Advanced SharePoint 2010 Installation and Scalability : Scaling Logical SharePoint Components

1/21/2011 7:24:19 PM

Understanding Scalability for SharePoint

The first step in scaling a SharePoint environment is to understand the level of usage it will receive, both presently and in the future. After the level of usage is determined, understanding which specific components can be extended is vital to structuring the system to match the desired user load. The key is to match SharePoint functionality to the specific identified need.

Mapping SharePoint Functionality to Business Needs

When deploying SharePoint, the primary concern for scalability is how many users will use the system. For departmental collaboration, the numbers may be small. For large, publicly accessible portals, on the other hand, the numbers could scale up quickly. Scaling a SharePoint implementation based on the number of users is simplistic but can be used as a starting point. In addition to total number of users, the following factors should be identified to more fully understand the load placed on a SharePoint server:

  • Number of users

  • Pages per user per work day

  • Length of work day (hours)

  • Type of work performed and level of office integration

  • Size of document repositories

Collecting this information and understanding who will be accessing a SharePoint environment is the first step toward properly scaling the environment.

Gauging Content Growth

In addition to the amount of data that initially is loaded into SharePoint, an understanding of how fast that content will grow is critical toward properly scaling an environment. Running out of storage space a year into a SharePoint deployment is not an ideal situation. You need to understand how quickly content can grow and how to control this inevitable growth.

Proper use of site quotas in SharePoint is an effective way to maintain control over the size that a SharePoint database can grow to. Implementing site quotas as they are created is a recommended best-practice approach and should be considered in most situations. It is easy to bloat SharePoint with unnecessary data, and site quotas help local site administrators to make judicious use of their available space.

SharePoint’s SQL database can grow in size dramatically, depending on how heavily it is used and what type of content is included in it.

Scaling Logical SharePoint Components

The key to SharePoint’s success is its capability to intelligently present information needed for each individual user, giving them quick and easy access to that information. SharePoint accomplishes this through various logical mechanisms that exist to help organize this content, structuring it in a way that pulls unstructured data together and presents it to the user. For example, a file server simply holds together a jumbling of documents in a simple file structure. Multiple versions of those documents further confuse the issue. SharePoint contains mechanisms to organize those documents into logical document libraries, categorized by metadata, which can be searched for and presented by the latest version.

In addition to the most obvious logical components, SharePoint enables sets of data to be scaled out to support groups of users. For example, by utilizing different site collections with their own unique sets of permissions, SharePoint can be configured to host different groups of users on the same set of machines, increasing flexibility.

Scaling Out with Site Collections

Building on the success of previous versions of SharePoint, SharePoint sites in SharePoint Foundation enable various teams or groups of users to have access to particular information relevant to them. For example, sites can be set up for each department of a company to enable them to have access to information pertinent to their groups.

Sites can be scaled out to support various site collections for each group of users. This enables the data to be distributed across a SharePoint environment logically, allowing a much larger population of users to be distributed across a SharePoint server environment. Each site collection can be administered by a unique owner designated within the site structure, similar to the one shown in Figure 1. This allows for security to be scaled out across a SharePoint site.

Figure 1. Scaling out with SharePoint 2010 sites.

Scaling Out with Web Applications

SharePoint stores its data in SQL content databases but serves up access to that data via HTML and web services. The access to this data is served up to the user via the Windows Server Internet Information Services (IIS) service. IIS is composed of various logical structures known as websites, which are entry points to web content. Each website can be configured to point to various sets of information located on the web server or extended via SharePoint to be unique SharePoint web applications.

Utilizing unique web applications with SharePoint can help to further scale the functionality of an environment, allowing the flexibility to grant access to SharePoint using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, or across different ports. In addition, deploying multiple virtual servers enables the use of multiple host headers for a SharePoint organization, such as,,,, and so on.

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