SharePoint 2013 | Performance Level in Search Service

 

So I’m running a proof-of-concept test farm of SharePoint 2013 on a little VM to test out some of the features.  Because I have limited resources on the server I tend to throttle down a lot of the services to the minimum amount in order to run.  A big part of that with SP2007/2010 was reducing the search performance.  You would think that same would apply in SP2013.  However, recently when I was monitoring the server I noticed that search indexing was humming along (Everyone remember the search indexer and what a resource hog it can be?).  A quick peak under the hood, and we can see that we still have the ability to throttle search based on the parameter here:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff608126%28v=office.15%29.aspx

PerformanceLevel

Optional

System.String

Specifies the relative number of threads for the indexer performance:

Reduced: Total number of threads = number of processors, Max Threads/host = number of processors

Partly Reduced: Total number of threads = 4 times the number of processors , Max Threads/host = 16 time the number of processors

Maximum: Total number of threads = number of processors

The type must be one of the following values: Reduced, PartlyReduced, or Maximum.

Doing a little more digging, looks like it doesn’t really do anything except with the crawler component, and even then the effect is pretty minimal in my single server farm.  Reminds me of the story of the switch in the server room from years ago.  Every week at end of business the switch was moved to the off position and left off for the weekend.  First person to come in Monday morning flipped it to on.  This apparently happened for years.  it wasn’t until we were moving the data center that somebody tried to figure out what the switch did.  So, opened the panel to track down the wires in order to move the switch… turns out it wasn’t even connected.  I think that is what Microsoft just did to the Search -PerformanceLevel switch.

Windows Server Essentials 2012–Install on Windows 8 OEM Machine

So I had a bit of fun over the weekend.  I have an old HP MediaSmart sever that ran Windows Home Server (WHS) which finally took a turn for the worst and just stopped with the continuous blinking blue light on boot.  I tried a couple of things from the forums, but this was not the first time the system had frozen up on me and I was expecting its eminent demise.  I had at least been smart enough when this happened last time to move all my shares over to an external USB and was ready for when I needed to move my data to a new computer I could just unplug the USB and attach to the new server.

Last weekend I took the plunge.  Back in the day when I was a big hardware geek I probably could have built out my own server.  These days most hardware for home use is good enough, and for a home server generally most desktop OEM systems are good enough for my needs, so why go to the extra trouble and expense of piecing together a system?  I went to CostCo and picked up a nice Dell system, i5 processor running 3.0 GHz with 4 cores and 8GB of RAM on sale for $550 (Which by the way is very quiet, my USB external drives make more noise than this little machine). Plenty of power to run the Minimum requirements and just touching on the recommended configuration to support maximum users and device limits ( http://technet.microsoft.com/library/jj200132 ), plus it has a video card so I can plug a monitor in, install VMware and P2V my 2 core, 4 GB RAM laptop which mostly sits on my desk so I can check e-mail and surf the web (Makes the wife happy because she get’s the hand-me-down upgrade from her current netbook).  When I need a Windows 8 desktop I can bring it up and when I don’t I can give the resources back to the server.

Dell Inspiron 660 Desktop, Intel® Core™ i5-3330 3.0 GHz

 

Everything was going well, I unboxed the machine, plugged it in and went to install WSE over the Windows 8 OEM OS that was already there.  This is where I ran into a little thing called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).  As it turns out, one of the features of UEFI is that it contains a key the OEM manufacturers can embed into the BIOS.  Turns out that Microsoft’s Windows 8 requires not only a unique activation key for each PC / tablet, but requires OEM producers to insert the activation key directly in the device’s BIOS, delivering the product preinstalled with the operating system. Moreover, OEMs get the activation keys directly from Microsoft, eliminating the possibility of illegal use of OEM licenses for Windows 8.  Great for Microsoft, but for us poor home users trying to install WSE 2012 we keep getting this little message:

The product key entered does not match any of the Windows images available for installation. Enter a different product key

Which would be fine if it then prompted me for my WSE 2012 product key, but it doesn’t.  The installation just stops.

After much forum searching, I finally found the answer – embed the key in the installation media.

You can do this by placing a PID.txt file in the \sources directory of the installation media (Which means of course that installation using DVD is out, I had to image my .ISO to a bootable USB fob and make the changed there)

AFTER I had figured all of this out and finally got a clean install to the Windows 8 OEM box, I found this Fast Publish article from Microsoft which explains the issue and the resolution in detail:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2796988

Which of course stated my problem exactly:

This problem can occur if the supplied product key does not match the media that is being used to install Windows. The supplied product key may be in an unattended file, in the EI.CFG file, in the PID.txt file or in the firmware of the BIOS. Windows 8 OEM machines ship with the product key in the firmware, and if that product key does not match the media then you will see the error message from above.
For example: Installing a Windows Server 2012 on a Windows 8 OEM machine is likely to cause this problem.

So the solution was to drop a PID.txt with the product key specified on the USB fob that had my WSE 2012 installation: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh824952.aspx

But seriously, Microsoft couldn’t just skip all this hassle by having the installation prompt for a key if the BIOS key doesn’t match what the end user is trying to install?  Seems like as we go down this road the non-techies who get a hand-me-down computer and try to upgrade the OS are in for a lot of problems if the BIOS key doesn’t match the OS they want to install.  I can see a serious flaw in tying to OS to the computer without giving the end user an opportunity to enter a different key in the install UI, but then again maybe this is similar to Apple’s model of “if you want the new OS buy a new computer” and non-techies will just shell out the cash for new OEM hardware rather than dealing with the hassle of figuring out how to get the right key to work with the installation/upgrade.

System Center 2012 SP1 released

So this is exciting news: http://blogs.technet.com/b/systemcenter/archive/2013/01/15/system-center-2012-sp1-is-generally-available.aspx

Things I am most excited about, from: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj656650.aspx

Enabled APM of SharePoint 2010

Operations Manager lets you monitor SharePoint web front-end components. You can monitor standard and custom SharePoint web pages for performance degradation and server-side exceptions. You can set up monitoring for SharePoint applications in much the same way you enable monitoring for other .NET web applications. Use the .NET Application Performance Monitoring template to configure SharePoint application monitoring. When monitoring SharePoint applications for exceptions, the exception call stack contains the relevant SharePoint specific parameters for troubleshooting.

Integration with Team Foundation Server 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2012

To speed interactions between operations and development, it is essential to quickly detect and fix problems that might need assistance from the engineering team. System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) – Operations Manager can integrate with development tools, such as Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Visual Studio, enabling deep troubleshooting and streamlining communications between developers and IT operations. You can synchronize Operations Manager alerts and Team Foundation Server (TFS) work items. Operations Manager integration with TFS introduces a new work item type definition, Operational Issue, which can be embedded into any of your organization’s engineering processes. After enabling synchronization, IT operations can manually assign alerts to the engineering team. Assigning an alert to engineering creates a new work item in Team Foundation Server. The workflow tracks and synchronizes changes made to TFS work items and changes made to associated alerts in Operations Manager.

Compared to the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 Work Item Synchronization management pack, SP1 features include:

  • Shipped as part of Operations Manager, included in the SP1 Media
  • Improved security – synchronization account no longer requires TFS administrative rights
  • Improved design of the Operational Issue WITD
  • Improved design of the configuration Wizard
  • Introduced support for TFS Area Path
  • Support for default Team Projects
  • Synchronization for new APM alert types from IIS8 web applications, WCF, Windows Services, and also for non-APM alerts
  • Localization of Wizard UI and MP elements, and compatibility with localized versions of TFS
  • Synchronize file attachments that can reside on a network file share or appended to TFS work items.
  • Automatically route and close alerts to TFS
  • IT operations can open TFS work items directly from the Operations Manager console using built-in integration with TFS web UI.

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