Are you being served? Servers and services in Microsoft Office Project Server 2007

The third part of the “new and different” posting deals with servers and services in Project Server 2007.  By servers I also include some of the other products in the Microsoft Office 2007 server family as well as the functional breakdown of servers you may have in your server “farm”.  Likewise “services” covers both those services found in the usual operating system services control as well as services running under the control of Windows SharePoint Services.  Hopefully all will become clear.

I will not be talking too much about performance choices of the different installation topographies here – more detailing what all the different bits do.  The TechCenter at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/office/project/default.mspx has good documentation covering farm topography.  As Project Server is now built on top of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS) you will also find the WSS TechCenter very useful at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsserver/sharepoint/default.mspx.

When you install Project Server 2007 you have a number of choices open to you regarding the split of services and servers, as well as having additional functionality from other servers in the family.  The simplest installation is to just install Project Server 2007.  This could even be installed on a single server although please review the other documentation on the TechCenter to understand if this makes sense for your requirements.  This single install can also load and configure WSS and can install SQL Express as the database to support both WSS and Project Server.  This is usually termed the “standalone” installation.  You can also achieve the same end result using the “complete” installation and this gives you the flexibility to choose a different database server (or perhaps a named instance on the same server).  So the next most complex installation is introduced here – having a separate database server.  So on one server you are running the web server and application server services, and all the database activity happens on another server.  The next split is to have the application server and the web server as different machines.  This can be achieved by adding a “Web Front End” (WFE).  This is one of the installation options when installing Project Server 2007 and if you are adding a WFE you need to identify the database where your SharePoint (WSS) configuration database is located and then you add the WFE to the server farm. 

The three server configuration of Web Front End, Application Server and Database Server can be further extended by adding additional servers of any or all of these three types to spread the load – or even have specific application server for instance taking a particular service.  This comes more into its own when running multiple servers from the Office 2007 family – so search or Excel services could be served by a particular server.  Reporting from Project Server could also extend the number of servers as you could have SQL Analysis Services and SQL Reporting Services either on the same database server or additional machines.

Services break down in to two related groups; those shown on the WSS Central Admin home page as Services on Server, and those in the usual Administrative Tools location for operating system services.  So in my example here I will tell what is running on my server farm where I have loaded Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) and Project Server 2007 – and configured Project Server and Office Search, but not Excel Services.

Web Front End – WSS Services

  • Windows SharePoint Services Incoming E-Mail
  • Windows SharePoint Services Web Application

Web Front End – Operating System Services

  • Windows SharePoint Services Administration (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Search (Disabled)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Timer (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Tracing (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services VSS Writer (Manual)

Application Server – WSS Services

  • Central Administration
  • Office SharePoint Server Search
  • Project Application Service
  • Windows SharePoint Services Incoming E-Mail
  • Windows SharePoint Services Web Application

Application Server – Operating System Services

  • Microsoft Office Project Server Events Service (Automatic)
  • Microsoft Office Project Server Queue Service (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Administration (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Search (Disabled)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Timer (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services Tracing (Automatic)
  • Windows SharePoint Services VSS Writer (Manual)

One thing to note is that the services within WSS control those within the OS.  So if you stop any of the OS services you will probably see them start right up again – and even changing the identity of the service through the “Services” applet you will see this change back to what it had been set to within WSS.  All maintenance of services should be handled through Central Administration – or the command line stsadm.exe tool.

I’ll concentrate mainly on the Project services here.  The Project services only run on the application server – the web front end can be thought of as just running a WSS application that happens to be Project Web Access (PWA) – no more services required at the front end.  The Project Application Service controls the other two operating system services and also needs to be running to provision a new PWA site.  If you are familiar with the editsite tool in Project Server 2003 this function is now handled through WSS and specifically in the shared services provider (more later).  The two operating system services handle the queue service and server side events.  If you look in task manager on the application server you will probably see two of each service running.  Basically one of each will start, and then spawn another of each for every shared service provider (SSP) configured in the farm. 

The queue service is the new architectural feature of Project Server 2007 that helps to deliver consistent performance by spreading the load.  It can be configured through Server Settings of PWA where you can set properties for the 2 different queues: Project and Timesheet.  Many of the features within Project Server rely on the queue to move data around, and queue system ensures the server gets a steady stream of work even if everyone submits their timesheets at exactly the same time on a Friday afternoon (as if).

The event service handles the server side events that are a new programmability feature of 2007.  You can now write custom code to tie in to numerous events – such as creating a project, publishing a project, submitting a timesheet and very many more.  This give a great way to extend Project Server to tie in to your other line of business systems, or just to enhance the functionality of Project.

I’ll only mention a couple of WSS services here – the Timer service, which is behind all of the activity on the system – similar in a way to the queue in Project, the Timer service executes timed jobs.  Creation of PWA sites and building a cube are a couple of examples where the timer service gets involved.  The Web Application Service is the key service for WSS that enables sites to work – including those of WSS itself.  WSS is really a WSS application in the same way that Project is! 

I said I would come back to shared service so here we go.  Think of the shared services provider as being a collection point for the non-core WSS applications that can run on the server.  If you have just loaded Project Server then this will be the only item in the SSP.  If you have loaded MOSS then you will also see many other components such as the search and portal features as well as the new feature of Excel Calculation Services.  You would normally only create multiple SSPs if you needed segregate your instances of Project Server – or isolate some services to specific servers.  If you have 2 SSPs then you would see 3 of each of the Queue and Event service running on your application server.

That’s all for now – plenty to get your heads around.  If you have any areas of project Server you would like some coverage on then please let me have feedback.

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