I'm building my very first UEFI based server. I am manually arranging the gpt based partitions on the hard drive. I am placing the EFI system partition as the very first partition. Usually I will create a 127mb dummy partition as the very first partition to do a universal alignment (or I will create the first partition to end on sector# 262143 which will align the following partition(s) for any configuration (cluster size, raid stripes, etc)). I suppose I can be a little conservative about utilizing all possible drive space, so I was wondering: If I use this "dummy partition" as the location for the EFI system partition will it cause some kind of major performance issue? (since its a 512e drive and the partition will not be aligned) I tend to think not, since the partition is basically read one time during the boot process and not used to write files on a regular basis. But I just wanted to throw that question out there, just to be certain that I'm not doing something completely ridiculous. So is it ok to set the EFI system partition up as the first partition (unaligned) on a gpt hard drive and at the same time use it as an "offset" to align the following partitions? Thanks in advance and best regards.
Unless you're doing sector math in an attempt to claim every single byte of possible free space on the drive, you do not need to worry about alignment. Any operating system that supports EFI is aware of 512e and 4Kn drives, and will always align partitions to 4K boundaries by default. You have to try pretty hard to mis-align them.
Really, if you're creating partitions manually, all you need to do is make sure that the starting sector of every partition is evenly divisible by 8 (512 bytes * 8 = 4096k) and you should be fine.
Also be aware that you should not allocate the last 2048 sectors on the drive to any partition. You don't mention what OS you will be running, but Windows has problems with partitions that touch the end of the drive. There are some legacy reasons for this which are too much to get into here. But it's a good idea to just leave that space alone.
Also, you should always make the EFI partition the first one on the drive. If you want, it's perfectly OK to make this partition start at sector 40. That's the first usable sector on a GPT drive. Since you're interested in nice, neat ordering, make it 262,103 sectors long. This would be 127.98MB in size. That makes your first data partition on the drive start at sector 262,144 -- exactly 128 MB from the front of the drive.
If you will be running Windows, you will also need an MSR partition. This is what Windows officially calls a "dummy" partition. It must be at least 16MB in size for Server 2016, or 64MB for Server 2012.