Category: SQL Server 2008

How Many SQL Servers Do You Need to Run Lync?

Front End, Mediation, Monitoring, Archiving, Edge, Chat…with all these servers running, Lync Server 2013 must need a lot of database storage.

But how much is required? How many SQL Servers should a Lync administrator deploy?

Some of Lync requires a SQL Server database; some does not. But you’ll need to decide how many beforehand, because each SQL Server instance must be installed and available PRIOR to setting up their databases (via Topology Builder or PowerShell).

So let’s go through, server by server, and figure it out.

STANDARD EDITION

Standard Edition Front End Server

We start off easy. Standard Edition Server comes with its own database – SQL Server 2012 Express. It’s even auto-configured when you install Standard Edition Server.

SQL Server Instances Required (Minimum): 0

ENTERPRISE EDITION

Enterprise Edition Front End Server

Of course, Front End requires a SQL Server instance. It needs a place to store the back-end database. Next!

Mediation Server

A critical server, many admins debate whether to collocate Mediation Server on a Front End Pool, or place it standalone. However, you don’t need a separate SQL Server instance for it.

Monitoring & Archiving

Since both the Monitoring and Archiving Servers can be collocated on Front End in Lync Server 2013, they can use the same SQL Server as Front End. They will each have a database to themselves (and you should install SQL Server Reporting Services too, for Monitoring).
–Placing these databases on their own SQL server instead would provide an extra security layer, if properly configured. But for most small or mid-size deployments, it’s not necessary.

Director

Our friend the Director, standing guard against the tide of harmful access attempts. Since it has no users homed on it, it doesn’t really need its own database.

Persistent Chat

Persistent Chat stores your chat history, configuration and user provisions in a SQL database. You can install a second database to store compliance data, if you like. Both of these databases can reside in the same SQL Server instance as the Front End Server’s.

Edge Server

Remote access, enabling mobility…Edge Server must require a separate SQL Server for itself, right? To protect all that important connection data?

Well…Yes and No. Edge Server runs SQL Express Edition for a local CMS. Another instance of SQL Server is not required.

SQL Server Instances Required (Minimum): 1

(Reference: Server Collocation in an Enterprise Edition Front End Pool Deployment – TechNet Library)

Of course you can create multi-system SQL Server pools if you like.  Or use mirroring, or clustering for higher availability. I’ll cover those later on.

Oh, one last thing! Remember that Lync Server 2013 requires you use Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1, or Microsoft SQL Server 2012. Don’t forget!

How many SQL Server databases are you running in your Lync pools?

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What Archiving Server Archives – and What it Doesn't

Archiving Server provides a repository for information exchanged via Lync Server. Why? Two reasons:

  1. It gives you a log of Lync activity everyone can draw upon. How many times have you tried to remember what Jane said about the Michaels project? Thanks to Archiving Server, you have a saved copy of that IM conversation.
  2. It helps you fulfill legal compliance requirements. Many organizations must keep track of project steps, client files, and so on to meet compliance regulations. Since Archiving Server tracks automatically, its archive database acts as a regulatory resource.

What DOES it track though? It’s important to know what is and is not archived by Archiving Server. Otherwise, you might assume it just grabs everything. It doesn’t.

What Lync Archives on the Archiving Server

  • Instant messaging conversations (both person-to-person, and between multiple parties)
  • Content uploaded in Web conferences
  • Conference events (joins, parts, etc.)

What Lync DOES NOT Archive on Archiving Server

  • File transfers
  • Conferencing annotations and polls
  • Audio & video for person-to-person IM and conferences
  • Application sharing for IM and conferences
  • Diagnostic reports for session failures (those come from Monitoring Server)

Caution – There’s a Time Limit on Archived Materials

It’s important to note: Archiving is NOT intended to work indefinitely! As you can imagine from the above lists, storing uploaded files and daily IM logs will fill up space fast.

The server will keep archives until one of two things happens:

  1. You tell it to purge old archived files.
  2. Its storage fills up.

Obviously, you don’t want to reach #2.

In the Lync Server 2010 Control Panel, there’s a setting that dictates when to purge old archive files. You can control the time interval for this under Archiving Configuration. How long you keep archived files depends on your legal compliance requirements. 1 year, 2? Talk to Legal.

Then head to this page for a how-to: Enable or Disable Purging for Archiving – TechNet.

 

Want to add Archiving Server to your Lync setup? Use this deployment guide to help you.

If you’re having trouble with Archiving Server (e.g. conversations aren’t showing up in Conversation History), use NextHop’s “Troubleshooting Archiving Server” post as a guide.

 

Do you use an Archiving Server? What’s the big value from it, for you?

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Database Update Question for OCS

We’re bogged down with SharePoint work at the moment. So this week’s post will be a short Q&A.

A couple weeks ago I received an email from Eder. He had a technical questions about OCS 2007 R2. It went like this:

“Last year I ran the OCS2009-DBUpgrade.msi update patch. Now a new version of it is available. Should I run this newer patch before I do any OCS server upgrades? Or will the old patch be sufficient?”

He’s talking about the database patch listed in OCS 2007 R2 Hotfix 968802. It’s a group of the latest updates for Office Communications Server.

If you’re still running OCS, these are updates you should implement. Especially the database update patch Eder mentioned.

Run that first. Do it from the command line, as Administrator. After that, you should run your server upgrades for each OCS machine in the farm.

Out of curiosity, how many of you are still using OCS? Are you planning to switch to Lync?

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Path to Lync Server – Step 5: Choose Hardware to Use

So we've got our services in order and a partner chosen. Next up in our “Path to Lync Server” series is hardware.

By now everyone who works with Microsoft software knows about their hardware requirements. Lync is no exception – you'll need good servers and an up-to-date network. With Lync Server however, there's a bit more to consider.

You'll need to consider not only the servers and the network, but also communication devices. Computers, phones, conferencing tools – the hardware your users will employ daily with Lync. (See why we asked them what services they wanted?)

Let's get started with the server hardware. Much of the following information can also be found in Microsoft's TechNet Library for Lync Server 2010.

Server Hardware Requirements for Lync 2010

According to Microsoft's documentation (“Determining Your Infrastructure Requirements – Microsoft TechNet”), these are the server hardware recommendations for all Lync Server roles except the Director:

  • 64-bit CPU at 2 GHz or higher; either a dual quad-core or a 4-way dual-core
  • 16GB of RAM
  • 72GB disk space available (10,000 RPM drive recommended)
  • 1 network adapter (2 is better), at 1 Gbps or higher

Note that these recommendations were based on an 80,000 user pool using 8 front end servers and 1 back end server. If your organization is smaller, you may be able to lower these values to suit you.

(If you try that, and it works, let me know. I'd love to hear how well Lync works for different business sizes.)

The Director role doesn't need quite this level of a server. You can use a single quad-core 64-bit CPU (at 2GHz or higher),or dual 64-bit dual-cores.

Back End Servers and other database servers (e.g.,the Archiving and Monitoring roles) have similar requirements. But there's one difference you should be aware of*, so I'll list them out.

  • 64-bit CPU at 2 GHz or higher; either a dual quad-core or a 4-way dual-core
  • *32GB of RAM recommended for Back End Server; 16GB of RAM recommended for the Archiving and Monitoring database (when NOT collocated with the Back End Server)
  • 72GB disk space available (10,000 RPM drive recommended)
  • 1 network adapter (2 is better), at 1 Gbps or higher

There's two advantages of using these recommendations as guidelines.
–Higher-end servers can use DNS load balancing to help cut down on administration overhead.
–If you virtualize servers at these specs, they'll have room for future expansion.

What Operating System?

Lync Server runs on Windows Server 2008 R2. All versions are supported, except for:

  • Server Core
  • Windows Web Server
  • HPC Edition

It's very important to remember – 64-bit only.

Network Hardware Recommendations

Your network should support 1 Gbps Ethernet speeds at least, to take advantage of Lync's audio/video capabilities. (Unless of course you don't intend to set those up.)

SIP Trunking is probably the best way to integrate with the public phone network (PSTN). Make sure you have enough bandwidth to accommodate all the services you want to use – this may require upgraded switches, or a faster Internet connection.

Additional Software Requirements

All servers with Lync server roles on them will need these installed:

  • Windows PowerShell 2.0
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with SP1
  • Windows Installer 4.5

Database

For the back end database of a Front End pool, the Archiving database, and the Monitoring database, Microsoft requires one of these versions of SQL Server:

  • SQL Server 2008 SP1 Enterprise Edition
  • SQL Server 2008 SP1 Standard Edition (64-bit edition)
  • SQL Server 2005 SP3 Enterprise Edition
  • SQL Server 2005 SP3 Standard Edition (64-bit edition)

Lync Server Standard Edition installs SQL Server Express 2008 (64-bit) for its own use.

Computers

Computers running the Microsoft Lync client must have Windows 7 or Vista SP2 installed. The Lync client will probably run on XP, but 7 will make for a smoother Office experience.

Phones and Other Devices

With the servers and network hardware taken care of, now we can focus on the end user experience.

Remaining hardware is in two categories: Infrastructure Devices and Communication Devices. Both of these are determined by your specific organizational needs.

Infrastructure Devices

These are devices used to optimize your infrastructure for using Lync – PSTN gateways, Survivable Branch Appliances (SBA), that sort of thing.
If you plan on full telephony with the PSTN, you may need a gateway.
If you have multiple offices, you'll need an SBA.
Several vendors provide both now. Here's a list: Infrastructure Partners – Lync
I recommend Dialogic devices – they work really well for us.

Communication Devices

You can guess what this is. I'm not just talking phones though. There are Lync conferencing devices too. A full list of the Lync Device Partners shows what's available now.

This area is very much up to you. How many users do you have to buy for? What kinds of devices would best serve your communication needs? You should already know the answers, thanks to your user surveys. So I'll just give my own hardware recommendations.

If you're getting IP phones, I recommend PolyCom and Snom. (I haven't tried Snom phones yet, but I'm interested to see how well they work.)

USB peripherals include speakerphones, headsets and webcams. Logitech always delivers for us. Never tried a Jabra headset, but I've heard many good things.

Finally, the partner list has a section for conferencing devices. ClearOne, PolyCom and Jabra have devices available. I haven't used ClearOne hardware, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth as much of a look as the other two.

And there you have it. This information, plus the TechNet library's references, should give you a solid idea of what hardware you'll need to run Lync Server 2010. We have just about everything ready for Step 6: Install Lync Server! Check back next week for more.

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More on SBS Aurora Playing Nice With OCS

Last week ZDNet UK posted a thorough review of SBS Aurora. It's a pre-release version, so there aren't a whole lot of details. And apparently the entire cloud function was not available yet.

Windows Small Business Server “Aurora” – ZDNet UK

I took a look through anyway, to get an idea of what Aurora can show us so far. And how that will relate to my idea from before – whether or not using Aurora as a lightweight base for OCS works.

Hardware/Software Match-Up

First thing I noted was that Aurora doesn't need brand-new hardware (ZDNet used a dual-core machine with 2GB of RAM). So the hardware needed to set up a basic OCS server won't drive up the bill here.

The snag, if one arises, will be in software support. The code base to support an OCS setup is mostly there – Aurora is based on Windows Server 2008 R2, as well as some code from Microsoft Home Server (for storage management). It includes IIS and SQL Server – both OCS requirements.

It does have its own version of Active Directory, though apparently some of its functions are hidden. Which, if you're setting up a server for a small workgroup, makes some sense. However, this is the snag…

Aurora cannot be added to an existing AD domain. It must create a new one. Microsoft intends Aurora for NEW businesses only. And this is how they make that clear.

Aurora's Management: OK for OCS?

Managing Aurora works through a task-based dashboard, into which you can login remotely through RDS. I don't know whether integrating OCS into this dashboard is feasible (yet), or whether you'd be better off managing OCS separately. This is a wait-and-see.

Another wait-and-see is,sadly,many of Aurora's cloud options. They weren't available to ZDNet for this review. They did report an add-in folder for applications, but nothing was available to test.

A couple likely applications to run cloud-based on Aurora would be email and collaboration (i.e. OCS?).

Small Business Communications: It'll Work

I'm sure there will be an OCS option within SBS Aurora when it's released. Whether that's a plugin to run it directly through the dashboard, or a cloud-based app to connect the two.

I'm also pretty convinced you can run OCS off an Aurora-based server without much extra configuration. Putting these two together essentially creates a one-stop main server and communications center for small businesses.

Have you had a chance to test SBS Aurora? Not sure this Aurora/OCS idea would work? Drop us a comment and let's chat.

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If You Use OCS 2007, SQL Server or Windows Server 2008, Get the Latest Patches

Yesterday Microsoft released a big group of patches. 34 of them in fact; Microsoft”s biggest Patch Day ever.

As far as I can tell, this update does not include patches for OCS. But it does patch Windows XP/Vista, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server, and Internet Information Server (IIS). All of which are important to OCS 2007”s function. So I definitely recommend patching ASAP if you use OCS. Or even if you don”t.

The Security Bulletin is available here: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms09-oct.mspx
With full details on what software is affected, why, and how critical the patch is.

All of the patches are available on Microsoft Update. If you want to download them directly, you”ve got a few options:

  • Click the “Affected Software and Download Locations” subhead for a categorical listing. It”s divided up by Windows System, Office Suites, Server Software, Developer Tools & Security Software. Locate the software you want to patch under its appropriate category and click the download link.
  • Click the “Detection and Deployment Tools and Guidance” subhead for links to two more options – the Download Center & the Update Catalog.
    • There”s guidance on updating servers under here too.

Chances are if you use Microsoft servers, you already knew about this batch of patches. I highlighted it just in case it got lost/delayed in the shuffle. Server and database patches can prevent a lot of nasty things – like the server crashing and not waking back up. Let”s skip that,shall we?

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