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Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 : Designing a Successful Exchange Storage Solution - Storage Improvements in Exchange Server 2013

12/27/2014 3:41:22 AM
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Table 1 outlines some of the most interesting changes in Exchange 2013 that have an impact on storage.

TABLE 1: Storage enhancements in Exchange Server 2013

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One of the interesting trends in Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2013 is that the Exchange product group will trade CPU utilization if it buys a reduction or smoothes out random disk I/O. This approach makes sense as we consider the hardware growth prediction during the Exchange Server 2013 life cycle. Moore's Law states that transistor densities double about every two years. This growth rate is expected to taper off to a doubling of transistor density every three years starting at the end of 2013. Regardless, the industry expects that available processor power will continue to rise, whereas mechanical disk random IOPS performance is expected to remain static. Exchange Server 2013 is designed to take best advantage of both the hardware resources currently available and those that are projected to be available during the life cycle of the product.

Exchange 2013 reduces IOPS by roughly 45 percent over Exchange Server 2010. If we consider active mailboxes only, Exchange Server 2010 required 0.0012 × user profile compared to Exchange Server 2013 requiring 0.00067 × user profile. If we plug in numbers for 100 messages sent and received per mailbox/per day/per user profile, this means that if the mailbox was hosted on Exchange Server 2010, it would require 0.12 IOPS/mailbox. But on Exchange Server 2013, it would need only 0.067 IOPS/mailbox.

Automatic Database Reseed

This is the single most important change in Exchange Server 2013. Quite simply, automatic database reseed makes deploying a JBOD storage solution viable for many organizations that found JBOD too difficult to manage in Exchange Server 2010.

The fundamental idea behind automatic database reseed is that you allocate more disk spindles to each DAG node than you require for your active and passive databases. The additional spindles are formatted and mounted, but they are not used to store database or logs. In the event of the failure of a disk spindle that is being used for an active or passive database copy, Exchange will make use of the “spare” disk spindles and automatically perform the necessary database reseed operation.

So why is automatic database reseed better than RAID? JBOD plus AutoReseed requires fewer disks than RAID 10 and does not suffer from the same level of performance degradation inherent in RAID 5 during rebuild. It also doesn't require the same level of operational maturity to maintain data availability.

Multiple Databases for Each JBOD Disk Spindle

The change allowing multiple databases for each JBOD disk spindle was necessary to permit the use of larger disk capacities without increasing the maximum mailbox database size above 2 TB. This change is often confused with storing multiple databases per volume but it is subtly different. What this change actually means is that in Exchange Server 2013, there exists the ability to store multiple mailbox databases on a single JBOD spindle, that is, a single disk spindle presented to the server. We have always been able to store multiple databases on a RAID array, but storing multiple databases on a JBOD spindle was previously not supported.

Seemingly, this change is simple to understand since it gives us the ability to store multiple databases on each spindle. This lets us retain the 2 TB maximum recommended mailbox database limit yet still takes advantage of larger-capacity disk spindles. However, this represents only half of the benefit of this change. The other half is that, when we reseed the disk spindle, we may potentially have multiple JBOD disk spindles participating in the reseed operation. Testing so far with Exchange Server 2013 suggests that a single spindle reseed operation, like those that already exist in Exchange Server 2010, runs at around 20 MB/sec. Testing with Exchange Server 2013 and multiple databases for each spindle shows that the reseed operation runs at around 20 MB/sec per spindle used in the reseed operation. For example, if a spindle stored two database copies and the alternate copies of those databases were on different spindles, the reseed operation would take place at around 2 × 20 MB/sec = 40 MB/sec. Figure 1 shows you potentially how to store four databases for each disk spindle with a JBOD deployment in Exchange Server 2013.

FIGURE 1 Multiple databases for each JBOD spindle layout

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Now let's examine the reseed scenario where we have lost the JBOD disk spindle in Server 1. In this case, active workload for DB1, as shown in Figure 1, has been moved to Server 2. All of the remaining workload has stayed in place. The disk in Server 1 has been replaced, and all databases are now being reseeded from the active copy, as shown in Figure 2.

FIGURE 2 Multiple databases for each JBOD spindle reseed

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Testing shows that, for each reseed operation per source spindle, we can expect around 20 MB/sec performance. Where we have multiple reseed operations for each spindle, we can get around 24 MB/sec performance in total for that spindle. Let's see what this data yields for approximate reseed times.

Exchange Server 2010 (single DB/spindle)

  • 2 TB data = ~29 hours
  • 8 TB data = ~116 hours

Exchange Server 2013 (four DBs/spindle)

  • 2 TB data = ~9.1 hours
  • 8 TB data = ~36 hours

When we combine the reseed performance benefit with being able to make use of larger disk spindle capacities and automatic database reseed, it makes JBOD in Exchange Server 2013 a compelling proposition from a cost/simplicity perspective and also from an operational perspective. Thus, it is a win/win scenario.

 
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