System Center Capacity Planner 2006 Overview (Part 1)
If you would like to read part 2 in this article series please go to System Center Capacity Planner 2006 Overview (Part 2).
If you’re responsible for planning a deployment of Exchange 2003, then how do you plan for your expected workload, anticipated response times and server utilization? SCCP 2006 is a new tool to help with just this. Currently, this application allows you to size and plan deployments of either Exchange 2003 or MOM 2005. Not only does it also allow you to consider future planning requirements, it also allows you to model your design to see the likely performance that you’ll encounter. Since SCCP has many features to discuss, I will cover it over two parts but even then, I won’t be able to cover every feature. I’ve already mentioned above what I will cover in part 1. In part 2 I’ll cover the Model Editor, the Hardware Editor and running a simulation.
You should note that SCCP 2006 is designed only to model a single Exchange organization and is focused on Exchange 2003 SP1. Additionally, it only models a traditional hub and spoke design and therefore doesn’t allow you to directly model users that connect to their mailbox servers across transitive network links. Other key components that SCCP 2006 will not model include clustered mailbox servers, Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), Outlook Mobile Access (OMA), public folders, POP and IMAP clients, RPC over HTTP and storage technologies such as NAS and iSCSI. For the full list of unsupported items, see the accompanying help file. You might therefore be wondering what it does support. Well, supported components are mailbox servers, bridgehead servers, OWA front-end servers and Active Directory Global Catalog servers.
Although the Beta of SCCP 2006 was available from the Microsoft download site, the release version is only available as part of your TechNet subscription. The application became available in January 2006’s TechNet subscription, on disk 0422.
You can install SCCP 2006 on Windows XP Professional SP2+, Windows XP Home SP2+, Windows 2000 Professional SP4+, Windows 2000 Server SP4+ and all versions of Windows Server 2003 except the Datacenter Edition. Microsoft lists the minimum recommended hardware configuration as a 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM and 30MB of available disk space.
The information in this article is based on the installation of SCCP 2006 on Windows XP Professional SP2. After inserting the CD you may be presented with the following window informing you that SCCP 2006 requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 to operate.
Figure 1: .NET Framework 2.0 Prompt
Clicking Yes takes you to the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Redistributable Package (x86) download page, although I did note that the same version of the .NET Framework (2.0.50727.42) is already included on the product CD as DotNetFx.exe. The first thing to do therefore is to install this package and as there aren’t any real installation options, I won’t go into great detail here. The one thing I will say is that, during the installation, I was prompted to close both Outlook and Internet Explorer which were open at the time, so do remember to close all running applications first.
Once the .NET Framework has been installed, SCCP 2006 can be installed which is a very straightforward process. A wizard guides you through the installation process with the only configurable options being where to install the application and who can use it. The default installation location is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Capacity Planner. After installation, you’ll notice a new shortcut called Microsoft Capacity Planner created directly on the Start / Programs menu.
Running SCCP 2006
When you first run SCCP 2006, you’ll be presented with an advisory dialog box which essentially informs you that you should not rely solely on the program as the basis of your design decisions, since it uses information made available to Microsoft from other organizations.
On the opening Welcome screen, there are several available options. Within the Before you begin section, you can view the release notes or click the About Capacity Planner link to launch the CapacityManager.chm help file. Within the Create a new System Architecture Model section, you can select your application to model, either Exchange 2003 or MOM 2005, or you can invoke the Model Wizard to start creating a new model. Finally, there is the Edit an existing System Architecture Model area, where you can edit an existing model you’ve created or edit your computer configurations with the Hardware Editor. I think it’s safe to say that the release notes and help file options are self-explanatory, so let’s examine the rest of the options in more detail. Of course, since this is an article on Exchange 2003, I’m going to focus on creating a new Exchange 2003 model and not a MOM 2005 model.
Creating a New Model
Clicking the link to create a new model invokes the Model Wizard, from which the opening screen is shown below in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Model Wizard
There are five main parts to the Model Wizard as you can see from the information presented down the left-hand pane in Figure 2. First you need to provide site and network information, then the number of users. The third part sees the specification of a ‘typical’ user, followed by your hardware preference. Finally, you reach the model summary. Let’s take a look through each part of the Model Wizard.
Model Wizard – Site and Network Information
The Model Wizard requires that you identify how many central and branch sites you have in your network, with the defaults being 1 and 4 respectively. This is the screen shown above in Figure 2. Let’s stick with these defaults as we work through the wizard. You then need to specify the network connectivity between the central sites and between the central and branch sites. Your network connectivity options range from 56K dialup links right up to 156 Mbps OC3 links with the defaults set to 1.5 Mbps T1 links. For each option you can also state what percentage of bandwidth is available to Exchange across these links. If you don’t know these figures, it may be a good time to perform some bandwidth measurements or speak to the members of your network team to find out. Let’s assume that the bandwidth to the 4 branch office sites are all Fractional T1 links running at 512 Kbps and that we do indeed have the default 70 percent of bandwidth available to Exchange.
Model Wizard – User Information
In this section you get to tell the wizard how many users are in the central site and each branch site. By default, the wizard assumes we have 100 users in each branch site and 1000 users in the central site. What if each branch office has differing numbers of users, as is the likely case? Well, this screen doesn’t give you the option to change the number of branch office users in such a scenario, although you can adjust these figures later in the Model Editor. For now, let’s assume we have 100 users in each branch office and 2500 users in the central site. Note that, in the current release of this product, the maximum number of users you can specify in a central site is 50,000, whilst the maximum number of users you can specify in a branch office is 10,000. We can also tell the wizard whether our branch office users are using Outlook cached mode or Outlook Web Access (OWA). We’ll stick with Outlook cached mode for the time being, since that gives our branch office users the best user experience. Finally, it’s worth noting here that this screen gives you the chance to name the central site something meaningful rather than the default name of CentralSite 1. I’ve chosen a central site name of HQ for this particular article.
Model Wizard – Typical User Specification
Here you can specify the profile of a typical user within your organization, either via one of the three defined roles or via a custom-created role. The typical user profile informs the wizard how many messages a typical user will send and receive every day, along with the average size of each email as well as the average size of each mailbox. Table 1 below shows the values you get by default for the three defined user roles.
Table 1: Typical User Options
I suspect that you will want to configure these options to more accurately reflect what you know about your user community. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that our users fall into the Medium category.
Model Wizard – Hardware Preference
The Model Wizard now moves on to the hardware preference area as shown below in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Model Wizard Hardware Preference
First you must choose at least one, and up to three, CPU configurations that you wish to use within your design. From the drop-down selection box there are a plethora of CPU options available, such as single, dual or quad processor configurations, the processor type (Pentium, Xeon, Athlon, Opteron, etc), the choice of hyper-threaded and dual core processors, differing levels of cache, and all with clock speeds ranging from 700MHz to 3.66GHz. I elected to choose two different processor configurations, namely both single and dual Xeon 2.4GHz processor options.
The wizard also allows you to select the checkbox titled Attempt to consolidate roles on to one server. If you choose this option, the wizard will attempt to merge differing Exchange server roles, such as the mailbox server and bridgehead server roles, onto single servers rather than having dedicated servers for each role. This is obviously ideal if you’re looking to minimize the amount of hardware required for your configuration. The disk configuration drop-down selection box allows you to choose one disk configuration for your design. This doesn’t refer to the actual RAID array layout, but rather to the type of disk (ATA, SATA or SCSI), the spin speed (5400 to 15000 RPM) and the disk capacity (36 to 500GB). In my sample design, I selected SCSI 15000 RPM disks with 72GB capacity.
Finally, there is the Use a SAN option which allows SCCP 2006 to automatically create the SAN using the required number of disks. For this article, I did not select this option which means that we’ll be using locally attached storage for this sample design. What if a particular hardware specification that you wish to use isn’t available on any of the drop-down lists? This is where the Hardware Editor comes in, which I’ll be looking at this in part 2 of this article.
Model Wizard – Model Summary
Now that you’ve entered all the required information, the next screen, the Model Summary screen, shows you a summary of the servers that have been recommended by the application. This is shown below in Figure 4. Here you can see that separate mailbox, bridgehead and Global Catalog servers have been recommended. If I had elected to choose the Attempt to consolidate roles on to one server option within the Hardware Preference screen, the mailbox and bridgehead server roles would have been combined onto a single server, something that you’d most likely do for an Exchange server hosting 700 medium user mailboxes as in the case of this sample design. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the wizard has placed all 700 users on a single mailbox server located at the HQ, since the branch office WAN links are capable of handling the traffic generated to the Outlook cached mode users in the branch offices. Also note the recommended disk subsystem layouts.
Figure 4: Model Wizard Summary Screen
Earlier I mentioned that I had elected not to choose the Use a SAN option. If I had done so, the wizard would have produced a SAN configuration screen similar to the one shown below in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Model Wizard Summary Screen – SAN Option
Assuming you are happy with your configuration, click the Finish button after which you’ll be presented with your global topology like the one shown below in Figure 6. From here, you can really start to fine-tune your configuration as well as performing a simulation to get your utilization and latency performance data. There will be more on this in part 2 of this article.
Figure 6: Global Topology
In this article I have introduced you to System Center Capacity Planner 2006 and covered the installation requirements as well as getting the program up and running by showing you how to start off a new model with the Model Wizard. In part 2 of this article, I’ll show you the options you have to edit the configuration of your model, as well as how to run the performance simulation.
If you would like to read part 2 in this article series please go to System Center Capacity Planner 2006 Overview (Part 2).