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Design storage architectures for SMS with care

While Microsoft's Systems Management Server is a boon for managing complex Windows environments, make sure your storage architecture is designed to avoid a disk I/O bottleneck.

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Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) represents a major advance in Microsoft's software for managing complex Windows environments. However, because it is such an advance, SMS servers are critical to the operation of an enterprise that uses them. Among other things, that means you need to carefully design the storage architecture of the SMS installations to avoid bottlenecks.

Microsoft says that small SMS sites generally don't have problems with disk resources. At medium SMS sites (1,000 to 5,000 clients), however, Microsoft suggests that disk I/O may become a bottleneck. And at large SMS sites (20,000 to 50,000 clients), disk I/O is very likely to become a bottleneck unless you take specific precautions.

To prevent disk I/O problems -- which are likely to affect the entire enterprise -- Microsoft suggests using a RAID configuration, such as RAID 10, which combines performance and redundancy, and using separate hardware volumes and controller channels to support the server.

If you use SCSI hardware, Microsoft suggests putting the SMS site server and SMS site database on different channels. In addition, neither the SMS site nor the SMS site database should share disks with other applications. Microsoft also recommends putting the SQL Server transaction log on a different disk from the SMS site database.

While SMS works adequately on IDE RAID systems, performance significantly improves with SCSI RAID.

Keep in mind, too, that the size of an SMS site depends more on SMS activity than on the number of systems to manage. Even a physically small system can have the resource requirements of a medium or large site, depending on the activity level.

Microsoft discusses these issues more fully in an appendix to its planning and resource guide for SMS at:


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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