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SharePoint 2013 from an IT Pro Perspective

It has been an exciting couple of weeks within the SharePoint community with the much anticipated release of SharePoint 2013 Public Preview. So what’s new and cool? And as an IT Pro/SharePoint Consultant/SharePoint Developer/Business Analyst, what do you need to know about SharePoint 2013?

In this post I’ll provide an overview of the following areas of SharePoint 2013:

  • Features
  • Architecture Changes
  • Service Application Architecture
  • Enterprise Search
  • Authentication and Authorisation
  • System Requirements

SharePoint 2013 Features Overview

In general, SharePoint 2013’s architecture is similar to SharePoint 2010’s, although there have been numerous capabilities and platform level enhancements introduced with SharePoint 2013. These include:

  • Shredded Storage – ability to send only changes that were made at a file level back to the database. This is very significant when working with large documents.
  • SQL Improvements – building on SQL 2012 enhancements
  • Cache Service – building on Appfabric caching model. This gives cross-server caching ability within the SharePoint 2013 farm, allowing SharePoint to more easily scale to large deployments.
  • Request Management – capability to manage requests made to large SharePoint farms to divert them individually to unique workload servers
  • Themes – User Graphical modification engine
  • Sharing – ability to share sites and documents

Service applications within SharePoint 2013 have been built upon the robust architecture available within SharePoint 2010. Newer service applications and improvements have also been committed alongside existing ones. The Office Web Application is no longer a service application but rather a standalone product. This also gives it the ability to interact with other members of the Microsoft Stack such as Lync and Exchange. Search has been given a massive overhaul, with Web Analytics now part of the search engine rather than a standalone service.


SharePoint 2013 Architecture Changes Overview

Request Management (RM)

The main purpose of RM is to give more control over incoming requests so that SharePoint Administrators can determine which server within the farm is able to manage and action those requests. These requests can be in the form of URL, user agent, or source IP, which allows SharePoint to customise the response to each request. One of the main goals of RM is to route traffic to Web Front Ends with better health so that the farm can be managed more efficiently.  

RM can also manage and deny harmful requests and deny them immediately. RM also ties into request throttling by prioritising requests from end users. Search requests can be throttled and sent to specific servers within the farm. One of the other key features is to isolate traffic to help troubleshoot errors onto on one server.

Analytics Features and Implementation

The new analytics platform replaces the Web Analytics Service application which exists within SharePoint 2010. This enables the new engine to build upon and solve some issues within the previous model. Some of the new improvements include:

  1. Finding relevant information and search relevance, based on views and click-through
  2. Ability to use indicators (“hot”) and usage numbers, which basically ties into what’s popular based on number of views as well as number of unique users who viewed the item or topic
  3. Ability to understand how much of the content is being used (viewed) and how it compares to other content that is available
  4. Ability to analyse discussion boards to find topics that have higher “hot” indicators
  5. New model makes third party tools to build upon it

Distributed Cache

With SharePoint 2013 there is a new distributed Cache Service based on Windows Server AppFabric Distributed Caching. It is used in features like Authentication Token caching and My Site Social Feeds. This service is installed on all servers within a SharePoint 2013 farm.


SharePoint 2013 Distributed Cache

The service can be stopped and started on any server within the farm based on unique requirements within the farm. The service is managed through the “Services on Server” page in Central Admin as Distributed Cache Service. Config Database within your SQL backend stores information about the farm and the servers running the Cache Service.


Alternate Access Mapping, Host Named Site Collections and Self Site Creation

With SharePoint 2013, there is a strong preference to reduce reliance on Alternate Access Mapping (AAM) and go down the path of Host Named Site Collection. It functions similarly to AAM but gives the ability to associate multiple URLs with a site collection. PowerShell is used to manage URLs. This also gives the ability to use different zones in conjunction with the URLs for a site for different authentication methods. One of the key benefits of this is the ability to use more than five URLs for a site. SSL termination can happen on a load balancer which is commonly known as Off-Box SSL Termination. Self-Service Site Creation (SSSC) has been completely revamped. Administrators can specify a custom form that should be used to create a new site along with a policy that can be defined.


SharePoint 2013 Site Policies


That form can be within the same Web Application or an entirely different Web Application.


SharePoint 2013 self site creation



With SharePoint 2010, sharing a site was slightly convoluted and had some drawbacks. Users don’t understand what permission level to grant other users, see who has been invited or don’t understand what rights they are giving end users when they get added to a SharePoint group. The process involved trial and error to figure out if the permissions had been properly assigned. SharePoint 2013 is designed to address these limitations with the Sharing feature. A sharing dialog now exists for adding users, distribution groups and security groups, along with customisable email invitations. A management page is also available to admins, where they can view and respond to all requests. A personal permissions page is also available, where users can request more permissions than they are currently entitled to. This brings in the conversation component to requests so admins and the end users can have a dialog about the request.


SharePoint 2013 Service Application Architecture Overview

SharePoint 2013 shares the same model that was introduced with the SharePoint 2010 service application architecture. With SharePoint 2010, the architecture was changed completely and with SharePoint 2013 the principle remains the same.

  • Services can be individually consumed from any Web Application
  • Allows for a very rich farm structure
  • Provides flexibility to utilise services based on application requirements
  • Numerous new enhancements in platform level
  • Newer Service applications such as Translation Service, App Management Service
  • Office Web Apps is no longer a service application but rather a product on its own
  • Web Analytics is no longer a service application of its own and is built into Search


SharePoint 2013 Service Application Architecture Overview

Service Applications with their own DBs:

  • App Management Service
  • Business Data Connectivity
  • Managed Metadata Service
  • Search
  • Secure Store Service
  • SharePoint Translation Services
  • State Service
  • Usage and Health Data Collection
  • User Profile
  • Word Automation Service
  • Access Services App databases


SharePoint 2013 Service Application Architecture Overview


SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Search Overview

Search is probably one of the most important components within SharePoint 2013. The architecture has been completely revamped in SharePoint 2013. To begin with, here are some of the new components that tie into Search Service Application model:

  • Crawl
  • Content Processing
  • Analytics Processing
  • Index
  • Administration
  • Query Processing


SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Search


Also important to note at this point, is the various search processes:

  • NodeRunner.exe

Within a fully configured SharePoint farm, noderunner.exe is the process that hosts the search components. From a task manager it can be observed that several instances of this process can be running on each application layer server

  • Host Controller

All noderunner.exe processes are supervised by this Windows Service. If a noderunner fails, then host controller will detect this and restart it.

  • MSSearch.exe

The windows services that host the Crawl Component

Being the new kid in the block, let’s take a closer look at NodeRunner. The following diagram shows the various Search Host Process:

  • Multiple noderunner.exe instance hosts one search component 
  • Each nodeRunner.exe instance hosts one search component. For example, if you have two index replicas on one server, there will be two Noderunner instances – one for each replica 
  • On a default single server install there will be five instances of the noderunner.exe process 


SharePoint 2013 Node Runner


SharePoint 2013 Authentication and Authorization Overview

Claims, claims, claims all the way! Even though SharePoint 2013 offers support for Classic Authentication mode, Claims is the default authentication option now. Classic mode can only be managed in PowerShell as it’s gone from the UI. As part of the Preview version, deploying via PowerShell will display an error message that the classic mode is deprecated and has the potential to go away in future release. There is also a new process to migrate accounts from Windows Classic to Windows Claims.

For example, from PowerShell Convert-SPWebApplication –Identity http://yourWebapplication.com –To Claims –RetainPermissions –force

This will come into play when looking at migrating a SharePoint 2010 farm to SharePoint 2013.

Another feature with SharePoint 2013 is that SharePoint admins do not have to configure sticky sessions as they are no longer required when using SAML claims. This is because SharePoint tracks FedAuth Cookies in the new Distributed Cache Service. Since Claims-based authentication is the preferred way forward, it is also important to note that significantly more logging ability has been provided to help troubleshoot authentication issues.

SharePoint 2013 System Requirements Overview


SharePoint 2013 System Requirements Overview

Let’s take a look at some of the changes that have come along within system requirements for SharePoint 2013, affecting hardware, software and browser support.

Hardware Requirements

The following minimum hardware requirements are based on Single Server Farm Model, as shown below:

  • Processor : 64-Bit , 4 cores for small deployments and 8 cores for medium deployments
  • RAM 8 GB for small deployments 12 GB for medium deployments and 16GB for database tier
  • 80 GB of System Drive and maintain two times your RAM as Free Space

Software Requirements

The minimum software requirements for SharePoint 2013:

  • 64-Bit Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • 64-Bit Microsoft Server 2008 R2 SP1 (Standard, Enterprise, Data Center or Web Server)
  • 64-Bit Microsoft SQL 2012 RTM


SharePoint 2013 software requirements



The following prerequisites are installed by the preparation tool on the SharePoint 2013 Server:


SharePoint 2013 prerequisites


Compatibility and Support Considerations for Browser Support:


SharePoint 2013 Browser Support


SharePoint 2013 builds upon the robust and familiar SharePoint 2010 capabilities by enhancing and bringing in new functionality to enhance workload experiences and enable new compelling scenarios with the end user in mind. We’ve been pretty excited here at Intergen as we discover all the new capabilities in the latest version of SharePoint and the many ways SharePoint 2013 will help our clients in their working lives. Stay tuned!

Posted by: Aben Samuel, Technical Consultant, Portals, Content and Collaboration | 27 August 2012

Tags: SharePoint, SharePoint 2013

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