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This chapter is from the book

Choosing the Right Hardware for SharePoint

When farm architecture has been outlined, it is critical to properly size the hardware environment that makes up your SharePoint farm. As illustrated in Table 2.2, the hardware requirements for SharePoint 2013 servers are much higher than earlier versions required.

TABLE 2.2 Hardware Requirements for the Various Server Roles of SharePoint 2013




Dev/stage/test server



All-in-one Database/Web/Service Application



Web/SA server



DB server (medium environments)



DB server (small environments)



In addition, each SharePoint server role has different hardware requirements, so it is important to first understand those requirements before beginning the procurement process.

Hardware Requirements for the SQL Database Role Servers

The heaviest hitter of all the SharePoint roles is the SQL database server role. This server role houses the SharePoint databases, where nearly all content in a SharePoint environment is stored. The databases house document libraries, documents, lists, sites, site collections, and their contents. For obvious reasons, this server role is highly critical for SharePoint and requires a significant amount of hardware resources. Following are several key hardware requirements for the SQL database role:

  • Disk space: Because SharePoint content is stored in the databases, the SQL database role server requires a large amount of disk space. How much disk space depends on how much content is stored in SharePoint, but assume the worst: When document versioning is turned on, SharePoint can consume much more space than people realize, even with new features in SharePoint 2013 such as Shredded Storage.
  • Disk performance: The amount of disk I/O power required can be fairly substantial. Microsoft requires at least 0.25 input/output operations per second (IOPS) per gigabyte (GB) of storage, and recommends around 2.0 IOPS per GB for optimal performance.
  • Processor: The SQL database role works best when multiple processor cores are allocated to the database role. SQL Server is built to be multithreaded and can use whatever you give it. Today’s multicore processors and virtualization platforms that provide for up to eight cores to be allocated (such as Hyper-V 2012) are the perfect fit for SharePoint.
  • Memory: Server memory requirements are also high for the database role. The same general rule of thumb applies: The more memory allocated, the better an SQL server performs. The total amount of memory recommended varies depending on how heavily utilized the server is, but it is common to have SQL servers with 24GB, 32GB, 64GB, or more.

Hardware Requirements for Service Application Roles

The service application roles, depending on how many run on an individual server, can have serious hardware requirements. The Search service application role, for example, which is responsible for creating a full-text searchable index for search, is the heaviest hitting of the SharePoint roles, excluding, of course, the database role. Search service application servers usually consume more memory and processor capacity because they are constantly engaged in the process of crawling content and making it searchable. Depending on the number of content sources crawled, there can be significant memory requirements, and index servers have been known to use at least 12GB, 16GB, or 24GB of memory and take advantage of multiple processor cores as well.

Other service application role servers may require an equal amount of memory and processor cores allocated as well. It’s a general rule of thumb that SharePoint 2013 memory and processor requirements are much higher than for SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010, and many people underestimate the required resources.

In addition to its processor and memory requirements, the Search service application role requires enough drive space to physically store the index files, which are essentially copies of all text that has been crawled across all data sources. The size of this index can range from 5% to 20% of the total size of the searchable content being crawled. For example, if SharePoint is configured to search a file share, and that file share contains 1TB of office documents, the index size may total between 50GB and 200GB, depending on how much actual text is stored in the documents. Large graphical documents with little text do not bloat the index by much, but simple text files can consume a much larger percentage.

Hardware Requirements for Web Role Servers

The web role server is the most utilitarian role, requiring a reasonable amount of memory and processor power, but nothing excessive. Indeed, better performance can often be gained by adding additional web role servers to a farm rather than by increasing the size of memory and processor power added to a system. Web role servers usually have between 12GB and 16GB RAM in most cases, and at least two cores allocated to it.

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