SharePoint Conference Season

September 12, 2011

Hi all,

While May, June and August are the era for the big platform events such as EMC World, TechED, and VMWorld…
October is the season for my two major application events.

I am happy to announce that EMC are proud Gold Sponsors at:-

  • SharePoint Conference USA                    Anaheim, California – Oct 3-6
  • SQL PASS Summit                                    Seattle, WA – Oct 11-14

EMC @ the SharePoint Conference

  • Large booth where key experts from the EMC Business Units will be able to describe to you how to make your life easier with SharePoint
  • Demonstrations, mini-lectures, and Q&As
  • Free give-aways.  Yes, again, like TechEd, we will have free t-shirts and on the final day many, many cash spot-prizes for wearing your EMC T-shirt

      Two Sessions

Speaker(s):  James Baldwin, Eyal Sharon  (James & Eyal show)
Level: 200
Understand technical best practices to design and deploy a virtualized SharePoint that leverages FAST Search. Understand how design a flexible and robust architecture that supports your advanced collaboration requirements. Understand how to architect a solution that addresses IT challenges for data growth, application availability and simplified management that also enables your users to find and leverage the right business information to make better decisions.

Speakers:-  Matt Roberts, Nate Treloar
Level 300
Demonstrate how to integrate external video metadata generation services with native SharePoint Search capabilities

Dont forget Europe!

The European SharePoint Conference is taking place in Berlin, Germany   – October 17-20.

I will be there presenting the following session:-

Optimize, Store and Protect SharePoint 2010 Server…Best Practices     Wednesday 15:00 – Session W21

Learn about the critical best practices and considerations for optimizing and growing SharePoint farms, storing user data efficiently and securely, while backing up TB’s a data in minutes. RBS (Remote Blob Store) and Virtualization, are just two of the many techniques discussed in this session. Realize the considerations for providing fast, automated disaster recovery for the entire SharePoint environment through SAN-based technology.


We will have something kinda special at the SQL PASS Summit.  Can’t say more.

But what I can say…

  • Large booth area in the Pavillion, with SQL Experts from EMC including two heros from our team, Tony Wu and Bruce Ye, travelling all the way from Shanghai.
  • Demos, booths, best practices and most importantly application-led conversations around;
  • SQL Server scalability – Infrastructure
  • Optimized Data Protection
  • High availability to where? Same SAN? Same site? next door? next state? next country?  – All of the above <—
  • Something Flashy
  • Proven Solutions around high-speed SQL deployments, one of which is in build right now with Michael and David in our Cork labs.

Hope to see you there.


Content Database Storage Provisioning for SharePoint – where’s my SQL DBA?!?!

May 4, 2011

So, you are a SharePoint Admin….

You want to create a new content Database …
It will be very large….you want it on seperate storage…

What do you need to do to achieve this?
Well, from Central Admin/Stsadm/PowerShell….

…you cannot specify which storage SQL will create the content database on (it will use the SQL instance defauts for Data and Log files)….
…you cannot specify the inital size of the content database…
…you need to find your SQL DBA….
…and your storage admin….who needs to arrange a time to create and unmask the storage….

…ever try building a house and installing a kitchen?  You need the kitchen guy, the plumber and electrician….

Well, not any more.    Our microsoft platform-focused development teams in EMC have listened and are working diligently on creating integrated, lightweight tools to help…

Announcing….. the EMC Storage Integrator Tool ….as part of a bigger Microsoft management release from EMC – life just got easier for us…

EMC Enhances Management of Virtualized Microsoft Applications

I cant say much more at this point, but I will have answers, details and demos hopefully next week….

Free webcast – SharePoint 2007 & 2010 Storage & Virtualization Best Practices

July 8, 2010

Hi all,

Eyal and I recently delivered a webcast in association with, sponsored by EMC.

We talk about Microsoft SharePoint 2007 & 2010 storage and virtualization best practices.

SharePoint is tricky, with so many moving parts, volumes, and storage requirements.  We try to dispel the confusion and set out best practices based on testing in our Proven Solutions Labs in EMC.

This has been converted and is available on-demand and is available at:

Feel free to take a look, hope it helps.


P.S. If you are ever looking for some REALLY good deep-dive SQL Training…

Check out Paul Randal and Kimberely Tripp @ – they’re brilliant. They are in Dublin this week in conjunction with Prodata

We’ll be at Microsoft Tech-Ed 2010

June 4, 2010

Hello all,

Just incase you find yourself at Microsoft Tech-Ed 2010 New Orleans next week….we’ll be there.

Eyal Sharon, Brian Henderson, and myself will be there amoungst other crack Microsoft folks, showcasing how EMC technology definately enhances the experience of a Microsoft solution.

* Hyper-V, small, medium, and seriously enterprise will be shown
* Automated Disaster recovery
* EMC integration and management
* Move your SQL database off 60 FC 15k Drives to just 5 EFD Flash drives and get better performance!….

…just tiny bits of whats on offer, so…

If yer at it…please call by the EMC booth. 

Thanks – James.

EMC World 2010 – Boston

May 10, 2010

Hi all,

If you find yourself at EMC World, why not drop into the Solutions Pavillon where we are showcases SharePoint and SQL solutions.

I’m also presenting the following sessions

Tuesday 08:00         SharePoint Storage Best Practices

Wednesday 08:00   Birds of a Feather – Expert Panel – SharePoint, SQL, Oracle and SAP

Thursday 13:00   SharePoint Storage Best Practices (repeat)

I’ll drop the slide here into here once we are done.



Poll: What SQL recovery model do YOU use for your SharePoint databases?

November 16, 2009

I’d be very interested to know what kind of SQL recovery model do YOU use with your SharePoint databases.

The poll is anonymous, so feel free to be honest!

If you use multiple recovery models, specific to the SharePoint database type, click both options.



SharePoint and SQL Databases

November 15, 2009

Hey folks,

This week I am at presenting SharePoint and Hyper-V information to both EMC and Microsoft personnel @ the Microsoft campus, Building 33 in Redmond, WA.  Strangely, its not raining! 
I will be covering topics, such as best practices, Hyper-V virtualization, backup and recovery and DR.  I hope to share these presentations with you once the conference is over, so stay tuned.

On to the real topic…SharePoint & the proliferation of SQL databases.

SharePoint’s main stay of information is in the form of SQL databases. 

In a typical SharePoint SQL Server I would categorize these databases in the following four layers;

===SQL System Databases   (created when SQL is installed)
           -Master, Model, MSDB, TempDB

===SharePoint configuration Databases   (created when SharePoint is installed)
           -SP_Config, etc

===SharePoint content databases   (created at the end of SP install, portal & content creation)
           -WSS_Content_* (Portal), 
            SharePoint_AdminContent_* (Central Admin)
           User-defined content databases (eg ContentDB01, 02, 03)

===SharePoint Shared Services Provider databases   (created with SSP & application configuration)
           -SharedServices_DB  (SSP Configuration database)
           Shared Services applications 
                 -SharedServices_Search_DB   (actual Office Search “Osearch” database)
                 -WSS_Search_{hostname}       (WSS SPsearch DB – per host)

You need to follow standard SQL best practices, including storage BPs to ensure good SharePoint performance, granular backup and recovery and efficient disaster recovery.  Agreed.
(I will go into more best practices for SharePoint SQL storage in a seperate post, let’s stay with this for now)


SharePoint does not allow the user to specify where the SQL database data and logs files should reside, and so the default database locations will be used.  The default databases data and log files locations are a part of the SQL instance configuration.

These are recorded in the registry, specific to the SQL instant, e.g.
             \DefaultData               (Default database data file location)
             \DefaultLog                (Default database log file location)

Easier is to use SQL Management Studio
   –  Right click the SQL instance, Properties, Database Settings -> Database default Locations.

Today, we have two choices in ensuring that SharePoint SQL databases are in the right locations…

1) Change the default SQL data file location prior to the SharePoint configuration task (e.g. create a SSP)
2) After the SharePoint configuration task, bring down SharePoint hosts, detach, relocate and re-attach the SQL databases.

I perfer #1 myself 🙂

So, here are the recommended sequence of steps to take

Recommended sequence

1) Install SQL with advanced options
  -ensure that master, model, msdb locations are correctly set.  
  -ensure that tempdb is on different LUNs, ideally filegroup the datafiles

2) Change the default database file locations to your SP Configurations volume
          -then install SharePoint.

3) Change the default database file locations to your “basic content” (or SP Configurations) volume
         -then create your SharePoint portal(s).

4) Change the default database file locations to your SSP & Search Configurations volume
         -then create your SharePoint SSP and add SPsearch roles to hosts

5) Change the default database file locations to your SSP Search Database volumes
         -then create your SharePoint SSP Search application and associate a content source


Now, user-level content databases is trickier…
You dont want to have to follow this procedure every time as many content databases will be created in time. 

My recommendation would be;

1) logged in as the SharePoint system account in SQL, manually create content databases in the right storage locations
2) then use either Central Admin or STSADM to attach an existing SQL Content Database

  a) Central Admin way 
    – Central Administration > Application Management > Content Databases
       – specify the name of the existing SQL content database


     b) Stsadm way – stsadm -o addcontentdb -url (URL) -databasename (ContentDB name) -databaseserver (SQL name)

  stsadm -o addcontentdb -url -databasename ContentDB01 -databaseserver SQL1

You should not need to specify the username/password as you will use a trusted connection within your domain.

I am putting in an enhancement request to Microsoft to allow SharePoint admins to specific the directory locations from Central Admin/STSADM/Powershell in future.

Every so often, especially with dispersed power users (capable of creating content databases), full audits of SharePoint database files should be carried out.  It is vital to ensure that all databases are protected.

Hope this helps people

Good Day to you..

June 30, 2009

Hello there.

Before I start writing ….

I want to set the stage here…
 I didn’t think I liked blogs, I actually thought they were a bit self-indulging!
   I certainly STILL know I dont like writing about myself!
     But, every day I now see how blogs _help_ people like you and me.  
       It is to me, a great way for people to distil information in a friendly format.

The reason for this blog is you

I feel like I am in a privileged position in what I do as a profession and I want to be able to share my experiences and information in order help you in your daily endeavours.  I had been asked before by people if I had a blog, why I didn’t and would I consider writing one.  I resisted, in hindsight, wrongly.  I said to myself, the next person who asks me, that will be the trigger-pull I need to start…..that was today…

To state clearly, I am not out to promote myself, some of my blog posts might be total hogwash or is not what you see in your environment (I want to hear about that), and some will indecently try to promote some of the technology my company has to offer.

My name is James Baldwin and I work in EMC Corporation, in Cork, Ireland.  I am  (wait for this title!) the EMC’s Global Solutions SQL and SharePoint Lead Engineer.  Waiting on the business cards, it will be a riot 🙂

As you can guess, I don’t take myself seriously, but I DO take what I do very seriously.  I suppose people call me, amoungst other things, an EMC and application evangelist, I actually perfer to call myself a customer evangelist.  The former falls into place.  That is far more important in my eyes, and I hope that reflects in my subsequent blog posts.

I started working in EMC in 2001, when the shares were still soaring and business class travel on flights was standard. 

Before that, I came from 3 years in a special wing of Dell engineering where we built custom or complex desktop and server builds.  All OS’es, all hardware, engineered the first Redhat 6.0.x orderable on PE server, drowned in OS/2 Warp for a very special customer for a bit, and importantly delved into all kinds of challenges which customers had.

If you really want to rewind further, I did a Bart Simpson on my dad to force him to buy me a Spectrum 48K at the age of 13.  Now he has his own back on me any time he has an “anomoly” with his home PC.  IT Karma.  I remember loading VMWare on Slackware 4.0, seeing my own PC booting inside itself, displaying a gammy pseudo Pheonix BIOS et al, saying to myself “Jeez that’ll never catch on!” 🙂  Think of the shares….Think of the shares….Forget the Sports Almanac, if I get a working DeLorean, I want the IT Almanac to go to 1996 with.  Enough of that…

I arrived into EMC in a technical support capacity, supporting their enterprise backup product at the time, EMC Data Manager (EDM), which ran on Solaris, slightly different beast Linux, but a great OS I must say for multi-threaded applications with some really well thought-out debugging tools.  We backed up everything, all mainstream applications, all mainstream OS’es.  I quickly understood that regardless of the severity of a call, absolutely nothing is trivial to a customer.

It may well be trivial to someone preaching the topic, but when you are the customer, responsible for a live user environment where a critical business application depends on you and your team member, it’s a whole lot more serious.  Go on, see if you can crack a joke with a customer who called you looking for help and guidance because their SAP instance is down and need to recover ASAP.  My record for affected users, 325,000.  Wont say why, who or how, but we got it fixed and afterwards figured out what went wrong, why and how to prevent it.  I must say, actually, I can easily say quality and customer focus was driven into us in technical support.  While the job was sometimes stressful, I loved every minute of that job due to the amount of satisfaction in helping solve problems for people.  That and the fact the next support call was like a box of chocolates…yes, the guy on the bench…

I remember having a customer call me directly and say “James, dont laugh, I just blicked SG2 on Exch-04”.  1,400 users.  These things happen every single day.

Along came technology, disk costs lowered, and this funky thing of point in time replication became a household name, well ok in the storage nerd’s house.
EMC Replication Manager came along and changed things for us in support. 

I changed role slightly and had more of a free hand in making things better for the support team in documentation, training and mentoring.  In this role, I now understood more.  I understood the customer’s problems, but as importantly, I understood the challenges of my fellow technical support people in dealing with such events, in gaining experience and knowledge and being able to apply it.  Just as we stabilized our perceptions on Replication Manager and these Virtual Tape Library (VTL) Units, along came RecoverPoint!   Again, another significant step in technology.  Time to write more “uncovered” documentation to help ourselves figure this stuff out and to chase engineering groups to make their products more sustainable.

I started to understand how technology could actually help us (you and me) in our daily grind.  Those poor customers who lost data once had to recovery from tape, could then recently recover from a point in time, could now recover to any point in time.  Ignore vendors, the story is there.  Technology was getting better.  In some circumstances, it was really helping, ie recovery.  But, technology was not helping in many respects.  Added complexity, the same old human traits (mistakes), mis-placement of technology, and so on.  Its there today and will be there tomorrow.

I began to travel to customer sites to assist on the ground with highly technical issues, nothing in a specific area, but more around what environment or “solution” the customer was operating in.  I now had the four angles.  The customer, the technical support person, the product, and the person who designed the environment (be that person a customer, fellow employee or a third party consultant).

I thought I had a pretty good idea and more importantly, an appreciation of what problems exist in the IT industry…now how could I apply my knowledge more effectively, to prevent those customer issues in the first place?…

Wind forward to today…
I joined the EMC Global Solutions Center in 2007, after 6 good years in support.  When I saw the job posting and read what it was about, I said to myself “this is for me”.  The position was for a SharePoint solutions engineer.

The Global Solutions Centers (6 of them scattered around the world) are engineering centers of people who take a given solution, design it, built it, test it, break it, analyze it and document it.  In a nutshell.  We hope to find bugs and when we do we work them out with the product owners (EMC, VMWare, Microsoft, Oracle, etc).  We test the environment to scale.  We document the best practices.  We document what not to do, and why not.  We try to take the guess work out of a solution for a customer.

“What do a need to run 240,000 heavy SharePoint users in a tiered environment on Hyper-V with rapid backup” – we answer these questions.

To apply that in context…
We work with customers, all EMC practice and engineering groups and application vendors (e.g. Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc) in trying to understand what the most common use cases are for certain applications and environments.  Through customer and field feedback, we then decide on what demands and requirements customers have on such an environment. 

My team is focused on SQL and SharePoint solutions, but dont let your questioning stop there.  Half the battle is knowing I am in a good team of multi-disciplined people, I’ll get the answer.

We go ahead and built out the racks, servers, network & fibre channel switches, storage etc in our customer integration labs.  “For this project, I’ll have a 6x 24-core servers please :-)”
Using industry-standard load generation tools, we performance iterative tests on a good datacenter day and on a bad armageddon datacenter day, functional testing, core switches dying, Clustered physical or virtual servers being unplugged (oops!), half the storage array going down – would never happen 🙂  You get the picture.

We test and profile the bad things, so you as a customer dont have to guess what if….

Remember, we test with two things in the forefront of our mind at all times – application and customer.
As a customer, I dont really care that an EMC switch, disk, cable or software component has died, I just care about my app.

We take that approach.  If we see something we don’t like, we let the relevent people know “You’ve got to fix this, don’t let a customer suffer this” is the message.
We are the “external” customer that product groups always wanted, but they dont really know it. 

I will share our experiences with you.  I will share “look what we found” with you in concise, technical details.  I want you to share your experiences with me.  The more I know about your struggles, the more I hopefully will be able to help.  I am entirely willing to test something you hit in our labs if we have the given time and capacity.


In summary, I’m here to help…

Thank you