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  1. #1

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    Question Server advice

    I'm confused! I haven't bought any new servers for a couple of years now and have kind of lost touch with models and specs. However, I am now in the position of trying to develop an upgrade strategy and would appreciate a few pointers. I have been reading everything I possibly can and searching through recent 'which server' type posts but...

    I work in a primary school with:

    x1 Dell PowerEdge 2800 (Win 2003) Server - Bought and setup circa. 2005/6
    2Gb RAM
    ~100Gb total storage (SCSI - RAID5 I think)
    All roles
    WDS, WSUS, OCS/GLPI, ...
    Tape drive (but beginning to fail)

    x50 Dell Desktops
    x60 Dell Laptops

    x1 ReadyNAS (Backup and Media/Photo storage)

    Obviously with this setup there isn't a lot of redundancy and we are now at the absolute extent of storage. I could just upgrade the drives in the server to provide more storage but as the warranty has now run out I'm leaning towards new and I don't like the cost of SCSI drives! We also have a separate building on site which has a fibre connected cabinet already installed. I would like to utilise this for a second (rackmount) DC to provide some form of redundancy. I would also like to utilise VMs to remove some of the reliance on hardware but not sure if this is really worth bothering with or not. My ideas are changing daily at the moment which is why I'm asking for opinions and ideas!

    I'm looking at buying a new tower server to replace the current one and then a second (lower specced) rackmount server for the external building. Would it be worth using Hyper-V (or similar) on these and virtualising the DCs on both? How would this effect the specs needed?

    The budget is a bit of a moveable feast at the moment. However, I was loosely thinking of sub £1000 for the second (rackmount) DC and sub £2000 for the main tower server. How feasable is this?

    Any advice is much appreciated.

    Dave

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    I'm my opinion its always going to be about memory rather than processor speed - also do you have a preference for intel or amd processors? AMD are cheaper per ghz plus their new 6 core procesor seems quite tasty!

    You can buy some very cheap HP servers - i managed to pick up a couple of HP Ml115s for 170 each (Quad Core 2.2ghz, 1gb RAM, 160GB HDD) I took out the ram and swapped it for some OCZ Titanium sticks and they now have 6GB ram in them, between th twoof them they are running some SAN software hosting all my VMs.

    There are loads of cheap mini servers out there that would be perfect for running a couple of DCs in a VM'd solution.

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    djones (22nd January 2010)

  4. #3

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    No preference over Intel or AMD. What would be the minimum amount of RAM I should be leaning towards? After browsing a little I'm thinking:

    x1 Dual Core, 4GB, Raid 1, 2x 1TB SATA - for the rackmount 2nd DC and backup;

    x1 Quad Core, 8GB, Raid 5, 4x 1TB SATA - for main DC and File Server.

    Any opinions? Overkill? It seems the HDDs are the most expensive element, even with SATA!

    Dave

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    I thought about virtualisation for the last primary I updated. Ended up going without and used a cheap HP ML115 quad core with 4Gb Ram and WD 10k rpm 300Gb SATA drives in RAID-1. More than fast enough for their needs and does the job with no hastles.

    In short is your existing server farm/active user base sufficently large enough to make virtualisation work and reap the cost saving benefits? Does running VM's make it that much easier to swap out a single physical server on the next refresh?

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    djones (11th March 2010)

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    I thought about virtualisation for the last primary I updated. Ended up going without and used a cheap HP ML115 quad core with 4Gb Ram and WD 10k rpm 300Gb SATA drives in RAID-1. More than fast enough for their needs and does the job with no hastles.
    Reading through a lot of posts the HP servers definitely get good write-ups and seem to offer excellent value for money and 4Gb RAM / SATA appears to be the choice, certainly for the second DC (with enough clout to take over any roles/duties as needed for the time being).

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    In short is your existing server farm/active user base sufficently large enough to make virtualisation work and reap the cost saving benefits?
    Primary School, NOR ~420, Staff ~60, currently 1 DC/File Server (WDS, WSUS, OCS/GLPI, Sophos), ~110 XP clients. Rapidly increasing utilisation of media based learning (using and creating). Although have moved SIMS db out of school and onto LA hosted servers, accessed via RDP sessions.

    Not sure whether this equates to 'sufficiently large enough' to warrant using virtualisation which is why I'm asking I suppose.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Does running VM's make it that much easier to swap out a single physical server on the next refresh?
    This, I am assuming, would be the most obvious plus point - I'm trying to think in terms of disaster recovery. With regards to RAID, would R5 give noticeable performance increases over R1 considering the load indicated earlier? If I could get away with R1 with just two drives, that would obviously save a whack of money that could be spent on higher spec (more RAM to allow for VMs to be used for test purposes if not for the DC) in other areas.

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    If your going down the HP route I would recommend you look at the ML350G6's if you want a pedestal.

    I've put loads of these into service over the last two years (G5 version) and only had 1 500GB SATA fail which was swapped next day.

    I have one myself with Dual Quads and 32Gb Ram with 3TB of onboard SATA and it runs a load of VM's on 2008R2 Hyper-V including Exchange & SQL without breaking into a sweat!

    The best feature, it's almost silent so it sit's in the loft and doesn't keep me awake at night!

  9. Thanks to m25man from:

    djones (11th March 2010)

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    Ok, getting quotes at the moment. (Thanks Simon/Chris (CP) for the speedy responses!) Leaning towards HP ML350 G6 with 8Gb and 4x 300Gb SAS (Raid 5). Is there any benefit to using all HP components e.g. RAM and HDDs? Just playing with prices from various places and can save *a lot* by using other components like-for-like. I obviously don't want to compromise reliability but cannot see the benefit of spending more to maintain the brand throughout. Am I missing something?

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    I've bought one or two HP servers in the past. For RAM, if you research the spec's carefully you can easily get away with non-HP and save yourself a bundle in the process. HP Support get a bit narkey if you mention you are using non HP Ram. I tend to keep the offical HP sticks to one side so if the server has to go back the unofficial Kingston Ram comes out and the HP stuff goes in

    As for HDD's HP have an annoying habit of using their own caddies and not supplying them as off the self spares atleast none that I've been able to find. This means you're tied into buy HP HDD's when you purchase the server. Of course when it comes to replacing the HDD's later down the road you already have the caddies so again can save £££'s using non-HP.

  12. Thanks to tmcd35 from:

    djones (11th March 2010)

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    I'm looking at buying a couple of HP DL385 G6 - (Opteron 2435) 2 x 6 x 2.6GHz processor, 16GB ram out of the box i'm going to load them with ram - 64GB each and couple them with two 8TB netgear readynas units. Hopefully that'll cope with everything i need atm and for the considerable future!

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    Next question - redundant PSU or not? Was thinking 'yes' and now thinking that with 3Y NBD this wouldn't be so much of a problem. Opinions?

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post
    Next question - redundant PSU or not? Was thinking 'yes' and now thinking that with 3Y NBD this wouldn't be so much of a problem. Opinions?
    Worth doing if the PSU's are hot-swappable. Then you can replace a faulty one without powering down the server.

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    Same as above - i'm loading mine with two PSUs... atleast then if the PSU goes all i get is a warning message or light come up and not a server down for the day... worth looking at have dual UPSs too... have each powersupply in each UPS and therefore the single point of failure is the mains supply and not the UPS.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    As for HDD's HP have an annoying habit of using their own caddies and not supplying them as off the self spares atleast none that I've been able to find.
    If you google "HP Caddies" you'll find quite a few online companies who sell them, plus a load of 2nd-hand ones on ebay. Can't vouch for their reliability though.

  18. #14

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    1. HP or Dell? Pretty settled on spec but which brand - have only really used Dell servers in the past but the HPs are looking good on paper.

    2. HT CPUs or not - will I see a noticeable benefit going for a, say, E5520 with HT over a non-HT E5504? £100 difference?

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    I would say HP but i have only worked with HP but heard mixed stories about dell.

    I havn't had a bad word to say about there support either apart from you may end up on the phone for a while but you get your part next day 99.9% of the time.

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