Monday, 15 September 2014

Our SBS (Small Business Solution) Options with Standalone and Cluster Hardware Considerations

We’ve received a number of questions about the “How” we present our SBS to prospective and existing clients.

Our primary focus is on what we have provided with Small Business Server starting with SBS 2003 Standard.

  • Active Directory permissions based security
  • Remote Web Access (RWA/RWW) Portal
  • Remote Desktop access via RD Gateway (since SBS 2008 Standard)
  • RemoteApp access via RD Gateway for LoBs (since SBS 2008 Standard)
  • E-mail services access via Outlook, Outlook Anywhere, Exchange ActiveSync, and Outlook Web Access
  • Remote Folders and Files access
  • SharePoint based document management system
  • SQL backend for LoB, SharePoint, and other needs

We focus on the services the prospect would require while our existing clients are already used to them.

Once we have an understanding of the prospect’s needs, since we already know our client’s business really well, we move forward with a proposal that would be geared towards their business size and sensitivity to downtime.

On the services front where we are installing into a standalone host we would have two options:

  1. Base
    1. Requires two Windows Server OS Licenses
    2. DC, Exchange, RDS, and LoB (WSUS and LoBs)
  2. Premium Add-On
    1. Requires one Windows Server OS License
    2. SQL and SharePoint

Obviously the server and CALs would also be needed for the various components that will be installed into the guest OS.

If we are setting up a cluster then one needs to consider the number of VMs running on one or more of the nodes in the event of a node failure.

On the hardware side we would have a number of options:

  1. Entry-Level Single
    1. E3-1270v3, 32GB ECC, Hardware RAID, 8x 2.5” 10K SAS
  2. Mid-Level Single
    1. Single Socket 1U R1208JP4OC, E5-2600 series, 128GB ECC, Hardware RAID, 8x 2.5” 10K SAS
  3. High-Level Single
    1. Dual Socket 2U R2208GZ4GC, E5-2600 pair, 128GB-256GB ECC, Hardware RAID, 8x 2.5” 10K SAS or 16x 2.5” 10K SAS
  4. Entry-Level Asymmetric Cluster
    1. Pair of 1U R1208JP4OC or 2U R2208GZ4GC and an Intel JBOD2224S2DP
  5. Mid-Level Cluster
    1. Four 2U R2208GZ4GC and an Intel JBOD2224S2DP
      • Two Scale-Out File Server cluster nodes
      • Two Hyper-V cluster nodes
  6. High-End Cluster
    1. Six 2U R2208GZ4GC and three Intel JBOD2224S2DP units
      • Three Scale-Out File server cluster nodes
      • Three Intel JBODS with Two-Way or Three-Way Mirror and Enclosure Resilience
      • Three Hyper-V server cluster nodes

Within the above hardware configurations we would have a lot of flexibility that allows us to customize to the specific needs of the prospective client or our clients.

We work with a number of different firms that are prime candidates for at least an asymmetric cluster setup to minimize the possibility of downtime. The cost associated with these entry-level clusters versus a single larger server for the host platform makes them very attractive.

The basic VM configuration would involve fixed VHDX files unless the files are installed on dedicated partitions/LUNs. Note that we would use a shared set of partitions/LUNs if there are around 10 or more VMs as things get to be a bit of a bear to manage otherwise.

Our base VM configurations would be as follows:

  • DC: 4GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 1TB Data VHDX
  • Exchange: 8GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 250GB + 20GB/Mailbox Data VHDX
  • RDS: 4GB+, 95GB OS VHDX, and 100GB + 20GB/User Profile Disk
  • LoB: 8GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 1TB Data VHDX Minimum
  • SQL: 16GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 250GB+ Data VHDX
  • SharePoint: 16GB, 95GB OS VHDX, 200GB Data VHDX

We have a set of PowerShell steps and scripts that we use to configure these environments. PowerShell helps to greatly reduce the amount of time required to set things up. It also gives us consistency across all of our client deployments which is vital to troubleshooting if the need arises.

Shameless Plug: We’ve spent some time on the above in our SMBKitchen ASP Author Chats. If you are looking for more information the Author Chat is one of the best ways to do so.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book
Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business


Anonymous said...

Asymmetric Cluster?

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...


With two Windows Server 2012 R2 based nodes connected via dual SAS HBAs to the one JBOD we are able to set up a Hyper-V cluster.

It is "asymmetric" because the storage would be carved up into two CSVs plus a small space for the witness disk.

Each node would control one CSV with that CSV transferring over to the other node in the event of a full-stop.

In this configuration I/Os are divided so one must keep in mind how the VMs will be set up and what kind of IOPS/Throughput they would require.

Anonymous said...

Hmm OK, that a normal 2 node cluster in our terminology, but thanks for the explanation ( although it sounds very symetric to me :-) )

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

It's worth digging into. I will ask around.

AFAIK the asymmetric is specific to the CSVs being carved between the two nodes.