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Hardware Thread, Recommendations for virtualisation server in Technical; Speccing a new server that is intended to virtualise a few older servers, and provide capacity for a few new ...
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    Recommendations for virtualisation server

    Speccing a new server that is intended to virtualise a few older servers, and provide capacity for a few new ones.

    Looking at a Dell R710, 2x Xeon E5540 2.52Ghz, 24GB 1066Mhz DDR3, and as for drives? Thats the bit Im not sure on

    For the last few servers I've started buying SATA drives to save money as they provide adaquate performance for a file server. But should I be looking at 10-15K SAS drives for this, or stick with SATA? Capacity is still important, we dont have a SAN, so there needs to be plenty of space, though I'm not planning on running any major file servers or big databases on any VM's, would rather keep them to physical boxes (or would they be ok?)

    Also is the initial spec too high/not high enough?

    Its all slight guesswork at the minute, because although I know the 2 servers I want to migrate to it (print/sophos and my PCE server) I dont know what will be needed after that.
    I would like to virtualise one DC, as both of ours are out of warranty and could do with replacement. I've seen arguments for and against this, so whats the consensus? I would still keep one on a physical box.

    Finally, is Hyper-V as good as MS say? I havent got any compatible (spare) hardware to try it out here. And VMware is a bit beyond our budget I think, especially as none of us have much experiance in it
    Last edited by sidewinder; 19th January 2010 at 12:12 PM.

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    carnforthhigh's Avatar
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    We recently purchased an R710 with 2x Xeon E5520 2.27GHz and 32GB 1066 DDR3 with Citrix Xenserver embedded. We use a Netgear Readynas 2100 for the storage of the VMs.

    Runs without a hitch, currently hosting 5 VMs running various tasks; print serving, Sophos, PCE, Helpdesk, MLS.net and various school applications. We would highly recommend this server!

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    cheers

    So you dont have any performance issues storing the VM's on a NAS device? If thats the case it may well mean I'd be fine with SATA drives

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    It really depends on how many users etc, but personally id say no to sata and goo with SAS. It also depends on how many, 1 SAS isnt going to perform as well as 8 sata etc.

    CPU - go for the latest generation you can. If you ever plan to use Pools, live migration etc, you will need similar CPUs so could end up in a situation where you will have to bin your current servers and buy all new ones, which half defeats the point in virtualisation. getting the latest gen means you are more likely to be able to still buy them come upgrade time.

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    I've used DELL's R700 a number of times for VMware's vSphere ESX, worked perfectly and nice server to work on.

    SATA or SAS, both will work but if you can afford it go for SAS and a RAID controller.

    For VMware look at Essentials Plus Edition could be a competitively priced alternative, but your right VMWare is typically more expensive at the highend.

    Regards

    Andy

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    You may be able to get away with SATA as long as you RAID them up for greater speed/redundancy. The other thing to look at is the server grade SATA drives like the Seagate ES2 line. They are manufactured for server use and so are much better suited to it while only costing a small bit extra. If I had the choice I would be using SAS though.

    As to Hyper-V it seems to run fine in my setup. It is suprising what it will run on as I had it going on my laptop with no hassles. Just needs a CPU with virtualisation extentions, other than that it is not fussy.

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    Thanks for the advice guys

    SAS isnt out of the question, I have a reasonable budget, but there would have to be a trade off in capacity. Then again, even with 4/5 servers its unlikely I'm going to need 4Tb especially as they wont be file servers.

    Was thinking of going for RAID6 rather than 5 just for some extra protection since if 2 drives failed it could potentially take out multiple machines. Or is that OTT - considering that one of the benefits of virtualisation is portability...could always move VM's to another server as a temporary measure

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Unless I've missed something here in all this talk of hard drives, you may want to consider a fast NAS or basic iSCSI SAN box rather than a local server RAID. Even if you only have one virtual host to start with but odds on eventually you may want to had a second or third host server, or convert one of your existing servers into a virtual host.

    Even without live migration and automatic distaster recovery. Storing VM's on shared hard drive space is one of the more useful applications of virtualisation. The ability to restart any virtual server on any virtual host is a real revolution.

    Edit: I'd personally look at perhaps 74Gb RAID-1 10krpm SATA drives on the server for Windows 2008 R2 + Hyper-V and then perhaps something like the ReadyNAS to store the VM images. In fact that's what I will be doing in the summer but rather than use a Netgear ReadyNAS I have it in mind to build my own NAS box with a HP server and a copy of Windows for SMB file share.
    Last edited by tmcd35; 19th January 2010 at 04:01 PM.

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    ^ Agreed. 4-5 servers with 4+ HDs and RAID cards is a long way to purchasing a SAN. Just remember though that a single SAN becomes your single point of failure for every server you are running.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sidewinder View Post
    Was thinking of going for RAID6 rather than 5 just for some extra protection since if 2 drives failed it could potentially take out multiple machines. Or is that OTT - considering that one of the benefits of virtualisation is portability...could always move VM's to another server as a temporary measure
    RAID6 is a good idea, not really over the top depending on how many drives you are getting. As recommended above externalizing the storage to a SAN if you could stretch to it would be a good move and make it shareable by all of the servers but it can be a little pricey in comparison.

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    I have 2x Sun X4440 BEASTS (4x4-core CPU + 32GB RAM in each) for my hosts. They work really well and running all my 13+ VMs on one host barely breaks 15% CPU/memory usage.

    Personally, I'd recommend you stay away from VMWare purely to keep your TCO as low as possible. Hyper-V is fine if you are comfortable clustering servers yourself and have a super tight budget. Personally, I recommend XenServer because all the basic VM goodies are in there (including XenMotion) for free.

    You really do need a SAN though to start scaling. The S7000 series from Sun is rather good and very competitively priced.

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    I'll be honest, I'd never really looked at the ReadyNas before, but it does look very good indeed. Those who have one, do you run it like a SAN on its own network behind the main one, or just on the same network?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ric_ View Post
    Personally, I recommend XenServer because all the basic VM goodies are in there (including XenMotion) for free.
    That is something I need to trial tbh, I've heard good things about it

    Oh and while this thread has been really helpful, its also given me a bit of a headache - I neglected to mention I needed to make the decision within just a few days as the finance is coming from this years budget rather than next years...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sidewinder View Post
    I'll be honest, I'd never really looked at the ReadyNas before, but it does look very good indeed. Those who have one, do you run it like a SAN on its own network behind the main one, or just on the same network?
    AFAIR the ReadyNAS has iSCSI support so it can be set up as a basic SAN. I'd connect it to it's own gigabit switch seperate from your main network segragating VM data traffic from the rest of your LAN.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sidewinder View Post
    I would like to virtualise one DC, as both of ours are out of warranty and could do with replacement. I've seen arguments for and against this, so whats the consensus? I would still keep one on a physical box.
    We run a single live DC here, with a fail-over backup being mirrored in real time to another server, ready to take over if needed. Importantly, only one DC is running at any one time. From what I understand, this should be fine. Problems arise when you have two DCs that you take snapshots of as backups, then when you come to restore them you find the DC gets confused about the date, what workstations are in what state, etc.

    One of the advantages of virtualisation is that it makes all hardware look the same, so you can move servers between physical machines if you want. It might be that your best strategy is to have two virtual DCs, in separate physical locations, with no snapshots taken of them - rely on Windows to synch data between the two servers. If one physical server breaks you can get new hardware without worrying about whether your DC will work on it. If one DC becomes currupted, gets a virus, etc, then you just carry on using the other DC and re-format the old DC as normal.

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