Differences between OCS Consolidated and Expanded Enterprise Pools

One of the goals of this blog is provide answers to important questions or issues that the public documentation does not clearly address. I recently encountered such an issue while trying to definitively determine the best OCS pool type in a relatively small deployment (about ~3500 users): Consolidated or Expanded.

The basic differences between Consolidated and Expanded are well documented in any of the Microsoft OCS Deployment and Planning Guides, so I won’t cover the basics here.

Expanded pools are generally only required for much larger deployments, but we foresaw the need for additional Web Conferencing resources in the future. The thought of being able to just add a dedicated server for the Web Conferencing needs was attractive. However, by definition, a Consolidated pool requires that all roles (except the Back End) be installed on each member server, thereby negating the possibility of a dedicate Web Conferencing role. I have witnessed multiple roles being installed on servers in an Expanded pool, so I was left wondering if we could deploy an Expanded pool, install all primary roles on one member server, and then install an additional dedicated Web Conferencing role (on a separate physical server) when the need arose.

If this is possible, it begs the question: “why have the Consolidated and Enterprise pool definitions if you can mix-and-match roles on member server(s) regardless of the pool choice”.

While there are still some unanswered subtle questions, here are some interesting and important points uncovered so far:

1.    While the first step in creating an OCS Enterprise Pool (with the deployment tool) explicitly asks whether it will be a Consolidated or Expanded Pool, nothing technically imposes limitations on the collocation of the roles on the member server(s). You can, for example, choose an Enterprise Pool, and co-locate one or more roles on a member server.

2.    The definition and use of Consolidated versus Enterprise therefore appears to be to simplify the deployment of the most supported (and recommended) configurations. When your pool deployment goes outside of these definitions, you may need to tweak settings with WMI to make all the functionality work smoothly. I am looking into more specifics on this.

Until this is publicly made clear, you are best to stick with a deployment that follows the basic pool definitions unless you are confident that you understand how to successfully deploy the custom role collocations you have in mind.

A frustrating aspect about this question is that beyond the basic pool definitions, there doesn’t seem to be any Microsoft documentation outlining the supportability on role collocation in an Enterprise pool.

For your benefit, here the references found in the existing documentation:

1.       Page 48 of the Office Communications Server 2007 Planning Guide

“If you are deploying Enterprise Edition, Expanded Configuration, you must install the Web Conferencing Server and A/V Conferencing Server on separate computers from those hosting the Front End Servers”.

2.       Page 3 of the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Technical Reference

“In an Enterprise Edition expanded configuration, the A/V Conferencing Server and Web Conferencing Server roles are distributed and run on separate servers”

Note: I have seen a successful deployment with the Front End and Web Conferencing installed on the same server in an expanded pool.

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