SharePoint 2010 Small Farm Server Recommendations

Copyright 2010. John Stover

Microsoft has some pretty good information posted about the hardware and software requirements necessary for SharePoint 2010.  I still get asked for real world, or ‘best practices’, recommendations all the time.  Like everyone else, I want to get the best performance for the best price.  It’s difficult to strike the balance between ‘good enough’ and ‘optimized’.

A large majority of the SharePoint projects that I work on end up being small-ish SharePoint farms (between 2 and 8 servers).  Due to the licensing required for Windows, SQL Servers, and SharePoint servers, most organizations do try to get by with as few servers as possible, yet still want the best possible performance.  The most common configuration that I see in the SharePoint world involves a single dedicated SharePoint server and a single dedicated SQL Server.  From there, organizations usually first add another SharePoint server, then a 3rd SharePoint server, then a second SQL Server, and then the sky is literally the limit.

Since the most common scenario includes this ‘2 server farm’ of a single SharePoint server and a single SQL Server, I thought it would be useful to provide a quick reference for absolute requirements (such as 64-bit) as well as a couple of my recommendations (at least as they stand today).  Here are some of the most common questions that I get around infrastructure recommendations.

  1. Is SharePoint 2010 64-bit? Yes.  64-bit everything.  SharePoint 2010 is a 64-bit platform.  Every version of SharePoint 2010 is only available as 64-bit.  And it requires 64-bit Windows and 64-bit SQL Server.
  2. What version of Windows do I need for SharePoint 2010? Basically, you can run Windows Server 2008 and newer.  Specifically, you can run any of the following Windows operating systems:
    1. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Standard with SP2
    2. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise with SP2
    3. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Data Center with SP2
    4. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Web Server with SP2
    5. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard
    6. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
    7. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Data Center
    8. The 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 Web Server
  3. What version of SQL Server do I need for SharePoint 2010? Basically, you can run Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or newer.  Specifically, you can run any one of the following three options:
    1. The 64-bit edition of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 with Service Pack 3 (SP3)
    2. The 64-bit edition of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 with Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Cumulative Update 2.
    3. The 64-bit edition of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2.
  4. What virtualization platforms are supported? I wrote a small post yesterday about this, but Microsoft’s own virtualization platform, Microsoft Hyper-V, is supported.  Microsoft also offers support if you are running an approved virtualized environment from the following vendors (in no particular order):
    1. VMWare (ESX and vSphere)
    2. Cisco (WAAS Virtual Blades)
    3. HITACHI (Virtualization Manager / Virtage)
    4. Citrix Systems (XEN Server)
    5. Red Hat (Virtualization Hypervisor)
    6. Novell (SuSE), Riverbed Technology (Steelhead Appliance)
    7. Stratus Technologies (Stratus Avance)
  5. What are the memory requirements for SharePoint 2010? Microsoft specifies 8 GB RAM as the minimum for production user in either a single server or multiple server farm SharePoint 2010 configuration.  You can run SharePoint 2010 with less memory (such as 4 GB), but I recommend more.  In fact, I typically recommend 16 GB RAM for the SharePoint 2010 web server(s) and at least 16 GB RAM (or 32) for the SQL Server.  RAM is cheaper than software.  RAM is cheaper than consulting time.  Get more RAM.
  6. What are the processor requirements for SharePoint 2010 (including processor speed)? The short answer is that there are no real processor requirements (once you meet the 64-bit requirements).  I am sometimes asked about processor speed requirements.  The processor speed question always throws me a little, as my response is to get the fastest processor you can afford at the time.  I will typically recommend at least a 2 GHz processor – but get as fast as you can afford at the time.  The second part of processor recommendations are around ‘how many processors’ or ‘how many cores’?  The SharePoint server can have as many processors or cores as you can afford (see a pattern here?).  To be realistic though, four processor cores should be the minimum for any production SharePoint 2010 environment, and I would actually recommend 8 cores.  I personally don’t care if it’s two quad-core processors or a single eight-core proc.
  7. What are the disk space requirements for SharePoint 2010?
    1. Install drive and data directory? The data directory where the SharePoint 2010 files are installed is relatively small.  I usually allocate 20GB for potential growth (custom code deployments, etc.), but I’ve rarely seen more than a couple of GB used.  However, an important consideration is where the index files are stored for the SharePoint Search components.  Again, this is going to vary wildly depending upon specific environment variables, but allocating an additional 30-50GB for search index file storage is a great start.   Keep in mind that SharePoint stores the actual content in the database, and thus database storage (below) is the storage area that requires the most calculation.
    2. Paging space? Page file setup is often overlooked when configuring servers – mostly because Windows will automatically manage the page file for you (though not always well).  Microsoft has a support tip on How to determine the appropriate page file size for 64-bit versions of Windows.  While this article is specific to older versions of windows, the practices outline are still valid.  My typical recommendation is to allocated page files on non-OS drives (helps eliminate fragmentation) for between one and four times the amount of RAM in the server.  However, if you are tuning your servers, you should follow the recommendations to determine the appropriate size.
    3. Free space? Microsoft recommends also keeping at least twice the amount of RAM as free storage space on your drives.
    4. Database storage? Database storage is the most dynamic requirement from environment to environment.  Microsoft has some great capacity planning worksheets available to assist, but this is really extremely specific to your organization, including items such as how much content will be migrated into SharePoint initially, the type of content that will be stored, how many users will be contributing content, versioning requirements, and even the longevity of information stored in SharePoint (will it live on forever or will information management policies be enforced?).  As for a ‘typical scenario’ (if there is such a thing), I think that 150-300 GB of database storage space is sufficient for many smaller organizations.   Also, the database storage configuration can be complex in it’s own right.  SQL Server afficianados will sometimes recommend separate drive controllers and RAID 10 arrays for the data files, the log files, the temp files, the OS, and the paging files (that can be quite an expensive server configuration!).
  8. What are the network / NIC requirements for SharePoint 2010? There are not strict requirements around networking requirements.  My recommendations are to use a minimum of a single GbE card.  There are also great reasons to use multiple NICs in heavily utilized environments.  I have seen good results of dedicated NIC communication between the web server and the SQL server, as well as another dedicated NIC for backup/management properties only.
  9. What browsers are supported? Microsoft has done better explaining browser support with SharePoint 2010 than they have with any previous version of SharePoint.  It’s easiest to just link to Microsoft’s site at

By John Stover

John Stover Bio.

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