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What web front end am I seeing?

March 12, 2012

So we have two web front-ends with our SharePoint 2010 farm. Load balancing is not done through Windows NLB, but rather through an F5 BigIP, which is managed by a different group in our IT department. This presents some challenges for me as a SharePoint administrator. When I see issues with a SharePoint site, how can I quickly tell if it is isolated on a specific WFE? Normally, I’d have to contact the group that manages the load-balancer, have them remove one WFE from the pool, then wait for my session to expire, then test the site.

This is such a hassle that I came up with a quick and dirty way of telling which web front end I’m on. And it is so simple, any end user can tell at a glance and let me know over the phone.

I take a graphic that is on the front page of a site. You can use any image that is on your site. For 2010, I use the default site icon. A lot of companies will customize this image, but we use the default.

I save the image to my computer, then I open it up in a graphics editing program. I use GIMP, available for free at http://www.gimp.org/ . You can use PhotoShop or even Paint, whatever works for you. Then I add a mark – one dot for WFE 1, and two dots for WFE2.

  

And then I copy the appropriate version of the graphic onto the corresponding WFE. The default location for this graphic is <14 Hive>\TEMPLATE\IMAGES\SITEICON.PNG . I replace the default file with the image with the dot. No IISReset is needed. When you go to your site, you can now quickly see if you are on WFE1 or WFE2.

Some of our site owners customize their sites and don’t display the SiteIcon image. But our root sites all display it. For SharePoint to work properly, the BigIP has to be session-aware. That means, when you initially connect to the SharePoint site, the load-balancer picks a WFE and starts your session with it. All subsequent traffic from your session is routed to the same WFE. Our load-balancer is configured with a 60 minute time-out for sessions. That means, once you start a session, all traffic will be routed to the same WFE, until 60 minutes of inactivity has occurred.

So once you view the main page and see the icon, you know what WFE you are on. You can then navigate to a site, and even if it doesn’t have an icon, you know you are on the same WFE.

Hey look, I’m on WFE2!

The next step, forcing traffic onto one WFE or the other, is more complicated, depending on your network and load-balance setup. That is a subject for another post sometime. But this trick can help you quickly identify which WFE you are seeing, and it has been immensely helpful to us in our troubleshooting.

 

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One Comment
  1. Thanks, this worked great. Works for SP2013 too, even though the icon is different.

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