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How man server roles is too many?

responza asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-19
I'm looking for guidelines, or links to official MS guidelines...

Regarding: server roles.  How many is too many?  I am thinking along the lines of the following.  Your feedback is welcome!

Each Windows server should fulfill no more than one Major role.  Major roles include:
•      Domain Controller
•      File Server
•      Exchange (Email) Server
•      SQL Server (database)
•      ISA Server
•      3rd Party Application Server

Minor Roles include:
•      DNS
•      DHCP
•      WINS
•      Print Server

How about virtualization?  So if we have a honkin' server that could support more roles, does it make sense to have multiple virtual servers on it so that the roles are kept logically separate even when supported by a single hardware device?

Thank you VERY much.
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It really depends on your budget...  MS recommends not placing a DC on a virtual machine...Also, SQL and Exchange should not run on a virtual machine...

I usually do this:

Group these services on on machine:

Dedicate Exchange to its own server
Dedicate SQL to its own server (or combine this with the application server if the database won't be all that big)
Dedicate ISA to its own server.
Dedicate the file server to its own server.
Oh...and if you are going to do vitualization, you should do this using the x64 bit platform...using this, you will have much better use of memory and can support many more virtual machines...

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
There is no simple answer to this.  Small Business Server Premium, Produced by Microsoft, has ALL those major roles AND all the minor ones on ONE server.

In an IDEAL world, you'd have one service per system - to allow you to reboot one system without affecting the others.  

But failing that, you have to look at it from a security perspective and how many servers you have.  Systems like ISA server need to be on the edge of the network - preferrably in a DMZ.  File Servers and Database servers and AD servers you want well firewalled.  So if you only have two servers, you'd want to split the services appropriately.

And it also depends on the hardware you have.  Virtual Servers can work great too... I don't think there is a general answer to this because anyone trying to deploy servers for a company needs to balance the companies needs with their budget and other resources to determine what can go where. If printing is VITAL to a business, then printing might warrant it's own server.  If you can get by without printing for an hour or two, then maybe that dedicated print server should be dedicated to something else instead.
Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasyPrincipal Consultant
Most Valuable Expert 2016
Top Expert 2014
If you have 50 or less users (even though the max is 75) Small Business Server Premium is definitely the way to go.  The reason all those roles work on the same server is because of SBS's unique UNIFIED ARCHITECTURE which allows you to configure dependent roles simulatanously.  You would never want to do this on a standard Server 2003 machine.

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