Setting up your SharePoint 2013 environment At Work – Part 1

In category SharePoint | November 1, 2012

The RTM edition of SharePoint Server 2013 has been recently published on MSDN/TechNet Subscription website. Lots of people are re-building their own SharePoint 2013 environment for different purposes whether testing, developing or evaluating SharePoint 2013 new features. However, as of writing this article, SharePoint 2013-related products people are looking forward to are missing at this moment, such as SharePoint Foundation 2013, SharePoint Designer 13. These products, maybe, will be publicly available for download after the worldwide SharePoint Conference 2012 held at Las Vegas on November 12-15, 2012. By the way, I’m pretty sad and disappointed because I was twice denied to get US visa because simply I was too young, single and actually have no tie to prove that I would come back to Vietnam after the conference.

As part of the SharePoint community, I would be very happy to share my thoughts on SharePoint, especially write something with the hope that it helps someone facilitate his/her SharePoint-at-work. I was thinking about writing a series of setting up a *beautiful* SharePoint 2013 RTM environment regardless of where it is, maybe your home, or your R & D department where you are leading a team that is about to start researching SharePoint 2013 products and technologies. I really hope you will find something helpful to building a SharePoint 2013 production environment in your organization even the series may not cover much more about this.

The objectives of the series have been determined as follows:

  • Provide a tidy hand on the new server or personal computer supposing you have bought, but Windows Server 2012 RTM must be installed as a physical host. I will be starting from installing Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2012, and then creating new virtual machines required, to setting up Hyper-V setting in order for your virtual machines to be seamlessly run and well performed. And many more ….
  • The series shall provide many good approaches I have experienced to building a production environment at the beginning of your SharePoint 2013 deployment.
  • For those of you who are working as a SharePoint developer, you may not know much about networking stuffs, Hyper-V virtualization technology, Active Directory or things like that, I would walk you through a complete steps so that you can build a real-world environment before looking into SharePoint 2013 App development or other areas. By the way, Microsoft said at the SPC11 held at Anaheim last year that there were approximately 700,000 SharePoint developers in the world at the time. I guess the increase on demand will be more 300,000 developer as of SharePoint 2013 RTM is publicly released. Microsoft might let you know at the SPC12.
  • If you are a SharePoint administrator, you would probably need an enterprise-level environment for many testing purposes come up in your mind. It’s not what Microsoft provided in the SharePoint 2010 Information Worker Demonstration and Evaluation package you may have downloaded. Additionally, you will learn many things that help you reach out to the new advanced level of SharePoint administrator.
  • For those who are very new to SharePoint, the series will definitively provide a comprehensive lesson in building SharePoint environment.
  • The series have many key points that will appear in your exam of Windows Server 2012 certification that you must gain before taking SharePoint 2013 certification exam.

The first part of this article introduces to my hardware configuration used to build the beautiful environment. Your hardware probably differs from mine, so just need to make sure you have adequate capacity that meet Microsoft’s recommendation of hardware requirement for entirely SharePoint 2013 deployment. Next, I will be introducing my expected physical topology designed for SharePoint scalability and extensibility. The last part will provide step-by-step guidance on how to install Hyper-V role.

The computer I’m using is not a server. It’s just a desktop computer I bought two years ago. Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Evaluation is installed on my computer. It is used as a physical host that has Hyper-V 3.0 role installed. There are four editions of Windows Server 2012 product. Each has different features and licensing model. To get more details about Windows Server 2010 licensing, download the licensing data sheet here. Datacenter and Standard both have the same features. The only difference between both editions is the number of virtual machines each edition is able to run. According to virtualization rights of Windows Server 2012, you can run up to 2 virtual machines with Standard edition and unlimited number of virtual machines with Datacenter edition. Hence, to get most out benefits, you should come to Datacenter edition. It of course costs more than other editions.

My computer has 16 GB RAM in conjunction with Intel Core i5 processor that has 4 cores. If you need to know in more details, you can download CPU-Z here.

The drive is divided into 3 volumes. Volume C stores system files, logs or critical files for performing operating system. Volume D is to store all Virtual hard disk (.vhd) files that keep my virtual machines alive. The last volume is used to store snapshot and many backups of virtual machine configuration. You don’t necessarily need to have a separated volume for snapshot and backups thought.

Are you finding Computer Management? Open Server Manager and then click Tools in the top right corner, and select Computer Management. Many settings are here as well. From now, you already know how to add a user to the Local Administrator group. This happens many times when we work with SharePoint, such as creating a Task Scheduler for a SharePoint backup, or assigning permission to User Profile Synchronization account.

The following table details hardware configuration of all of the servers involved in my SharePoint 2013 environment.

You can allocate resources for each virtual machine depending on your hardware capacity. Hyper-V allows you to adjust allocation store whenever you need, so don’t worry much about the allocation. I could have an Exchange server unless one of the applications server should be removed, however if so, I can’t enjoy Request Management feature.

Based on the table above, the following diagram depicts the physical topology.

All servers are virtualized in Hyper-V. ADSERVER machine runs Active Directory Domain Services and serves as the DNS server in my environment. Both SHAREPOINTWAPP and SHAREPOINTAPP run SharePoint Foundation Web Application Service so these are able to be called “web front-end server”. SHAREPOINTAPP machine hosts and handles all service applications.

You might be asking why you need n-tier farm deployment. I have seen many people installing SharePoint in a single server. This causes many problems I have collected:

  • In workgroup scenarios, the local administrator account performs as a farm account, running all services, application pools. When a developer runs PowerShell scripts, he may encounter permission errors. In addition, such a scenario doesn’t support many SharePoint cases you are developing.
  • In stand-alone scenario, you can although use each account for each service running on SharePoint, but some parameters, which are the same, may conflict when you execute script that collects farm configuration.

Both scenarios are not allowed in any middle/large company. You may not be able to have only one account used as a farm account that has securityadmin and dbcreator either Replicate Directory Changes permission (for synchronization). It’s simply because those large companies have different IT teams: DBA team, Network team, Microsoft system team….etc. It’s pretty hard to convince your DBA that SharePoint needs such critical privileges, for example.

In SharePoint 2013, the following installation scenarios are not supported:

  • You try to install SharePoint Server 2013 on a drive that is formatted by using Resilient File System (ReFS).  Only NTFS allows.
  • You install SharePoint Server 2013 in a workgroup. Previously, you could deploy SharePoint 2010 in a workgroup and the farm account was the Local Administrator account. This caused many authentication-related/permission issues. I have seen a few cases in SharePoint Yammer MVP channel in fact that Microsoft doesn’t support such a workgroup deployment.
  • You install SharePoint Server 2013 on a virtual machine (VM) that uses Dynamic Memory. Here is what Microsoft says “Dynamic Memory doesn’t work with every SharePoint feature. For example, Distributed Cache and Search don’t resize their caches when the allocated memory for a virtual machine is dynamically changed. This can cause performance degradation, especially when assigned memory is reduced”. This could be a pain virtualization system engineers gain when working with Hyper-V.
  • You install SharePoint Server 2013 on Windows Server 2008 Web edition. If you install SharePoint Server 2013 on Windows Server 2012, no matter what you consider in terms of selection of the edition.

Installing Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2012

As I said earlier, Hyper-V role is installed in a physical host. Some administrative tasks are quite difficult to be found and configured at the first time you work with Windows Server 2012. Don’t worry about this! You will be learning about Windows Server 2012 in a bit. Like Windows Server 2008, you must add Hyper-V role to physical host before deploying virtualization. Open Server Manager, click Manage in the top right corner and then click Add Roles and Features.

In Before you begin page, carefully read the content if you are very new to Windows Server 2012. Check Skip this page by default if you don’t want this page to be appeared at the next times.

In Select installation type page, there are two options:

  • Role-based or feature-based installation: this option is similar to the one available in Windows Server 2008, used when you want to add roles, features in a single server.
  • Remote Desktop Services scenario-based installation: Windows Server 2012 provides a method that allows you to remotely add new roles, features to a group of servers. In other words, you don’t have to log into those servers where new roles need to be added. More information:

In Select destination server page, you see the new term called “SERVER POOL”. The term is only meaningful when you are in process of adding new roles in multiple servers using Remote Desktop Services scenario-based installation option. You can choose whether selecting a server under the list of servers or using virtual hard disk.

In Select server roles page, select Hyper-V role. You will then get asked to install required components, such as Hyper-V Management Tools. In Add Roles and Features Wizard windows, click Add Features. In fact, you can add these features later.

In Select features page, skip everything by default.

In Hyper-V page, carefully read under Things to note before configuring specifically Hyper-V settings. In Create Virtual Switches page, select one of the existing network adapters. Make sure you have at least one. In real-world scenarios, there are more than one network adapter required. For example, DMZ requires at least 3 NICs available. You will be able to add more virtual network cards on Hyper-V if you need.

In Virtual Machine Migration page, select Allow this server to send and receive live migrations of virtual machines. This option is really useful when you need to migrate a virtual machine to another without any performance issue or delaying time. There are two authentication protocol options supported in live migration functionality. Depending on infrastructure requirement, select properly authentication protocol, and make sure if you use Kerberos, your environment must have Kerberos servers. I would prefer using Kerberos because that offers manageability of authentication.  Microsoft recommends not to enable the migration option till you have a cluster.

Note: SMB 3.o Live Migration that is one of the new changes in Windows Server 2012 allows you to live migrate among virtual machines that are not part of a failover cluster.

In Default Stores page, browse to the folders you are going to store virtual hard disk files as well as virtual machine configuration files. I use volume D to store these things.

Check all settings you have made in previous pages. Select Restart the destination server automatically if required option as its name is very clear to understand. There is a small windows that appears to ask your confirmation. If all settings are completely configured, then click Install button. And then wait for the Hyper-V installation until it is completed.

There are some notable points regarding SharePoint Server 2013 installation scenarios in this article. You also get to know a little bit about Windows Server 2012 edition, Hyper-V installation, Dynamic Memory limitation on SharePoint 2013 virtual machine.

Stay turned !

Update: as of writing this article, SharePoint Designer 2013 RTM and SharePoint Foundation 2013 RTM were not published for download. Now these are completely available.