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Scalability Planning in Your SharePoint 2013 & Office 365 Roadmap

Scalability Planning in Your SharePoint 2013 Architectural Roadmap

It is important to utilize an Office 365 roadmap to ensure your SharePoint 2013 and/or Office 365 (hybrid) platform and avoid some of the known pitfalls that degrade its performance such as:

  • Having all SharePoint services are in the “default” service group
  • Having redundant and JavaScript that has not been optimized or deployed in a best practices manner
  • Procuring or having inadequate hardware
  • Not paying enough time and attention to SQL Server’s configuration and its optimization
  • Not providing the proper tools to allow for monitoring and reviewing the underlying server logs

If you are experiencing performance issues, it is key to first attempt to perform exercises such as load testing in a similar or replicated environment as well as reviewing the IIS logs, the server’s performance and latency for both web, service, and SQL Servers. There are some obvious metrics that are sometimes overlooked such as memory, RPS, and the CPU’s statistics.

There are some major updates or architectural considerations around SharePoint 2013 such as discouraging dedicated service farms that end up increasing server count as well as overall maintenance requirements.

It is also important to use as few application pools as possible in SharePoint 2013 as each application pool takes up memory and resources and it is better to share these resources to avoid some of the caching errors that have come up in many enterprise-wide farms.

There is also a recommendation for one web application as well as one corresponding zone as well as using host named site collections what allow for reduced resource consumption and much better scalability. You are always able to have multiple host names in regards to secure site access (SSA).

SharePoint 2013’s Search and Scalability Recommendations

SharePoint 2013’s search, which now includes fast search, has very different metrics involved in the scalability of search. For example, for every 10 million items there is a recommendation for scaling around adding an index partition.

With 20 million items the scaling recommendation is to add a new crawl database and with 30 million items it is recommended to go with a dedicated search farm. It have also seen some great results when providing a dedicated host for crawling on the crawling target server.

Your search will always function at a higher level when it is originally architected with best practices in mind with defined targets and proper logical and physical architecture. There is also a last of testing and validation that has happened in previous SharePoint releases but should be done for SharePoint 2013 as well as taking advantage of the native monitoring and logging capabilities.

SharePoint 2013’s SQL Server 2012 Scalability Recommendations

There are a lot of similarities in recommendations from past versions of SharePoint. It is key to ensure you always user SQL Aliases whenever possible as it makes later migrations or database moves much easier and can save 100+ hours or rework should you ever need to do so.

There are several candidates for aliases and if you begin with one SQL Server instance and three aliases you will have the option to scale and later move any highly used databases into a dedicated SQL node.

SQL Server 2012 R2 comes with new AlwaysOn for redundancy capabilities which will also be native in the future SQL Server 2014 release.

Note: This does require Windows Server Failover Clustering (WFCF).

Understanding SharePoint Server 2013 Search Architecture

One of the big ticket areas Microsoft rolled into SharePoint 2013 is the integration of FAST Search as a native capability as well as providing a new rich user interface through to a completely revamped back-end architecture.

Some of the previous SharePoint version search features still exist such as full document and content searches, people and profile searches, and connecting Search to external systems with the BCS but you will see a major search improvement with this new release.

The image below shows SharePoint 2001, 2003, 2007, and 2010’s previous search pages:

EPC Group has taken a survey of the last 30 SharePoint 2013 deployments after the actual go-live and users being live within the new platform and the following were the top “liked” or “much improved” features that users responded to around search in this survey:

  1. The full content previous for office documents with the search hover panel
  2. Improved search time to find the desired content that was actually being specifically searched for
  3. Ability to search for skills of other employees which they found to not be useful in previous version and eventually “gave up” that type of search
  4. The new Search web parts
  5. The custom or tailored search results page made searching “more comfortable” and “not as clunky”
  6. Seeing what others have searched for and the ability to go back to “previous searches” where they were able to find what they were looking for but forgot what they had previously searched for

The SharePoint 2013 Search interface includes elements such as search refiners that allow users to take a subset of Search results and “refine” them based on metadata associated with the content.

There are updated or new refiners in SharePoint 2013 as follows:

  • Entity Extraction which introduces the ability for entities such as people’s names or company names to be extracted from the contents of documents and made available as a metadata selection in the refiners.
  • Deep refiners to ensure the entire Search index is used to calculate the refiner information.
  • Visual Refiners provide a way of visually seeing the information driving the refiner, complete with an interactive slider to do the actual “refining”.

SharePoint 2013’s Search also has new Query Rules that allow for additional defined areas such as promoted results and other features as listed below:

  • Promoted Results (you might recall being referred to as “best bets” allow users to define a link to be shown for specific Search terms e.g. ‘developers’ shows a link to the SP2013 training on MSDN.
  • Result Blocks are an inline set of results that effectively provide “results-within-results” based on the query. This could be rich media content previews for the current search, content from external systems or any other useful type of a screenshot or snapshot  of content from the Search index.

The following is a list of the underlying core elements in SharePoint 2013’s search:

  • Content Source
  • Search Schema
  • Query Rule
  • Customization of returned results
  • Captures Intent, composed of
  • Query Condition
  • Query Action
  • Publishing Options
  • Query Transforms
  • Web Parts
  • Query Rule
  • Result Source

The image below shows SharePoint 2013’s ability to Scope a Search Source.

The image below shows an example of a tailored display template in SharePoint 2013’s Search.

SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 System Architecture Design “From the Consulting Trenches”

This is the first in a series of blog posts by EPC Group on SharePoint 2013, Office 365, and SharePoint Online System Architecture Design strategies and best practices “from the consulting trenches.”

Errin OConnor

Errin OConnor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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