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installed on the same machine as you are installing SharePoint, SharePoint will not notice if
you don’t specify that you want a Complete installation.
That’s because Standalone and Server Farm Stand-alone install SQL Server 2008 Express
without your involvement; they don’t give you a chance to specify anything. This means that
if you have SQL Server anywhere on your Windows network (2005 SP3 CU3 or 2008 SP1 CU2)
and you want to use it to house your SharePoint databases, then the Server Farm Complete
install is the only type that lets you specify where your databases will go.
The other reason to use a Server Farm installation method would be if you want a server
farm topology. A SharePoint server farm uses more than one server to support SharePoint.
This can be simply one SharePoint server and one SQL server, or it can be scaled up to a more
complex topology, such as numerous SharePoint servers (generally called web front-end
servers) and a SQL database cluster. The simplest server farm consists of a database server and a
server with SharePoint installed on it, so the two functions are separated between two
servers. Together they are a server farm. Of course, there is more to it than that. Usually, people
create bigger server farms, comprising more SharePoint servers all using the same SQL
databases. This is appropriate if they have a lot of SharePoint sites and they want to spread HTTP
requests between servers to improve performance; typically this means having multiple
SharePoint servers and even multiple, clustered database servers. You can also separate roles
such as incoming email, central administration, or services such as Search, Business Data
Connectivity, Sandboxed Code, or the Subscription Settings Service.
If you choose to do a Server Farm installation, you can specify whether the SharePoint server
you are installing is the first on the farm or you are adding it to an existing server farm. The
first SharePoint server on a server farm is kind of like the first domain controller in a domain.
Because it’s the first, it tends to hold all the services and is the one used to set up the
databases. Choosing to add a server to an existing server farm means that the installation will
install only the files needed to make that new server a web front-end server to help support
the first server with client requests.
Server farms work because the databases that hold all the information about SharePoint and
its server farm configuration settings (including which other databases on the server contain
what data for what sites) already exist in a configuration database on the SQL server. All you
have to do at that point is specify which configuration database the new server will share
with the first server, and presto change-o, you’ve got a new SharePoint server with the same
configuration and content.
Something that isn’t mentioned much is that server farms, in addition to having front-end servers
that all access the same databases, are usually configured to do load balancing, using Windows
Network Load Balancing software, DNS round-robin, or a hardware load-balancing device. Real
server farm, load-balancing functionality requires additional setup using something other than
SharePoint. Installing additional SharePoint front-end servers is only one part of it.
To make matters worse, there has been little documentation about how to do load balancing. So,
check out Chapter 16, “Advanced Installation and Configuration,” for a brief demonstration of how
to do simple network load balancing with SharePoint.
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