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Hardware Thread, New servers/storage - some recommendations in Technical; After several years of classroom based investment, I have been given the opportunity to invest in our server infrastructure this ...
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    3s-gtech's Avatar
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    New servers/storage - some recommendations

    After several years of classroom based investment, I have been given the opportunity to invest in our server infrastructure this year. We have a pretty solid network with decent switches, wifi etc, so I thought I'd look at replacing and consolidating some of our old servers.

    We currently have a pair of decent ESXi hosts. They run ESXi Free and have done for years, with great reliability and flexibility. Problem is, I also have a huge number of other servers too - I tend to collect them!

    We have:

    2 physical DCs
    2 file servers for home directories staff/student
    A FOG server
    A Mac server
    An Exchange server
    A SIMS server (virtualised as one VM on the host)
    A PFSense server
    2 file servers for shares
    plus the two ESXi hosts. Also have a bunch of spare old servers!

    I'd like to buy a pair of decent new servers, fairly well specced, to be able to take on some of these roles. Issue is, most of the stuff I can virtualise needs a ton of storage space, and we don't have a SAN - it's all locally attached. My thinking was to stick Hyper-V on the new servers, fill them with disks for capacity, and use them clustered for redundancy.

    My budget (let's say 10k) won't run to a SAN plus decent disks (plus any fibre-channel backend to support it).

    What servers, specs etc would you choose in this situation? We currently enjoy excellent uptime and speed from our current setup, but I'm aware that it's pretty inefficient, and some of our servers are nearly as old as the year 7s (but of course serviced and upgraded)!

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3s-gtech View Post
    I'd like to buy a pair of decent new servers, fairly well specced, to be able to take on some of these roles. Issue is, most of the stuff I can virtualise needs a ton of storage space, and we don't have a SAN - it's all locally attached. My thinking was to stick Hyper-V on the new servers, fill them with disks for capacity, and use them clustered for redundancy.
    That sounds like a good plan, and easily doable for under £10,000. We have a similar setup here, with two main servers, each with local storage, replicating in real time to a third backup server for redundancy. You could possibly buy two new servers and have each one replicate to your current servers as backups. We use XenServer and replicate volumes with DRBD, but I'm sure there's a ESXi / Hyper-V equivilant. Our main hardware is two Dell PowerEdge R510 servers - several years old now but still perfectly capable, we upgraded the RAM and the storage controllers over the summer. You could get the equivilant new model, or possibly go for second-hand kit - there's a lot of ex-datacentre equipment floating around on eBay at the moment, some of it very good value for money. I'm considering buying a Dell C6100 "cloud" server, just because they're cheap.

    For storage, our Dell R510s each take 8 disks (note that the built-in RAID controller only goes up to 2TB drives, hence the new storage controllers). We bought 4 fast 300GB SAS drives and 4 large 4TB SATA drives for each machine, with the VM images all on the fast storage and user files and so on on the larger storage. If you're buying equipment, I'd go for something that can take 12 drives, you might as well get maximum storage denisty for your money.

  3. Thanks to dhicks from:

    3s-gtech (8th February 2014)

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    3s-gtech's Avatar
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    Thanks, good to see I'm not miles off the mark in my thinking. I see that some of the gen8 HP Proliants have 12 bays - didn't even think of splitting between fast but small and slow but large disks - that is definitely the best bet for us. I suspect in doing that with a 12 bay that I could retire all of our existing file servers and just virtualise them, with redundancy.

    I had considered re-con too, but my budget should hopefully cover fresh kit if it fits our needs better - obviously I want dual PSUs, plenty of RAM, dual CPUs etc so they have the most potential as hosts and for reliability.

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    seawolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3s-gtech View Post
    Thanks, good to see I'm not miles off the mark in my thinking. I see that some of the gen8 HP Proliants have 12 bays - didn't even think of splitting between fast but small and slow but large disks - that is definitely the best bet for us. I suspect in doing that with a 12 bay that I could retire all of our existing file servers and just virtualise them, with redundancy.

    I had considered re-con too, but my budget should hopefully cover fresh kit if it fits our needs better - obviously I want dual PSUs, plenty of RAM, dual CPUs etc so they have the most potential as hosts and for reliability.
    Yeah, the G8s should be a good bet. Make sure you don't skimp on the CPUs as these can't be upgraded cheaply or easily later (same with the RAID HBA), and I recommend at least 48GB on a VM host these days. RAM can be upgraded pretty easy in the future if you can't afford a load of it right now, but make sure you don't fill up the slots with a bunch of small RAM sticks trying to save money or it causes problems later when you do want to upgrade.

  6. Thanks to seawolf from:

    3s-gtech (8th February 2014)

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    3s-gtech's Avatar
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    Cheers. Current hosts are on 32GB which has been a useful amount (some of the VMs only have 1GB RAM) but planning 64GB in the new onea. I have been very happy with Opterons in my existing hosts, good cost vs performance.

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    mattpayne's Avatar
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    have you had a look at the Dell VRTX servers? 4 blades (with 2 drivebays) + 25 2.5" drive bays in a 5U package

    the entry level blades are nicely priced and have 12 memory slots each - VRTX enclosure, 24 drive bays, redundant PSU's, 1GB raid card, 2blades (4 2.2GHz cpus) and 64GB ram comes to £7k without disks...
    Last edited by mattpayne; 9th February 2014 at 12:33 PM. Reason: I cant spell!

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    3s-gtech (9th February 2014)

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    Take a look at the Hyper-V replica technology (Server 2012 onwards - Hyper-V Replica Explained, Windows Server 2012 Style - Yung Chou on Hybrid Cloud - Site Home - TechNet Blogs) - it does pretty much what you want right out of the box without screwing around with any 3rd party software.

    The idea is you have 2 Hyper-V hosts setup both of which hosts half of your servers. That half is then replicated to the other server (can be configured to a replication down to every 5 minutes I believe) so in the event of any single server failing the other one just picks up the slack (make sure you have enough CPU and RAM though!).

  11. 2 Thanks to jamesfed:

    3s-gtech (9th February 2014), AButters (10th February 2014)

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    AButters's Avatar
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    I would go for something like a pair of Dell R720 with 2 x 6 (or 8) core Xeons 64GB RAM 16 x SAS Drives.

    Should come in under 10k.

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