Need suggestions on MOBO/CPU selection for a VMWare server

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
I need some advice on putting together a new server to run some Virtual Machines for a testing environment. I've been out of the IT industry for 2+ years due to some very serious medical issues, so I'm a little behind on the current hardware. I need to set up a “corporate network” atmosphere to allow me to practice installing, configuring and administering various OS's and get back in the swing of things.

I'd like to run VMWare and/or Xen for the virtual server on a Linux base install. I'm planning on setting up some virtual machines that include:

2003 Enterprise Edition
2003 Data Center
MCE 2005
XP Pro
Win 2000
Centos 4.0
Kubuntu 6.10
Fedora Core 6
Ubuntu server 6.10
FreeBSD

I already have 14 hard drives (4TB+) to work with, so I should be good there. What I need to get is: a nice MOBO, CPU and compatible RAM, video card(s) I DON'T GAME, PSU, cooling & maybe a RAID card. My budget is roughly $1500

Is it possible to get a dual CPU MOBO and only use one CPU until I save some more $ for a matching CPU and RAM?

I'd like to get 2 20.1” monitors (1680x1050), but think these would be better used on my desktop pc.?

Thanks for any suggestions. I really appreciate it!:) If anyone has any suggestions on what they do to learn new OS's I'd appreciate it, just playing a little catchup here.
 

spectrumbx

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 2, 2003
Messages
1,647
You are going to need plenty of ram.
Get yourself :
- 4x 2GB sticks of ram (I can help you with that - pm me)
- Conroe 6300-6400 (don't upgrade the cpu unless your applications require it)
- Cheap stable mobo (intel 965 based)

Those 3 should cost around $900.

The mobo should have 8 SATA ports onboard, so you will need a cheap 6 ports SATA card for the remaining drives.

I don't think you need all those drives though.
You will probably only need 3-6 of them as dedicated VM drives.
I have run 8 VMs on a single 320GB SATA drive and everything was good.
Heck, I have run 4 VMs on a 250GB firewire drive and everything was decent.

I am upgrading my VMware server (see sig) and have 6x 500GB SATA drives for the job (VMware + DVDs).
I am fighting to get 16GB of ram for it. I don't have all of it yet.
 

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
Thanks for the suggestions! I agree on the RAM needed, that has always been top on the list.

I see that you suggest Intel. Is there a reason? I was actually thinking of going with an AMD processor, but I'm open to suggestions here.

Also, what OS are you running VMWare server on? I've been trying to figure out which would be best for that. I have been using Ubuntu for that last 3-4 months and really like it.

As far as the hard drives, I'm not sure what I'm going to do here. Here's the list I have now..

5 160GB IDE WD's
2 74GB Raptors SATAI
2 36GB Raptors SATAI
3 500GB 5000KS WD's SATAII
2 500GB 5000YS WD SATAII
2 250GB 2500KS WD SATAII

Possible setup:
4 Raptors (Base server install & VM OS's)
5 160GB (RAID 0)
2 500GB 5000YS (removable for backup, in Athena power rack)

The Raptors are the first generation drives, but still not to bad. Maybe I'll sell the Raptors, or just the 36's.. I've considered distributing the base OS install over the 4 Raptors.

I'll use the 2 250's and the 3 500's on a file server, for my DVD collection.
 

spectrumbx

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 2, 2003
Messages
1,647
Glad to see another person building a VMware/file server. :)

I use Windows 2003 for my host, but Ubuntu is what I would use if I were to use something else (if I did not have this free copy of windows).

My suggestion for intel is because you get the most performance per your dollar right now with a conroe CPU. You won't need that much CPU power (trust me).
After all, even with 20 OSes and 50 applications, you will be the "one" user of the system. Hence, you need just enough CPU for you.

The number one thing to understand about VMware and hard drives is that you will get little benefit from RAID. This is because you have multiple OSes doing lot of small read and writes. A RAID 5 would actually hurt performance.
Things would be even worst if you set the VMs to page internally as opposed to paging to the host when using RAID.

The best hard drive configuration for VMs is to spread them on independent hard drives.

In my setup, for the six 500GB (WD500AAKS) I have:
1x OS (30GB - first partition) | DVD remaining
4x VMs(xxGB - first partition) | DVD remaining
1x VMs(xxGB - first partition) | data remaining

Then, I have 2+TB in 4 daisy chained firewire drives solely for backups.

Back to your setup:

Sell or trade for larger external backup storage:
5 160GB IDE WD's

OS:
1 36GB Raptors SATAI

VMs:
2 74GB Raptors SATAI
1 36GB Raptors SATAI
2 250GB 2500KS WD SATAII

DVDs and Backups:
3 500GB 5000KS WD's SATAII
2 500GB 5000YS WD SATAII
 

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
I was wondering about the RAID setup. I was playing with it just to have a little experience with RAID admin. It also made it easier to migrate over to Linux..

I have also been thinking about selling the raptors and maybe going with a SCSI Fujitsu 74Gb or 147GB drive. 2ms access, for the same prices as Raptors! Do you know anything about the benefits of using SCSI over SATA? I know SCSI can reduce the load on the load on the CPU (especially compared to PATA).

Back to the CPU. I did notice that the price on the E6600's was pretty nice.

Now I need to know your RAM idea..
 

spectrumbx

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 2, 2003
Messages
1,647
I don't think you need SCSI and its additional expense.
I would say yes to SCSI only if you were set on having only one drive for all of your VMs.

Again, apply everything as you being the single user.
Still, you can create virtual SCSI disks for the VMs on standard IDE or SATA drives.

As far as RAID, you can practice it with software RAID inside the VMs.
You can even do iSCSI inside the VMs.
 

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
I never thought about trying to create virtual RAID arrays! That's a great idea! I think I will stick with the SATA and if I end up using a database a lot, I'll invest in a SCSI drive at that point. Until then I really don't need 2ms seek/access times.

Now I'm kinda torn as what to do for the MOBO/CPU setup.
If I go with AMD, I like this board:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813182081


I also like this Combo deal: (E6600 & Asus P5WDG2-WS)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16819115003
But this board only supports 8GB of RAM.

I can't believe how expensive RAM is! I might only be able to go with 4GB's now.. I'll just have to make due.

If i buy 2 2GB sticks and decide to add the same amount down the road, does it matter if it is the same brand?
 

spectrumbx

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 2, 2003
Messages
1,647
I never thought about trying to create virtual RAID arrays! That's a great idea! I think I will stick with the SATA and if I end up using a database a lot, I'll invest in a SCSI drive at that point. Until then I really don't need 2ms seek/access times.

Virtual everything is the key when you are trying to learn. ;)
You can create as many virtual disks as you want for your RAID and experiment will all sort of RAID configurations with a few mouse clicks.

Again, there is no database for your personal use that will require SCSI.
My database server VM hosts some very large enterprise level databases with no issue during mass data loading let alone normal usage.

The ASUS P5WDG2-WS is a great mobo and has support for ECC memory: http://www.hothardware.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=786&cid=3

8GB (4x 2GB) is the realistic max on a desktop.
4GB sticks are way too expensive (I should know - my wallet can tell you more on that) and supported only on server motherboards.

You can buy 2 matching 2GB sticks now and 2 matching sticks later (no need to match the first 2 sticks).

The E6600 is the best all around chip (speed and price).
It is more than you need, but more has never hurt.
 

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
Well, I think the E6600 and the ASUS P5WDG2-WS is a good combo. I am going to read up on it a little and see if there are any down sides to this setup. I hate buying something and finding out after the fact that it isn't what I need.

is the E6600 64bit? I'm thinking it isn't. I'd like to get a 64bit CPU. What are your suggestions on that?
 

spectrumbx

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 2, 2003
Messages
1,647
Yep, 64bit.
For absolute stability I prefer Intel's bad axe 2.

Definitely do read more starting with the intel mobo forum.
 

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
What is the model for the "Bad axe 2" ? I tried finding it on Newegg and didnt' have any luck. a link to the newegg site would be great!

I found this in another posting in this forum. I found the MOBO for $55 cheaper at MWAVE
. I used to use Mwave b4 newegg blew up the scene and was thrilled with them.

Is SLI something I should look into for this system? I really need to read up on what it is and what it's benefits are. I'm not even sure what SLI is, lol.
 

caffiendo

n00b
Joined
Jan 10, 2007
Messages
53
I thought SLI was gaming/graphics related, but wasn't 100% sure. Yeah, I did get a little lazy about looking for that, sorry bout that..

It looks like the bad axe 2 is a solid mobo and it is priced nice. I'm going to do some more reading about it and go from there. The E6600 is looking nice too.

you got a PM too.
 
Top