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Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 : Designing a Successful Exchange Storage Solution (part 2) - Making Sense of the Exchange Mailbox Server Role Requirements Calculator

12/27/2014 3:46:44 AM
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Making Sense of the Exchange Mailbox Server Role Requirements Calculator

The Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator, or storage calculator as it used to be known, is basically a complicated Excel spreadsheet that contains the calculations necessary to take your design requirements, and turn them into some storage-specific requirements. We will concentrate on the interesting prediction values that emerge from the calculator rather than on how to use it. Ross Smith IV has written many articles on the Exchange Team Blog about using the calculator. We strongly recommend reading some of these posts before attempting to work with the calculator:

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The Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator can be downloaded here:

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Let's begin by examining the Disk Space Requirements table, which is on the Role Requirements tab. The Disk Space Requirements table shows how much disk capacity the solution will require in the database, server, DAG, and the total environment (see Figure 1). This is very useful, since it shows us the capacity requirements for each database plus transaction log combination for the specific user profile and high-availability configuration specified.

In this example, you can see that for each volume used to store a mailbox database, its transaction logs and content index database needs to be at least 2264 GB in size to avoid running out of disk space. This amount comprises 1510 GB for the mailbox database and 37 GB for the transaction logs, and the rest is needed to account for content index and sufficient volume free space to avoid filling up the disk.

FIGURE 1 Disk Space Requirements table in the Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator

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If we move to the Host IO and Throughput Requirements table, as shown in Figure 2, there is another deluge of interesting information. This table is of interest to us in understanding the IOPS requirements for our storage and the throughput requirements for background database maintenance (BDM).

FIGURE 2 Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator IOPS and BDM requirements

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The values in this table map directly to the target values that will be required when you learn about storage performance validation with Jetstress. Jetstress is the tool we use to simulate an Exchange storage I/O workload to prove that our solution is capable of meeting the demands predicted using the Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator.

The most important bits of information from the Host IO and Throughput Requirements table are the Total Database Required IOPS per database and per server plus the Background Database Maintenance Throughput Requirements.

The Background Database Maintenance Throughput Requirements value defines how much sequential read-only I/O will be required to support the background checksum process. Generally speaking, if you are deploying to direct attached storage (DAS), you do not need to consider BDM. However, if you are deploying on SAN or iSCSI, BDM throughput may be an issue. There are many cases where SAN storage, especially iSCSI, can be performance-limited by the throughput requirements of BDM on Exchange Server 2010. Exchange Server 2013 has dramatically reduced the throughput requirements for BDM down to 1 MB/sec from 7.5 MB/sec because of observations from the Office 365 service and the number of CRC errors that were detected during the process. Total Database Required IOPS per database and per server refer to the random IOPS required for the mailbox database. It is important to note that we do not usually consider Log IOPS when planning Exchange storage performance, since it is entirely sequential and easy on the disk. As a caveat to this, it is recommended that you speak with your storage vendor, since this approach may not apply to some SAN technologies and you will need to take their advice on IOPS performance scaling. Nonetheless, the approach is well proven for directly attached storage deployments.

If we look at the Volume Requirements tab, we can see additional information about our storage requirements. This table shows the maximum number of mailboxes per DB, DB size, DB size plus overhead, and log size plus overhead (see Figure 3). This is useful for determining how many mailboxes can be stored for each database before it is considered full. It also shows how much space should be allocated for transaction log data.

FIGURE 3 Database and LOG Configuration/Server table

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On the same tab, we can see the calculator's recommended volume layout. This shows how many databases are recommended per volume and the capacity requirements for each (see Figure 4).

The calculator provides a recommended layout. However, you should just view this as a starting point. The problem with all of the values that we have accumulated up to this point is that they are theoretical minimum values, and we need to map them to actual physical hardware that we can buy and deploy in real places. In most cases, the calculator does a very good job of getting you into the right ballpark, but you will need to apply common sense to turn the recommendation into something practical to deploy.

FIGURE 4 DB and Log Volume Design / Server table

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