrade then during capacity planning you may have found that additional or upgraded hardware will be needed, and considerations for downtime. Part of the output from the planning exercise should be a list of the hardware changes that are needed and a detailed plan for deploying the hardware changes to the farm first. Once the hardware platform that was validated during capacity planning is in place, you can move forward with the process of upgrading to SharePoint Server 2010.

  • Improving the performance of an existing SharePoint Server 2010 farm: The capacity planning exercise should have helped you to identify the bottlenecks in your current implementation, devise ways to reduce or eliminate those bottlenecks, and validate an improved implementation that meets your business requirements for SharePoint Server services. There are different ways in which performance issues could have been resolved, from something as simple as reallocating services across existing hardware, upgrading existing hardware, or adding additional hardware and adding additional services to it. The different approaches should be tested and validated during the capacity planning exercise, and then a deployment plan formulated depending on the results of that testing.

Step 5: Monitor and Maintain

To maintain system performance, you must monitor your server to identify potential bottlenecks. Before you can monitor effectively, you must understand the key indicators that will tell you if a specific part of your farm requires attention, and know how to interpret these indicators. If you find that your farm is operating outside the targets you have defined, you can adjust your farm by adding or removing hardware resources, modifying your topology, or changing how data is stored.

See Monitoring and maintaining SharePoint Server 2010 for a list of the settings that you can modify to monitor your environment in its early stages, which will help you determine if any changes are needed. Keep in mind that increasing your monitoring capabilities will affect the amount of disk space that your usage database will require. Once the environment is stable and this detailed monitoring is no longer required, you may want to reverse the settings below to their defaults.

For more information about health monitoring and troubleshooting using the health monitoring tools built into the SharePoint Server Central Administration interface, read the following:

Health monitoring (SharePoint Server 2010)

Solving problems and troubleshooting (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee748639(office.14).aspx)

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