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Disk use at 100% on terminal server, RAID5 SCSI

Posted on 2005-05-06
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Hi All,
One of my clients is experiencing slow performance within terminal server sessions.  They have a LAN with 25 workstations and 1 server.  The server is acting as a all in one (domain controller, DHCP server, DNS server etc), it also runs terminal server sessions for the clients as they have a large ACT!6 database which when run over the network with ACT installed on each machine was very slow when performing queries but when running on the TS it ran like a dream (that was then).  

Now I know your going to say its not wise to run TS and domain controller and all on 1 server but, when 1st installed about 4 months ago all was running fantatically quick, better than I would have ever expected.  Over the past couple of weeks the client has been calling me to report that the TS sessions were running very slow and so i ran some tests, CPU and memory useage are quite low, but as soon as more than a couple of TS users log on and start using the ACT database, disk useage goes through the roof and starts running at 100% (with an occasional dip) this is causing problems.

Could any of you shed any light on what might be happening and how i can get things back to how they were when it was all 1st installed?

The server specs are:

Make: Dell PowerEdge 1600SC
CPU: Dual Xeon 2.4GHz
RAM: 1GB DDR ECC SDRAM
Drives: 3x 36GB SCSI Ultra320 (10,000rpm) at RAID5
RAID Ctrlr: PERC4 SC, 64Mb
Network is 100Mb

*All TS users are logging on using a single username, on average there are 14 TS sessions running at any one time.

Action taken so far:
-Defragged HDD
-changed settings in actdiag to the best for performance (fastest)
-disabled oppertunistic locking
-re-indexed the database
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Question by:markkindred
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by:al-hasan
ID: 13943564
markkindred: your headline sounds as if the hard disks were 100% full... Well, could be a RAM issue. Do you have the chance to test this server with 4 GB RAM? Will be off, so I cannot respond soon - other thoughts welcome.

Regards,
has.
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Accepted Solution

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easymage earned 668 total points
ID: 13943616
Hi markkindred..
Well TS is not kind on servers especially if you have quite a few connections they tend to shoot up memory usage and CPU.
apart from that I believe you should also try to connect your server at 1GB lan cause if all your clients are connecting at you at 100MB might be the network gets over populated.did you try also to check the network bandwith you are getting.
after checking the netork bandwith try to add a lil bit more ram to the server.
try also in TS not to higher to much the screen resolutions and themes etc..
check you hardrive space.(36 GB aint too much).
I guess thats pretty much the avarege tuning one should do for the server.
you should check how much CPU each connection to the ACT database takes and if you see it takes quite a bit perhaps not too block everyone at the same time you can put on user count restrictions. if they use your disk space in your server put up disk quotas.
try to create also more than one default TS user but perhaps 2 or three(never know how many connections it can handle per single user with out giving problems)
well thats about all the suggestions I can give you at the moment...
Hope it helped if not let us know;)
 
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Assisted Solution

by:rindi
rindi earned 664 total points
ID: 13943919
I'd also look at HD space first. empty recycle bins, shadow copies etc. Run a defrag (schedule defrags to run regularly). Check the Act database, maybe there are some tools in Act which allow you to run maintenance on that database. I don't know act itself, but databases often get internally fragmented too and they often have tools to clean them up. Consider adding another disk to the array.
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by:markkindred
ID: 13945062
Hi al-hasan,
Thanks for your input, the task manager states that only 700MB of RAM is being used... BUT!..  After checking available RAM using performance monitor its dwelling between 10% and sometimes dropping down to zero so I think you might have hit the nail on the head!  The next question would be, why did it work find when 1st installed and not now (4 months on)?
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 13945173
Hi all, thanks for your input,
Im going to jump on the memory bandwagon for now and assume that theres not enough memory (as available memory keeps between 10% and nill).  The trouble is that the server was running okay with the current configuration and current memory and so knowing the client he will refuse to fork out for more memory stating that if it worked then then it should work now.  I think he might have a fair point, so im going to take easymage's advise and streamline the TS client sessions down but reducing screen resolutions, effects etc.

The hardrives in the server are 3x 36GB at RAID5 so theres actually 72GB in total.  Ive run the Act tools to re-index and compact the database.  RE: CPU use, the dual Xeon 2.4GHz processors hardly twitch even when all the users are hammering ACT and so i wouldnt think its a CPU problem (unless there faulty, which could be an issue).

Next course of action is:
Streamline the TS sessions, reduce the resolution etc
Set each user with their own TS user account
Set disk Quotas for each TS user
Might add another disk to the array if i can convince the client.

Mark.
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Assisted Solution

by:al-hasan
al-hasan earned 668 total points
ID: 13945404
markkindred: thank you for the feed back. Low RAM is an easy guess when many users are working on a server simultaneously. And I do agree to both easymage (his explanation is wonderful, thank you, easymage) and rindi that likely the hard disks and the network card should be bettered, too. Just that is a heap of work... and stick a bit more RAM into the slots and reboot could be a fast - and not so expensive - remedy.

How I came to this conclusion: the server ran nicely with little load (one user), 'like a dream' or how you expressed it. And when the work gets tough, and the disk use is very high, then the swapping of Windows can often be the cause. This is a vicious circle, with the swap file. Data is read from the hard disk to be stored there immediately again - due to bad management of the available physical RAM.

Another idea would be to add a cheap IDE disk to put the swap file there... but for this money you get already almost another GB of RAM.

Regards,
has.
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 13945692
Hi Al-Hasan, many thanks for your response,
I'll try putting the swap file on a seperate hard disk if the above dosent work.  

Id love to drop some more RAM in but the client dosent like spending money and as I told him that this server would be up for the task in hand it would be us that would have to supply the RAM. If I do all the above and its still not performing then i'll have to give Dell a call to get another GB of RAM.

Also, im curious to find out why the server was running fast when 1st installed but has recently slowed even though I regulary defrag the hard drive and maintain the database?

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by:al-hasan
ID: 13945912
markkindred: the swap file on a seperate disk is a 50% solution. Better is sufficient RAM. You write

>>  i'll have to give Dell a call to get another GB of RAM. <<

There are about 5 companies who manufacture RAM chips (Micron Technologies, Infineon, Samsung, Hyundai and I guess it Toshiba). All others buy from these and do a more or less good job putting the pieces together and - most important - configure the tiny software chip controlling the access and data transfer on the platine. According to some tests the Infineon were the ones who had the software done according to the JEDEC standards. This is very important for the compatibility. Micron (Crucial is their trade name) and Samsung were very good as well. Especially when compared to the third party products, which almost never have the resources to write this bios (or is it firmware?) as compatible as possible.

You likely are in the US, right? Why not go to the crucial.com webpage and enter your server data and select the correct RAM they recommend? I did a quick check and see they sell the 1 GB module for usd 232.79 each. As you have now 1 GB in the server, I would - depending on your finances - order 2x or 4x 1 GB RAM, and if the old one has any problems, take it out but keep it (for possible warranty cases, to put it in again if the server has to be sent back to the manufacturer one day). Once we had several IBM x340 running, with rather low RAM, and new no-name IBM RAM was twice as expensive as the Infineon we finally put in, with no problems at all. As far as I know, Crucial even takes the RAM back if it does not work in your client's system, but not sure here. There is no reason to buy RAM from Dell. Some months ago a friend of mine bought an Apple G5 and asked in the Apple store about the RAM they offered. No-name again, and 20% higher than the Infineon brand. We bought two 1-GB-modules Infineon brand and he is very happy about it (for video editing he needs it occasionally).

>> Also, im curious to find out why the server was running fast when 1st installed but has recently slowed even though I regulary defrag the hard drive and maintain the database? <<

This can have many reasons, from a fragmented file system to slowly filling disks. And never forget: whatever you/we do, in Windows the registry is growing, every day. Sorry, but here I do not have many guesses, other ideas? Do you run one huge partition on your RAID 5 or seperate data and the system (as far as this is possible with Windows)? rindi's thoughts about the shadow copy and waste bin are a good point, too.

Hope this helps you anyway.
has.
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by:rindi
ID: 13945998
You say it is a large database. Maybe it is growing fast and that would be the main reason for lower speeds. A database usually has heavy disk access and 3 disks in a raid 5 array aren't the fastest. It is better to increase the number of disks which would increase disk access speed. And of course, as al has already said, enough ram is also very important, as a normal database will also try to put as much of itself into memory, but all of that would imply investing some $$s.
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 13946346
Hi Al-Hasan,
Once again many thanks for your response.  

>>You likely are in the US, right?<< - I am in the UK.

>>I did a quick check and see they sell the 1 GB module for usd 232.79 each.<< I am unable to purchase any memory due to a managing director who dosent understand the need to beef up systems mid life.  If this was one of my machines then that would be the 1st thing I would do but unfortunately in this case thats not an option.  Thankyou very much for the info regarding RAM, I was under the impression that only the Dell recomended Kingson RAM would work as I once tried to replace some RAM in a Compaq Proliant 3000 with non Compaq RAM and it didnt like it at all.  Your info will be very usefeul for future reference.  How I only wish that I could insert more RAM but how do you explain to a manager that the computer you paid £1500GBP for 4 months ago now needs a further £250GBP to keep it running at a decent speed.

>>Do you run one huge partition on your RAID 5 or seperate data and the system<< I have the drive partitioned into two, a 20GB partition for Windows and a 50GB partition for data.

I am considering installing an extra IDE drive to store the swap file.  I also have another machine that I may use to act as a file server and thus limit the Dell to Domain Controller and Terminal Server.

One thing I am definately going to do is limit the number of sessions that each user can run. At the moment that are running 2 or 3 each to save them closing windows.

Again, thanks for your assistance.
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 13946357
Hi Rindi,
I have a new 32GB SCSI on order to add to the array to see if that helps.

Many thanks,
Mark.
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by:rindi
ID: 13946573
That won't help, you need at least the same size drive as you used before (36GB). And just to try isn't that easy, you would have to expand the array with the new disk, then if you also want to use the extra space you would either want to expand an existing partition or create a new partition (maybe for your pagefile), but a 32 Gig disk wouldn't be "addable" to the array.
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 13946723
Hi Rindi,
Sorry my mistake (typo) the drive on order is a 36GB.  Am i right in thinking that i would be able to use the Dell Array manager to expand the current array to include the new disk with no data loss?  Also, RE: the swap file.  I have earmarked a 40GB Maxtor IDE drive that im going to use for the swapfile.  Does the above sound okay?
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by:rindi
ID: 13946825
Sure, that's better. The thing is you'd better think of it as a permanent solution, I'm not sure if you can "unexpand" and array. And yes, the array manager will do this.
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 13946858
No problem, once its in its going to be staying in.
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by:al-hasan
ID: 13946928
Mark: talking about RAM, Crucial has a subsidiary in UK if I am not mistaken. From there they deliver to the European market. You might try some clever arguments with that management man that if you had bought the RAM with Dell directly it would have cost quite a bit more, so it is better to supply more as needed. After all you did not want to have too much RAM in the server at the beginning, what a waste of money. And now your users run tons of work on that server, so they might need even more... However I do understand your position completely, some people spend 200 dollars for a dinner but save 50 buck on hardware which is necessary for the whole company (like your client managing director likely does). I had to work under such an IT head once, not a big pleasure.

The two partitions sound alright to me. However if you want performance, I would run the OS on one RAID set and the data on another one, and the swap file on seperate disks. This way the system can access simultaneously the system files and the data too. A good raid controller can handle several different RAIDs, but I am not sure about Dell. My experience is with Compaq, IBM and HP, which all can handle this since many years. Okay, this is more brain food for the future, as you have to live now with what you have (which is not bad at all, in my view).
Is your _32_ GB a typo? Above you mentioned you have 3x 36 GB in RAID 5, and I would do my best to add exactly the same disk (brand, type, size, revision number) if somehow possible. Will run with others too, but as the system is already a bit slow....

I would love to hear rindi's thought about the swap file on an IDE disk in a SCSI system.

Regards,
has.
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by:rindi
ID: 13947201
I don't think there should be a problem hardware wise with the swapfile on an ide drive in a raid system, but for speed it would be better to have it on a raid partition too. The system is setup already, so i don't think it is possible to change around too much. My experiance is also mainly compaq (um HP), but Dell no doubt is one of the main server sellers today and they use good controllers as well. There may be some servers for the "beginners" which have a lowend array controller, but the bigger models certainly have good controllers.
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by:al-hasan
ID: 13947365
rindi: thank you. I read your post above already, but after posting mine. Took a bit as I was on the phone while writing, sorry.

Regards,
has.
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by:rindi
ID: 13947653
No problem, happens to me all the time, Except it's not necessarily the phone. more often I start off writing an answer, then I have to do something else or maybe also fall asleep, and later I finish writing. meanwhile often many new posts have been entered!
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by:al-hasan
ID: 13947795
"... or maybe also fall asleep..."  --  sounds so familiar to me ;-) Thanks.

Smiles,
has.
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Author Comment

by:markkindred
ID: 14012070
Thanks all for your assistance.  Im not too sure who to award the points to so will try to split them between all.  The terminal server is working okay again now, in the end I didnt get any more RAM or hard drives but enforced a policy on the users that limited the rescources that they could access.  I do agree with you that the main issue was lack of RAM but this was solved by not letting the users run too many apps at once.

Once again, many thanks

Mark.
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by:al-hasan
ID: 14012321
Mark: most important is that your system is running smoothly again. Keep pushing for more RAM ;-)
And thanks for the points, too.

Regards,
has.
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by:rindi
ID: 14017017
Thanks too, and I hope that system will now keep on running smoothly.
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