Before we look at the changes in SharePoint 2016, specifically with regard to SharePoint farm topology, let’s have a glimpse at the previous version.
In SharePoint 2013, we have a three-tier SharePoint Farm topology, as in the figure below:
1: SP2013 Farm Topology from MSDN
Web server: often known as web front end(WFE) server. The main role of the WFE server is to host service applications, services, and components (web pages, web services, web parts …) that are required to process requests from the end-user. The WFE server directs end-user requests to the application server. And we can add more web servers to the web tier to host-specific content services or query components.
Application server: The server is used to host service applications, services, and components that process background tasks. Note that the application server will host Central Administration by default. We also can add more application servers to this tier to serve individual services/components from WFE, for improvement, or scale out for such items as crawl components, user profiles, and so on.
Database server: The server is used to organize and store databases for the SharePoint content database, configuration database, or specific service databases.
So the above covers the role of the servers in the farm. An important note is when we (or particularly SharePoint administrators) want to build a farm, we have to determine the role of the server in the farm topology first, and then we have to configure which services and features must run on the server to meet with the specified role. All such operations are identified and performed manually.
The change in the SharePoint 2016 farm topology is called MinRole.
So what is it? How does it work? And what is its benefit?
SharePoint 2016 MinRole:
In SharePoint 2016 there is a change in farm topology called MinRole. It means that the server role concept from previous versions has changed and can now be defined by MinRole.
With MinRole each server’s role is predefined in the SharePoint Server 2016.
Each role has a set of appropriate services that are designed to optimize for the work required. SharePoint will configure these services on each server automatically, based on its role.
If we plan to build a farm, we only need to determine each server’s role in the farm topology.
And the Microsoft SharePoint team gives us 6 predefined server roles we can choose when setting up our farm, as in the figure below:
2: Predefined Server Roles
For a description of MinRole and associated services in SharePoint Server 2016, click here
With this new change in SharePoint 2016 Farm topology, Microsoft wants to give benefits to organizations, as well as SharePoint administrators in the areas of ease of management and deployment, improved performance, and simplified scalability. As Microsoft said:
Now you no longer need to worry about which services should be started on which servers. By deploying your farm in a recommended MinRole topology, you can focus on what functionality to enable in your farm and let SharePoint take care of the rest.
Improved performance and reliability: Microsoft has been operating SharePoint Online for years and has analyzed the performance characteristics of SharePoint at the Internet scale, including CPU, memory, disk I/O, and network latency. The SharePoint services have been optimized for the MinRole topology based on that analysis. By deploying your farm in a recommended MinRole topology, you’ll be able to reduce network latency and increase reliability.
Simpler capacity planning and farm scalability: Microsoft bases capacity planning on the MinRole topology. By deploying your farm in a recommended MinRole topology, you’ll be able to leverage better predictable and prescriptive capacity-planning guidance. Plus, it’s now easier to add servers to your farm as your needs grow because SharePoint automatically configures the additional servers for you.
Ideally, in order to maximize benefits, our farm topology must support High Availability and must add multiple servers assigned to each MinRole server role, meaning more initial cost.