For any Exchange implementation, a lot of upfront planning is necessary to make sure that the intended architecture is able to support the number of users and mailboxes sizes that you intend to deploy on the hardware.
For quite some time, Microsoft has helped IT pros create designs for the mailbox role, which is arguably the most important role in an Exchange environment. The mailbox role does all of the heavy lifting with regard to mail storage; it demands the most attention during planning; and it requires a careful balance of processing power, RAM, disk capacity, and overall storage performance. When these vital items are properly sized, implemented, and tuned, Exchange hums along like a well-oiled machine.As you make your way through the Exchange 2010 Mailbox Server Role Requirements Calculator, the first page, labeled Input, asks for input variables that are used throughout the workbook to calculate various parameters for your installation. Partway down this Input page, you'll see the Server Configuration entry (Figure A). Figure A
Server Configuration entry
You're asked for the number of cores you intend to place in each mailbox server and the SPECint2006 Rate Value for the processor you intend to use. What is the SPECint2006 Rate Value? Basically, this Rate Value is intended to be a set of common metrics by which performance of various kinds of processors can be compared in an apples-to-apples way. This is from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) organization's website:
"The goal of SPEC is to ensure that the marketplace has a fair and useful set of metrics to differentiate candidate systems. The path chosen is an attempt to balance requiring strict compliance and allowing vendors to demonstrate their advantages. The belief is that a good test that is reasonable to utilize will lead to a greater availability of results in the marketplace."If you don't populate this field in the calculator, you won't get any information in the Processor Core Ratio Requirements section on the Role Requirements page in the calculator. In Figure B, you can see what happens when I leave the SPECint2007 Rate Value at the default of 0. Figure B
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You can search on the SPEC website and get the value from there, if you like. For example, if I use Dell as a search term on the SPEC website, I get a list of every Dell system for which there are test results. From there, I can view individual system/processor combinations and grab the result that matches the systems I intend to use, or I can use the information to make decisions about what kind of hardware to purchase.In Figure C, you'll see the results of a Dell M610 blade server equipped with an Intel Xeon X5680 processor. Its SPECint Rate Value is 377, which is the number that I would populate in the Calculator worksheet. Figure C
Dell M610 rating
However, Microsoft's Exchange team has made this value easier to find. With the release of the Exchange Processor Query Tool, you can automate the collection of this information, which eliminates the need to visit the SPEC website and perform a manual search.In the Calculator worksheet, you're asked to provide the processor model on which you will focus your efforts, as well as the total number of processor cores that you'll deploy in each server. In Figure D, you see the result of what happens when I provide the Intel Xeon X5680 processor with 12 cores. Figure D
The results of the query (Click the image to enlarge.)If I intend to use a Dell M610 blade server, I need to use a SPECint Rate Value of 377, which yields the results in Figure E on the calculator's Role Requirements page. (Note: The only value I modified is the SPECint Rate Value; everything else is still at the defaults, including the 24,000 mailbox value count.) Figure E
The results when the SPECint value is identified.
You can see where processor selection becomes a critical part of your Exchange planning process. Also, it's helpful to know that choosing processors with higher SPECint Rate Values could go a long way toward saving you money and building a more efficient Exchange architecture.
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Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.