16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 3)

MSExchange.org
  

Community Area
Login Register Now
Home  Articles & Tutorials  Exchange 2013 Articles  Management & Administration
16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 3).
by Rui Silva [Published on 2 Dec. 2014 / Last Updated on 2 Dec. 2014] 

7
Tips covering virtualization, performance and scalability, monitoring and advanced troubleshooting of an Exchange 2013 infrastructure.

If you would like to be notified of when Rui Silva releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our MSExchange.org Real Time Article Update newsletter.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 1)
16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 2)
9.    Virtualization
Although fully supported with Exchange Server 2013, it seems that Microsoft is discouraging its use, as stated in The Preferred Architecture blog post:

“Virtualization adds an additional layer of management and complexity, which introduces additional recovery modes that do not add value, as Exchange provides equivalent functionality out of the box.”

Nevertheless, and since virtualization is widely used nowadays, here are a few guidelines and recommendations:

Supported hypervisor technology:
Any version of Windows Server with Hyper-V technology or Microsoft Hyper-V Server
Any third-party hypervisor that has been validated under the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program
Use Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V for the best experience, since it’s the most tested hypervisor for Exchange.
Size for physical resources, add ~12% CPU overhead for hypervisor. Best way to size for this is using Role Requirements Calculator.
Don’t oversubscribe resources. Use reservation options to ensure that Exchange gets the resources it needs.
Disable dynamic memory. Configure static memory for all Exchange VMs.
Host-based failover clustering and migration technologies are supported, but must result in cold boot or use technology similar to Hyper-V Live Migration for online migrations.
Snapshots are NOT supported.
Maximum of 2:1 virtual to physical CPU ratio, 1:1 recommended.
Must use block level storage, because Exchange 2013 doesn’t support the use of network attached storage (NAS) volumes, other than in a SMB 3.0 scenario.
VHDs must be fixed size. Differencing/delta disks are not supported.
Storage used by Exchange should be hosted in dedicated disk spindles. This storage can be virtual storage of a fixed size (for example, fixed VHDs in a Hyper-V environment), SCSI pass-through storage, or Internet SCSI (iSCSI) storage.
Hyper-V replica is not supported.
Exchange server virtual machines (including DAG nodes) can be combined with host-based failover clustering and migration technology as long as the virtual machines don’t save and restore state on disk when moved or taken offline. All failover activity must result in a cold start when the virtual machine is activated on the target node. All planned migration must either result in shut down and a cold start or an online migration that utilizes a technology such as Hyper-V live migration.
Jetstress testing in guests is supported on supported Windows hypervisors or ESX 4.1 (or newer)
Placing multiple mailbox DB copies or other Exchange dependencies on the same infrastructure impacts availability.
Important technical documentation: Exchange 2013 Virtualization.
For more detailed and specific guidelines for the 2 most used virtualization technologies, follow the recommendations on these whitepapers:
Hyper-V: Best Practices for Virtualizing & Managing Exchange 2013
Vmware: Microsoft Exchange 2013 on VMware Best Practices Guide
Advertisement

10. Performance and Scalability
I don’t mind repeating myself when I say that Exchange Server keeps getting better and better. For instance, regarding storage needs, Exchange 2013 shows an improvement of up to 50% in IOPS, when compared to its previous version. And let us not forget all the self-diagnosis and healing magic included in the product.

Nevertheless, and since there isn’t such thing as a one size fits all, sizing, tweaking and tuning some of the more critical elements, such as the hypervisor or storage system can have a significant impact on performance.

These are just a few hints and recommendations that can help you:

Sizing is absolutely critical. Don’t take shortcuts, don’t guess your users’ needs, don’t try to save money by cutting on the hardware (lately, that will probably cost you more), don’t follow unsupported configurations, don’t trust any tool available on the internet (except, of course, the tremendous Exchange 2013 Server Role Requirements Calculator), don’t underestimate future growth. For more guidance, there is a great MEC 2014 session available online Plan it the right way – Exchange Server 2013 sizing scenarios.
If sizing is critical, validation is crucial. Sizing is a theoretical exercise, please validate your environment with tools like JetStress before putting servers into Production.
Turn off hyper-threading, because Exchange Server will not take advantage of it. Actually, there can be a significant impact to memory utilization on Exchange servers when hyper-threading is enabled due to the way the .NET server garbage collector allocates heaps.
Install KB 2803754 on Windows Server 2008 R2 or KB 2803755 on Windows Server 2012 (Windows Server 2012 R2 doesn’t require it). Applying this hotfix reduces memory consumption in each store worker and decreases CPU spent in .NET garbage collector.
Network: Much of the network interface subsystem is tuned automatically. Server-based network adapters are capable of detecting the type and level of traffic passing through the network interface, and they self-tune to reflect this information. Ensure that the latest device drivers are maintained on the server.
Enable RSS, since it helps to scale CPU utilization, particularly on 10GbE ports, by running the following command: netsh interface tcp set global rss=enabled
Use fixed size pagefile of size of RAM + 10MB, capped at 32778MB
Storage is one of the most common causes of performance bottlenecks. Please make sure you follow the guidelines available in Exchange 2013 storage configuration options. Here is a handful of tips:
On Mailbox servers (including multi-role), configure DAS storage controllers for 100% write cache. On CAS roles consider 25% write/75% read.
Partition Allocation Unit size for Mailbox servers – When formatting the volumes that will host Exchange databases, it is recommended the use of a NTFS allocation unit size of 64KB. The recommendation of 64KB is based on the performance improvements seen with large sequential read operations, such as streaming backup and some eseutil tasks.
Disk defragmentation is supported, but not required nor recommended for Mailbox servers.
The Data De-Duplication available in Windows Server 2012 is not supported
Active Directory can also represent a cause of Exchange performance issues. For Exchange 2013, use a ratio of 1 Active Directory global catalog processor core for every 8 Mailbox role processor cores handling active load, assuming 64-bit global catalog servers.
Multi role servers: Actually multi role is not only supported, but encouraged by Microsoft. Start with the most simple (and cheaper) solution: “commodity” 2U multi-role servers with JBOD storage. Just make sure that your processor utilization isn’t over 39% (this is just a safe number, since CPU utilization for a single role should not exceed 80%).
11. High-Availability and Monitoring
Like it or not, Exchange Server 2013 changed the way monitoring and operations were done. And that’s because the Exchange product team decided to incorporate in Exchange Server the kind of automated mechanisms necessary to operate and maintain a mission critical infrastructure, like the one that powers Office 365.

Exchange 2013 server roles now include a new monitoring and high availability feature known as Managed Availability. Managed Availability includes three main asynchronous components that are constantly doing work:

Probe Engine: Responsible for taking measurements on the server and collecting the data; results of those measurements flow into the monitor.
Monitor: Contains business logic used by the system to determine whether something is healthy, based on the data that is collected and the patterns that emerge from all collected measurements.
Responder Engine: Responsible for recovery actions. When something is unhealthy, the first action is to attempt to recover that component via multi-stage recovery actions that can include:
Restarting an application pool
Restarting a service
Restarting a server; and
Removing a server from service
Image
Figure 22: Managed Availability in Exchange Server 2013

Here are some Managed Availability tips:

In Exchange 2013 SP1, the default threshold for the low volume space monitor is 200 GB. In Exchange 2013 Cumulative Update 6 and later, the default threshold is 180 GB. In SP1 and later, you can configure the threshold by adding the following DWORD registry value (in MB) on each Mailbox server that you want to customize: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftExchangeServerv15ReplayParametersSpaceMonitorLowSpaceThresholdInMB
Use the Get-ServerHealth and Get-HealthReport PowerShell cmdlets to quickly create a status report for a particular server or a group of servers.
Recovery actions, results and related events are logged and can be viewed using Windows Event Viewer > Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Exchange > Managed Availability.
To control the amount of logging consumed by Managed Availability in non-production environments, edit Microsoft.Exchange.Diagnostics.Service.exe.config and add the following to the AppSetting section:

For more information about overrides, please read Customizing Managed Availability.
Managed Availability has taken the responsibility of most of the monitoring procedures that used to be handled by System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). Although the SCOM management pack no longer provides the same kind of functionality, Managed Availability now provides a more filtered set of data that can be used to build and report the overall health of the Exchange servers. SCOM is still a crucial monitoring element, because if recovery actions are unsuccessful, Managed Availability escalates the issue to a human through event log notifications that can then be picked up by the SCOM agent, triggering an alert.

There are many tools available to monitor Exchange Server, ranging from free tools and scripts, to more advanced solutions, but the one I still like to recommend is System Center Operations Manager 2012 with the Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack.

There’s no doubt that proactively monitoring can have a significant impact on overall availability, but there are also other improvements built in Exchange 2013 regarding high-availability that are worth mentioning:

Reduction in IOPS over Exchange 2010
New Managed Store written in C#
Support for multiple databases per disk
AutoReseed
Automatic recovery from storage failures
Lagged copy enhancements
Single copy alert enhancements
DAG network auto-configuration
But even with all these investments in the technology, high-availability is still strongly dependent of a lot of external and human factors, so here are a couple of tips:

Agree on an SLA for the Exchange infrastructure. Based on the availability target, carefully plan the necessary architecture. A good place to start is reading Planning for high availability and site resilience.
If possible, consider following the Preferred Architecture guidelines.
Build DAGs with Windows Server 2012 or later, since it includes some technical enhancements (Dynamic Quorum for example).
Enable loose truncation in Exchange 2013 SP1. Loose truncation is a new feature designed to ensure that disks holding the transaction logs waiting to be replayed into database copies don’t run out of space. To enable loose truncation, follow the procedures described in Managing mailbox database copies.
Install the hotfix provided in KB 2779069 on Windows Server 2012 to help you determine which cluster node is blocking a GUM update.
Use the CollectOverMetrics.ps1 and the CollectReplicationMetrics.ps1 scripts, included in the Scripts folder of an Exchange 2013 installation, to gather useful information about the DAG environment.
12. Advanced Troubleshooting
Your life wouldn’t be so interesting if you didn’t have to go through all the mind boggling process of troubleshooting a failed Exchange system, right? Even the best planned and well managed Exchange organization will face a challenging problem every now and then. Exchange 2013 can even BSOD under the following conditions:

Failure to schedule threads (Hung Threads)
Excessive I/O latency
Replay service working set
Managed Availability (Force Reboot)
Fortunately there are some great tools that come to the rescue of the intrepid IT Administrator, such as:

Office 365 Outlook Connectivity Guided Walkthrough – Whether you use Exchange Online, on-premises, or some combination of both, you will inevitably have an issue with Outlook performance, connectivity, profile corruption, or some other unknown Outlook disease before retirement. To assist you with these issues, there is the Office 365 Outlook Connectivity Guided Walk Through.
Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer Tool – The Remote Connectivity Analyzer website enables IT Administrators to pinpoint connectivity issues by simulating connectivity from a location outside the customer environment. There is also a companion tool, Microsoft Connectivity Analyzer, which can be run locally and lets IT administrators run the same tests within the user’s environment.
Exchange Server Forums – The forum provides a place to discuss Exchange with users and Exchange Team members.
Office 365 Forums – The forum provides a place to discuss Office 365 issues.
Guided walkthroughs for Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and Office 365 – This article lists the guided walkthroughs that are available for Microsoft Exchange Server, Lync Server, SharePoint Server, and Office 365 (including Exchange Online, Lync Online, and SharePoint Online).
System Center Operations Manager – Using the Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack for troubleshooting
Sysinternals Process Monitor – can become quite handy to check the several Exchange process and unexpected I/O in particular.
Windows Performance Monitor – this is actually the mother (and father) of all tools, crucial to detect CPU, memory and storage problems. There are many, many dedicated Exchange counters, to get a list run the following PowerShell cmdlet: Get-Counter -ListSet *msexchange* | Select-Object -ExpandProperty Counter
There is one particular counter which is usually a good indicator of any user related performance problems: RPC Average Latency
Performance Counter

Value

MSExchangeIS Store(*)RPC Average Latency

< 100ms

MSExchangeIS Client Type(*)RPC Average Latency

< 100ms

MSExchangeIS Store(*)RPC Operations/sec

MSExchangeIS Client Type(*)RPC Operations/sec

Table 4: RPC Average Latency counter

Summary
This concludes part 3 of this article. In the next and last part we’ll cover the “better-together” story, migration to the latest version of Exchange, publishing Exchange services securely and we’ll finish with a bunch of loose tips.

If you would like to be notified of when Rui Silva releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our MSExchange.org Real Time Article Update newsletter.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 1)
16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 2)
See Also

15 Tips to Optimize an Exchange 2010 Infrastructure (Part 3)
Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter Solution Accelerator
Virtualizing Exchange Server 2007 on Citrix XenServer
Microsoft Virtualization and Licensing Announcements
Demystifying Exchange 2010 SP1 Virtualization
Enterprise VA R16
Exchange 2003 Real World Tweaks (Part 1)
Hyper-V Replica with Exchange Supportability
10 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2003 Performance (Part 1)
Service Pack 1 for DPM 2007
The Author — Rui Silva

Rui Silva avatar
Rui Silva specializes in Unified Communications and Enterprise Cloud solutions, using Microsoft technologies, with a proven track record of 15+ years experience working with some of the biggest companies in Portugal and Western Europe. Rui can often be found in the cloud or on-premises contributing to the Technical Community through blogging, writing articles or with a presence in the social networks.

Latest Contributions

16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 3) 2 Dec. 2014
16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 2) 13 Nov. 2014
16 Tips to Optimize Exchange 2013 (Part 1) 4 Nov. 2014
Exchange 2013 Sizing Cheat Sheet (Part 2) 14 Aug. 2014
Exchange 2013 Sizing Cheat Sheet (Part 1) 5 Aug. 2014
Featured Links

Advanced Exchange Backup and Recovery Strategies for SMOs
Join experts Lee Benjamin, Microsoft MVP and President of ExchangeGuy Consulting, and Len Srinivasan, Vice President of Vembu Technologies for an interactive discussion on the best practices for creating a solid back-up and restore strategy and putting in the proper processes and technologies to insure the fast and accurate backup and recovery of Exchange servers!

This interactive event will demystify the backup and recovery process by addressing:

Practical steps every IT professional can take to avoid gaps in services and lost data
Key stages of the recovery process, including a few that are often missed
A primer on the different types of backups and restore options for Microsoft Exchange
A Live Q&A Session will be included to answer your top questions
Time and Date: February 18, 2015, 11AM EST / 8am PST / 4pm GMT

Sign up today!
Newsletter Subscription
 
My Subscription Newsletters
By subscribing to our newsletters you agree to the terms of our privacy policy

MSExchange.org Sections
Anti Spam Section Articles & Tutorials Blogs Exchange Server News Hardware KBase Tips Load Balancing Section Newsletters Our Authors Services Site News Software Useful Resources Webinars White Papers
Featured Products

Advertisement

Featured Freeware

Get a free copy of the new SolarWinds Permissions Analyzer!

Which is your preferred Outlook Addon solution?
  Add-On Exchange Central
  Agave Email Templates
  CodeTwo Public Folders
  EmergingSoft MeetingPlanner
  Exclaimer Signature Manager Outlook Edition
  MAPILab Toolbox for Outlook
  Symprex Email Signature Manager
  Other (please specify below)

Articles & Tutorials View All Feed
Office 365 Exchange 2013 Articles Exchange 2010 Articles Exchange 2007 Articles Exchange 2003 Articles Exchange 2000 Articles Exchange 5.5 Articles Product Reviews
Home
Articles & Tutorials
KBase Tips
Products
Reviews
Free Tools
Blogs
Tech Topics
Forums
White Papers
Contact Us
Services
Anti Spam Filtering
BlackBerry Hosting
Exchange Hosting
Hosted Email Archiving
SMTP Relay Services
Hardware
Load Balancers
Mail Archiving
Software
Administration Anti Spam Backup & Recovery Calendar Tools Content Checking CRM Software Disclaimers Document Management eDiscovery Email Anti Virus Email Archive & Storage Email Signatures Fax Connectors Free Exchange Tools List Servers – Mgmt Load Balancing Log Monitoring Lync Migration Misc. Exchange server software Mobility & Wireless Monitoring Office 365 Tools Outlook Addons OWA Addons POP3 Downloaders PST Management Reporting Security & Encryption
TechGenix.com
TechGenix Ltd is an online media company which sets the standard for providing free high quality technical content to IT professionals.
WindowsNetworking.com
Windows Server 2012 / 2008 / 2003 & Windows 8 / 7 networking resource site
WindowSecurity.com
Network Security & Information Security resource for IT administrators
VirtualizationAdmin.com
The essential Virtualization resource site for administrators
ISAserver.org
The No.1 Forefront TMG / UAG and ISA Server resource site
CloudComputingAdmin.com
Cloud Computing Resource Site for IT Pros
InsideAWS.com
An independent Amazon Web Services resource site
WServerNews.com
World's largest weekly newsletter on Windows Server and cloud technologies
About Us Advertise With Us Contact Us
MSExchange.org is in no way affiliated with Microsoft Corp.
Copyright © 2015, TechGenix Ltd. All rights reserved. Please read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s