SharePoint MinRole Explained

/ Andreas Glaser

5 things you need to know to get started with SharePoint MinRole: What it is, Benefits, MinRole Types, Topology and High Availability, Services as well as Installation.

Applies to:

  • SharePoint Server Server Subscription Edition 24H1
  • SharePoint 2019
  • SharePoint 2016

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If you have experience with SharePoint 2013 you know that a SharePoint farm consists of different servers each with functionality defined by an administrator.

Based on the functionality you had to

  • plan the capacity of each server,
  • test your model and
  • monitor the results.

It was a complex and time consuming process.

SharePoint 2016 comes with a new feature called MinRole that allows administrators to define each server's role if you create a new farm or join a server to a farm. SharePoint itself configures services based on the role.

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Simplified Deployment:
You don't have to assign services to a specific server. You just enable required functionality and SharePoint takes care of the rest.

Improved performance and reliability:
'Improved performance and reliability' is related to the different SharePoint services and their optimal distribution across different servers in a SharePoint farm (based on performance characteristics like CPU, memory, disk I/O, and network latency.
SharePoint ensures that services needed for each server role are running on the local server. If SharePoint needs to communicate with the service it uses the local server instead of a remote server to minimize network latency.
MinRole also scans each server to make sure they are running the services they are supposed to. If not it automatically starts and stops services to correct each server.

Simpler capacity planning and farm scalability: Capacity planning should be better predictable if your server has an exactly defined role. You don't need to model, monitor and test what should run on which server. Adding new servers to your farm is easier since SharePoint automatically configures them. You can also convert server roles without removing servers from the farm.

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There are 8 server roles [1] which are combined into these 3 categories:

Dedicated roles
Dedicated roles: Dedicated roles are optimized for performance and scalability in large farms. They can be used in medium farms together with shared roles.
SharePoint 2016 MinRole dedicated roles
Server Role Description
Front-end Front-end servers handle user requests and are optimized for high performance.
Application Application servers handle background tasks like timer jobs or search crawl requests. They are optimized for high throughput.
Distributed Cache Distributed cache servers provide a high-speed cache for certain types of data like the newsfeed.
Search Search servers handle search functionality like indexing.

Shared roles
Shared roles: Shared roles consolidate dedicated roles so they can be used in medium and small farms. SharePoint 2016 MinRole shared roles
Server Role Description
Front-end with Distributed Cache Combines the Front-end and Distributed Cache roles on one server.
Application with Search Combines the Application and Search roles on one server.

Special roles
Special roles: Special roles are used for test or development environments. SharePoint 2016 MinRole special roles
Server Role Description
Single-server Farm

All services needed to run SharePoint are hosted on a single server. Its usage is limited to primarily development or testing. You can convert a single server to a multiple server farm later.

This role replaces the standalone installation from previous versions. SQL Server isn't part of the new role and you have to install it by yourself.

Custom The custom role is basically the way Services and Service Applications were configured in SharePoint 2013. The administrator has full control (and responsibility) which service instances run on the server.

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Topology and High Availability

If you have the November 2016 update installed you can now create highly available small, medium and large farms using the MinRole feature. This wasn't possible during the release of SharePoint 2016 in March 2016: The only MinRole compliant and highly available deployment included 8+ servers.

You can use dedicated roles and shared roles on their own as well as a combination of both roles. [1]

Small farm, 2 servers, No high availability

SharePoint 2016 MinRole small farm deployment

Small farm, 4 servers, high availability*

SharePoint 2016 MinRole small highly available farm deployment

Medium farm, 6 servers, high availability*

SharePoint 2016 MinRole large highly available farm deployment

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You can find a list about the distribution of services here:
Description of MinRole and associated services in SharePoint Server 2016.

SharePoint 2016 MinRole service distribution

Services are automatically distributed across servers that use the MinRole feature.

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There are 2 options for you to use the enhanced MinRole features coming with the November 2016 update:

Fresh SharePoint Installation:
If you plan to install SharePoint 2016 you can apply the November update before creating the SharePoint farm [2]:

  1. Install SharePoint RTM
  2. Install November 2016 update (or newer)
  3. Create the SharePoint farm

If you plan to install SharePoint Server Subscription Edition or SharePoint 2019 you don't have to update because each product comes with 8 MinRoles.

Please have a look at my E-Book for a complete step-by-step SharePoint Server Subscription Edition installation guide.

Update a SharePoint Installation:
You can use my free E-Book if you have a running SharePoint farm and you plan to update it.

After you have updated SharePoint you can use the new role types when you add new servers to a SharePoint farm. You can also change the role of existing servers.

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