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Server Capacity Planning

February 10, 2008

Capacity planning, also called right sizing, is a process by which you develop a working model or hypothesis for the amount of loading that is placed on your server and the power of the server necessary to balance that load. Once you successfully determine the right size for your server(s), you will have achieved the following five goals. In order of importance, they are:

1. Adequate server levels – Your server will be able to service the clients for the service it was intended to provide, not only for average loads, but also for peak loads.

2. Reasonable Excess Overhead – You don’t want to buy too much server and have much of your investment lay idle.

3. Appropriate fault tolerance – The server should be operational enough of the time to be satisfactory to your users. Additional redundancies cost additional money, so right sizing your server requires you take this factor into consideration.

4. An upgrade path – As your service grows over time, you’ll eventually need to increase your server’s capacity. This may mean you need additional processors, memory, network connections, and so on.

5. An appropriate life cycle – An appropriate life cycle is what makes your investment in the server reasonable. A server deployed for Windows 2000, for example, and upgraded to Windows 2003 has a longer potential life cycle than a server stuck at Windows 2000. The average useful life of a first-line server is somewhat longer than that of a PC, because server motherboards have more upgrade options. Most PCs are written off after about three years of service within a company, whereas servers typically have a life cycle of about four or five years.

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