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IOPS and Exchange

Posted on 2010-11-13
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Hello

I have heard the term IOPS used in relation to Exchange server several times, especially in conjunction with Blackberry, but I'm still unsure what it actually means.

When someone says that a BES server can increase the IOPS by 3.4 times a normal user, could someone please explain how this works?
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Question by:Joe_Budden
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by:rr1968
ID: 34128354
IOPS means "Input/Output Operations per Second"
This is very critical parameter used while sizing your Exchange Server storage.
This link will provide some useful information:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb125019(EXCHG.65).aspx
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tigermatt earned 167 total points
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IOPS - Input/Output operations per second

This figure is a benchmark-type figure for performance on your Mailbox Servers, but unfortunately most admins do overlook it. If you have a high IOPS, the "profile" or the mailboxes on that server is very high - there's a lot of disk activity going on as mail is delivered, users add content to mailboxes or read email, attachments etc. If you add vast numbers of Blackberry users, and RIM's claim of 3.4xIOPS is true, you can expect to see a spike in disk activity on those servers.

There's a page on how IOPS can be applied and calculated in Exchange 2003 at Technet: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb125019%28EXCHG.65%29.aspx

IOPS considerations are directly associated with the performance exhibited by users on a server, and can be improved through faster disks, consolidating fewer heavy users onto one server, using more efficient RAID formats (RAID 10 usually for Exchange databases) etc.

Improvements in Exchange 2010 have made IOPS considerations less of a concern (Exchange 2010 is now quite happy on desktop-class SATA disk, JBOD arrays of disks etc.). However, that doesn't mean you should neglect a proper disk subsystem design if you are looking to perform an Ex2010 upgrade - I certainly don't.

Matt
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by:Joe_Budden
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Thanks all.

So Input/Output operations per second - that would be a measure of user activity, i.e. a heavy user would generate more IOPS since they were checking their mail more regularly or whatever? What I don't understand is how Blackberry can affect IOPS?

Also, what other factors affect IOPS? Can the number of disks/spindles etc affect IOPS too?
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by:rr1968
rr1968 earned 167 total points
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The IOPS are based on frequently checking emails.
It is based on number of messages sent/received, Number of mailboxes in a database, number od databases in a mailbox server, number of items in the nbox, etc.

The Way Blackberry works in a nutshell: The BES server constantly scans all the mailboxes (BB users mailbox) for new messages and grabs them to forward to RIM for wireless distribution. This process adds additional IOPS on the mailbox server
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by:rr1968
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I am sorry IOPS are not based on frequently checking
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by:tigermatt
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Basically anything which is going to do read/write to the databases will generate IOPS. A user with a heavy mail profile will generate more IOPS than a user with a light mail profile.

The number of disks/spindles won't DIRECTLY affect the number of IOPS. IOPS is caused by user activity, the delivery of email, content indexing operations, user desktop search tools etc. However, in some cases dependent on the hardware subsystem additional spindles would add to the I/O per second a server is capable of serving. This might lead you to consolidate more users and databases onto that server, thus indirectly increasing the IOPS.

Matt
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by:Gerald Connolly
Gerald Connolly earned 166 total points
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IOPS, as already explained - Input/Output Operations per second, normally associated with physical Disk activity. So any database activity on your email server will generate a certain amount of IOPS. As rr1968 explain the scanning of the mailbox that BES does will obvious generate more IOPS, with a figure of 3.5x mentioned.

What will be the effect of this extra load on your system, well obviously it will depend mainly on your disk subsystem, but if you are maxxed out now, adding this additional load will dramatically slow the response time of the server. Having a RAID system that can accomodate this extra load will help alleviate any response problems that may result.

A simple way to think of it is, if you have a motoway that can cope with 100 cars/sec and then either have 350 cars/sec come along or you close a lane, what will happen? Obviously it will all go real slow.
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by:Joe_Budden
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Thank you everyone..

Back to the RIM/ Blackberry example. Are they saying that;

1. Assuming an average user generates IOPS activity of z, that having the user Blackberry activated means that they will generate 3.64 multiplied by z units of IOPS?

2. If a server generates y IOPS of activity, then having users Blackberry activated means that the server will generate 3.64 mulitplied by y?

The problem I'm having understanding is what exactly the 3.64 refers to and how it fits in
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by:tigermatt
ID: 34181167
Sorry, Joe, for the delay in getting back to you.

Yes, your understanding is correct, although bear in mind the quoted figure is an average and does vary. I think BES5 with E2007/2010 the average IOPS increase factor was x2.16. You'll want to take those figures with a pinch of salt, bearing in mind the profile of your Blackberry users are ultimately the ones who will decide what the ultimate increase is.

But, whatever the factor at play, you're correct in thinking it's an increase by a factor of your average figure for each Blackberry user you have.

Don't forget there are tools like the product group's free Mailbox Server sizer to help get your mailbox servers deployed correctly: http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2010/01/22/453859.aspx

Matt
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