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I've checked the resources at Microsoft TechNet, MSDN and Bing but I’m not aware of any information regarding the best practice about the configuration for the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application" service role on SharePoint Server 2010.

We are planning a farm spanning to datacenters running 8 SharePoint servers + 2 SQL servers. Currently we are running a SharePoint 2007 with 6 servers and two are using Windows Server Network Load Balancing (NLB) to maintain high-availability. The SharePoint 2010 farm will is planed the same way. Two of the 8 servers (all SharePoint full install) will be running in a NLB configuration. Two servers will be using for FAST search and will also need the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application" because we will use the HOSTS file to redirect the traffic to the local box, so the web front end server don't get any extra load from search. The remaining 4 servers will be used to host application roles like office web apps, metadata, ...

The question is now: Should i stop the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application" on the 4 remaining servers because they will never serve any content from the planed web applications?

If i remove the role, the IIS configuration is getting a lot more lightweight on the server. It feels cleaner. The current environment is only hosting the "Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application" role on the WFE, but we had some 3rd party solutions that had problems during setup.

A general information is provided in the following MSDN article: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc768569.aspx

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I very recently had the same issue with Nintex Workflow 2010: It wouldn't install properly from my App server because this service was turned off.

Other than that, yes it's a good way to turn an application server into a true application server, and prevent it from running and serving the content web applications and IIS sites.

Have a look at the "Topologies for SharePoint Server 2010" diagram at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc263199.aspx - it explicitly mentions turning this service off on application servers.

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Excactly what i was looking for. It's a little bit sad Microsoft is "hiding" such information inside a poster. –  Marco Scheel May 13 '11 at 15:19
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Yes - Microsoft SharePoint Foundation Web Application is only useful if your server is a FrontEnd - I tend to turn it off on App Server Roles Machine when I can - This way you can ensure that no frontend activity occurs on the app server.

The only (potential) issue is with deployment of custom .wsp that will assume that they are deployed on a frontend - you can either turn the role on to allow deployment, or modify the wsp scope so it deploys properly

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I've had serval situation where the missing web app role was causing trouble: 1.) Nintext Workflows wont run site workflows by default 2.) Running powershell to analyse content (GetLimitedWebPartManager) But thanx for your opinion. I will wait for some additional answers. –  Marco Scheel May 12 '11 at 9:44
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Leave it on, as it provides flexibility.

You should already be directing traffic to your WFEs with DNS or a load balancer, so other servers won't have traffic hitting them. But leave it on. Down the road you'll need to perform some sort of troubleshooting, and this will come in handy.

"Well, then turn it on when you need to!" I hear you say. The problem with turning it on when you need to troubleshoot, is you're usually doing it when your normal WFEs are not accessible. If the other WFEs are unavailable because they have "shut down" due to a surprise garden hose in your server room, you won't be able to sync your new application-turned-WFE server. Now your farm won't be available until you fix your leak.

"But it uses resources! Processes! Threads! My application servers need to operate at peak performance!" To this I say architecture your servers accordingly. The web application service uses minimal resources [citation needed]. Also, more importantly, it's not until the request hits IIS that the application pool spins up, so it's not like your web application is loaded all day every day.

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"it's not until the request hits IIS that the application pool spins up" this is the important part and why it really doesn't use much performance without the IIS being hit –  Dennis G Feb 9 at 22:26
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