Server Build - Your Input/Feedback Welcome!

KuJaX

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Need a server and looking for some other perspectives, input, feedback, etc! Chime in and lets have a great discussion.

Purpose:
  • 15 to 20 Users
  • Act as a File Server
  • Need to desginate who has access to what file shares (Active Directory)
  • Will be running a proprietary software application that about 10 users will be tapping for information
  • I assume we will be running VM's on just one box (unless the discussion says otherwise). With this assumption then the proprietary software will also need to be public facing so it should be in DMZ. Can we do this with one physical server, having some VM's public facing and some VM's like the DC and file server internal or will it require two physical servers, one in DMZ and one behind firewall inside network?
  • This is for a Business that requires that the server be operational for the 15 to 20 employees to do their job. So would need redundancy or easily swappable parts. I'm thinking dual power supplies or atleast power supply and an additional one in the same room new to swap incase of failure. mirroring hard disk. Etc

So several people have said "just go to Dell and pickup a PowerEdge tower like a T320". But there are so many blasted options with those as well as it may not be the most economical approach. Hence, the discussions i'm trying to get through this thread. :)

I assume we will be running Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 (the proprietary software requires Server 2008 version only).

What would you suggest we do? Build ourselves? Buy a Dell/HP tower server? Buy one from eBay or another source like Dell Outlet?

What specs do we need? To me it seems like CPU/memory isn't as important as hard disk speed and network speeds.
 

Dangman

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Since this is for a business, I recommend the Dell or Dell Outlet route since that gives you a better chance of getting same day or next day support. For file serving and AD work, you really don't need that much hardware. The T320 you mentioned just happens to be a pretty good starting point IMO. While your usage should be okay with a CPU like the Pentium 1403, on the off chance that your proprietary application requires a bit of CPU, go for the Xeon E5-2420.

Assuming that you have just a regular gigabit network, a simple RAID 0 or 1 should provide more than enough storage performance over the network.
 

AcidBurn

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What are the recommended specs for the proprietary software and how much storage do you need for the file server?

Definitely buy it from Dell/HP for the service, warranty and reliability aspect.
 

KuJaX

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What are the recommended specs for the proprietary software and how much storage do you need for the file server?

Definitely buy it from Dell/HP for the service, warranty and reliability aspect.

Recommended from software vendor specs for the proprietary software:
P4 3.0 GHZ or higher
2GB memory
20GB available hard disk

Concerning the file server:
15GB

As you can see, the needs aren't that great, however, reliability and speed of accessing the files is important since many of the workers will be working ON the fileserver, basically changing documents on the file server, adding files, moving them around, etc. It should be done on the file server instead of on the local hard drive.


On a side note, we do have the ability to host the proprietary software offsite, hosted, although we don't want to do that due to the latency difference that there would be without it on-premise.
 

Dangman

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How much storage will each user need? By How much will that storage need increase over the next 3-5 years?
 

KuJaX

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How much storage will each user need? By How much will that storage need increase over the next 3-5 years?

with 15 users probably around 50GB per year.

3 years: 150GB

Although after about 3 years that 3 year old files can be backed up off site and will not be utilized at all.

Filesizes range from 50kb to 20mb pdf files with hundreds of pages.

SAS have much benefit for the cost difference over SATA?
 

RocketTech

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For Higher I/O, SAS rules over SATA. 10K disks give faster seek times too. SSDs are worth a look, but the Enterprise SLC SSDs are still out of sight IMO.

If you aren't getting a hardware SAS RAID card, there is not much point in using anything other than SATA HDDs.
 

KuJaX

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What is the budget?

There is no set budget, just looking for the right fit. I would imagine without operating system it is around $1500 to $2000 but if that doesn't fit the bill then the budget will increase. We just don't want to spend X on a box for something that we can get the same functionality (for our needs) for half of X.
 
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marley1

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Really? 1-2 grand?

That's like a mid grade workstation.

A Dell T320 or T420 with 1.9ghz 6 core Xeon, 32gb and Server 2012 standard will be probably $3500-$3800. Add whatever is needed for license

3 year next business day.

Go refurb to sag money.
 

tangoseal

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Build your own server. From the looks of it a nice Quad core Xeon will be more than enough. Dual processor is way overkill.
 

KuJaX

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Really? 1-2 grand?

That's like a mid grade workstation.

A Dell T320 or T420 with 1.9ghz 6 core Xeon, 32gb and Server 2012 standard will be probably $3500-$3800. Add whatever is needed for license

3 year next business day.

Go refurb to sag money.

But isn't that overkill based upon the need discussed?

The issue is that my experience isn't in servers, so when it comes to knowing what specs I need I don't have a clue. Hence the reason of this thread. Again, there is NO BUDGET associated with this, however, we don't want to spend more than necessary for the requirement. If our requirements mean a $10,000 server then so be it, i'll buy a $10,000 server, but I'll need some evidence as to why that is necessary to be able to get that approved.
 

D-EJ915

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Doesn't sound too intense. I'd probably roll 3 VMs for that. (AD, FS and App)

E3 xeon with 32GB and a raid card w/BBC and 4 nearline SAS/SATA disks in a raid10 would probably be fine and cost effective.

Also what kind of backup solution are you planning on using? Since this is a small place passing-through USB disks and windows backup or ? You might want to consider adding that cost into your solution.
 

MikeTrike

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You can usually get a good quality Dell PowerEdge 2950, Gen3 for about $1k to your door with 32GB RAM. Just add some decent SAS drives to it, should take 6 x 3.5" drives. Also upgrade the crap perc5 with a perc6 controller and you'll be set. 6x146GB SAS will net you just over 400GB usable space. You can probably get everything for under well under $1500.

I'm a fan of the 2nd hand market for budget constrained projects. :)

Shot of my 2950's in action: http://youtu.be/HmwrAtfKpKc

Though on my 2950's I picked up, I strip the drives out, don't care about the perc5 and run a small SSD RAID1 mirror to boot the hypervisor; generally XenServer.
 

Mackintire

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Personally I'd buy (2) T320s with (any speed) quad cores 16GB RAM min and RAID 10 using SAS drives (any speed as long as they are SAS).

Buy a copy of Altaro to back up to a 2 bay cheap-o nas with 2x4tb drives.

Run Server 2012 with Hyper-V.

The above gives you the ability to recover in a morning, if something craps out and you should be able to run your apps at full speed with no issue.

If and when you need to upgrade, you can live migrate to the other server, update your hardware and live migrate/balance your load again.

4K and you're done.
 

Mackintire

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You can usually get a good quality Dell PowerEdge 2950, Gen3 for about $1k to your door with 32GB RAM. Just add some decent SAS drives to it, should take 6 x 3.5" drives. Also upgrade the crap perc5 with a perc6 controller and you'll be set. 6x146GB SAS will net you just over 400GB usable space. You can probably get everything for under well under $1500.

I'm a fan of the 2nd hand market for budget constrained projects. :)

Shot of my 2950's in action: http://youtu.be/HmwrAtfKpKc

Though on my 2950's I picked up, I strip the drives out, don't care about the perc5 and run a small SSD RAID1 mirror to boot the hypervisor; generally XenServer.


We have a couple of those 2950's. They arn't the most efficient, but they are still decent workhorses.

Last month I just converted one into being my new FileServer. 16 cores (overkill for this use) running 2.5Ghz 16GB of RAM and 240GB of SAS storage in RAID 10 via perc6. 6 Intel nic ports + 2 broadcom ports (disabled). Makes a snappy file/print server attached via 4 x 1Gbe to my 48TB SAN. I have (1) nic dedicated to my private Vlan and another nic dedicated for backup. I measured 490MB/s in and out of the SAN and a solid 10MB/s from our local facility (4 miles away) and 5MB/s from another facility (400 miles away) while a 20MB/s backup was running all simultaneously before we brought the system online for production use. The print server is running 11 printers all with driver isolation enabled. It uses about 6GB of RAM on avg, but I've seen it balloon to 9GB.

Our enduser's finally stopped complaining.

Sure as hell is better than the 2 core 2GB ram VM in our hosts shared cluster that we previously used. On that POS I was seeing on 80mbit from the SAN on a good day and 20mbit on a bad day.

The point is... the generation of the server does not matter. As long as you achieve the performance metrics your management and users have set within the budget alloted you're gravy.
 

MikeTrike

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They definitely do a good job and are well suited for what we've been throwing at them. Especially that little AX150i we've got them running on. I don't think we can squeeze anything else out of that. I'm pretty sure those are SATA I spindles in there if I recall correctly. :) lol

But this is what's running on it, was setting up that 3rd until I realized they sent me a Gen II instead of a Gen III with the proper CPU's. :(



I just got it all up to XenServer 6.1 with all the hotfixes.

And it only pulls about 2A @ 110V, however I'd expect that to jump up a bit with SAS spindles loaded up. In the area of 3-4A @ 110V most likely. I've never ran spindle drives in ours, just the SSD boot mirror, so I can't really confirm either way.
 

RocketTech

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1.5-2K dollars needs to be doubled, at minimum. Budget and timeframe are 2 key requirements of any project. I'm all for roll-your-own servers, but without experience in enterprise server builds, I'd have to agree with the original recommendation of a top-tier OEM with NBD support. 3K is do-able for a roll-your own, but mistakes can wipe that out, and more very quickly.

I would steer you towards Server Essentials, test the legacy app in a trial before pulling the trigger- App Compatibilty should allow you to run it fine. 32GB is a ridiuclous number to start off with for RAM- start with 8-16GB. Hyper-V 2012 is free, a great choice for virtualization and has some great features- I would go that route and put Server Essentials or 2012 standard on top of it. 4 cores should be fine for your workload, and 8 cores would definitely cover your bases. 16-cores is absolutely excessive for your needs- half the cores will be sitting idle.
 

thrash408

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Do. Not. Build. Your. Own. Server. For. A. Business.

You have to look at it like "if i move, get hurt, or decide to not help these people anymore, at least they still have support from the manufacture". If someone has to come in and work on this after you, dell and HP will at least enable that person to get parts if needed.

I've been pushing Dell R320's with 2 x 1TB hd's for around 2k (education discount) and they work great.
 

KuJaX

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So instead of building or buying new, what about used? I have someone that has the following for sale:
Dell PowerEdge T410
Qty 1 E5620 @ 2.4Ghz
16GB (2x8gb) Memory ECC DDR3 1067
Poweredge raid controller PERC 6/i
Qty 2 - 1TB Hitachi 7.5k 3.5 in RAID 1 currently
Ability to add 4 more hard drives (for 6 drives total). RAID support: 0,1,5,6,10,50,60
Broadcom NetXtreme II Ethernet Dual Port (2 gigabit) NICs
PowerEdge expandable RAID Controller Bios
Purchaed June 2012 (less than 1 year old)
NBD good to June 2015

Seems like a good deal. I can just take out the hard disks and put in SAS drives for RAID 10 as many of you have recommended.

My only concern is that it doesn't have dual power supplies.

Good deal and would work for our situation? Or would we be better off simply buying new?
 
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Dangman

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If the warranty is transferable, it's not a bad deal.
 

thrash408

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You might be able to add a PSU into that, if that is the case that seems like a good deal. Add some 10k drives and reformat and you should be good to go. Use the 1TB for file shares and the other virtual drive for the OS
 

Innocence

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Depending on how cheap it needs to be, and how available you want to be to fix it, and how long term it should be in service, you could look the used-hardware route.

We just picked up a lot of 6 Dell R710's for $460 each on fleabay - 4 are going into production in non-essential roles to replace old tower hardware (need to eliminate a rack for new cooling system). They're quad core Xeon's with 12-24GB RAM each, PERC6/i, iDRAC6 Enterprise on 2 of them, and 10PSU's between the 6.

Extended warranty on these machines would be around $7000 each for 3 years next day, so that's why we're holding on to "hot spares".
 

Mackintire

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So instead of building or buying new, what about used? I have someone that has the following for sale:


Seems like a good deal. I can just take out the hard disks and put in SAS drives for RAID 10 as many of you have recommended.

My only concern is that it doesn't have dual power supplies.

Good deal and would work for our situation? Or would we be better off simply buying new?

That'll work.

Use SAS drives in RAID 10. Faster is better, but don't exchange 10k drives in RAID 1 for 7.2k drives in RAID 10. You generally want RAID 10 for this build.
 

jpochedl

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Depending on how cheap it needs to be, and how available you want to be to fix it, and how long term it should be in service, you could look the used-hardware route.

We just picked up a lot of 6 Dell R710's for $460 each on fleabay - 4 are going into production in non-essential roles to replace old tower hardware (need to eliminate a rack for new cooling system). They're quad core Xeon's with 12-24GB RAM each, PERC6/i, iDRAC6 Enterprise on 2 of them, and 10PSU's between the 6.

Extended warranty on these machines would be around $7000 each for 3 years next day, so that's why we're holding on to "hot spares".

Sorry, just going to detour for a second because I'm feeling like a nit-picking tonight. :)

...But are they really "hot spares" ? Are the spare machines online and ready to take over for a failed unit at a moments notice?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_spare

Usually when we buy spare equipment off eBay, it's held as a cold spare (sitting on a shelf, not connected). In rare cases, maybe even a warm spare (connected, partially configured, and ready to power on).... But rarely ever a true hot spare.

Anyhow, back on-topic... I'll agree with everyone else, stick with major manufacturer equipment for anything that's going to run in a "missions critical" or even "mission important" capacity. Otherwise, you can end up with "mission impossible" if something breaks... At least with name brand equipment, there's a really good chance, even 6+ years down the road, of finding a used equipment reseller that still has parts.

Used equipment can be OK, but as Innocence alluded to, never buy just one if it's going into production. Always buy something to have as a spare (hot, warm, or cold.... you decide.), especially if you don't intend to add maintenance (and honestly, adding maintenance usually isn't worth it) . I usually look to buy a cold spare when the cost of the spare is less than the expected cost of keeping maintenance for another year. I also find that used equipment, just off lease, tends to make really good development and test boxes....

Maybe I'll stop rambling now. Peace. :)
 

Innocence

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Sorry, just going to detour for a second because I'm feeling like a nit-picking tonight. :)

...But are they really "hot spares" ? Are the spare machines online and ready to take over for a failed unit at a moments notice?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_spare

Usually when we buy spare equipment off eBay, it's held as a cold spare (sitting on a shelf, not connected). In rare cases, maybe even a warm spare (connected, partially configured, and ready to power on).... But rarely ever a true hot spare.

Anyhow, back on-topic... I'll agree with everyone else, stick with major manufacturer equipment for anything that's going to run in a "missions critical" or even "mission important" capacity. Otherwise, you can end up with "mission impossible" if something breaks... At least with name brand equipment, there's a really good chance, even 6+ years down the road, of finding a used equipment reseller that still has parts.

Used equipment can be OK, but as Innocence alluded to, never buy just one if it's going into production. Always buy something to have as a spare (hot, warm, or cold.... you decide.), especially if you don't intend to add maintenance (and honestly, adding maintenance usually isn't worth it) . I usually look to buy a cold spare when the cost of the spare is less than the expected cost of keeping maintenance for another year. I also find that used equipment, just off lease, tends to make really good development and test boxes....

Maybe I'll stop rambling now. Peace. :)
Yeah, I suppose they're warm spares - 1 is a windows file server on a 6-hour replication schedule and the other is a vmWare box that does nightly dumps. They would require configuration to come up, so you're completely correct.
 

KuJaX

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I believe my hardware needs have been clearly outlined: SAS 10k/15k drives, RAID 10, go with big name mfg.

Now lets discuss proper backup and failover :)

With one box being accessed it gives us one point of failure. I can have RAID 10, redundant power supplies and battery backup. However there are certainly many other components such as motherboard and cpu that could potentially fail and there goes the productivity for the day.

With that being said, lets start a discussion about backup strategies. I assume another box with similar specs or a cold spare, etc. Lets discuss pro's and con's of each and their underlying strategy.
 

jtr8178

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Guys, stop with the 10K/15k drives, that is overkill for this small operation... Save some money and go with some cheaper drives. You won't notice the difference.

We back up all of our servers to NAS, which is then replicated to another NAS off-site at another location of ours.... You will want to do some type of off-site back-up (Cloud or even external hard drive).

Also, make sure to throw the MS licenses in there. To do Server 2013 I think it is around $800 for a license.
 

thrash408

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Guys, stop with the 10K/15k drives, that is overkill for this small operation... Save some money and go with some cheaper drives. You won't notice the difference.

We back up all of our servers to NAS, which is then replicated to another NAS off-site at another location of ours.... You will want to do some type of off-site back-up (Cloud or even external hard drive).

Also, make sure to throw the MS licenses in there. To do Server 2013 I think it is around $800 for a license.

Its not always about speed being a overkill. 7.2k SATA drives (consumer grade) only have a 1 year warranty, where as SAS drives are considered "enterprise drives" and Dell/HP will honor them if they die within the warranty of the server.
 

Innocence

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Its not always about speed being a overkill. 7.2k SATA drives (consumer grade) only have a 1 year warranty, where as SAS drives are considered "enterprise drives" and Dell/HP will honor them if they die within the warranty of the server.
They're usually sold separately, at least by HP.

And tons of SATA HDD's have 3 year coverage - or even longer
http://support.wdc.com/warranty/policy.asp
http://www.eurobyte.co.za/seagate_warranty_policy.htm

In my test systems a RAID10 array of Seagate Baracuda's (current line, 2TB) is faster for bulk file reads and writes than a 15k SAS array in our PowerEdge 2950's

The 15K's are still faster for 4K transactions and seek time, but it doesn't look like you're building a SQL box...
 

thrash408

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Ah well Dell sells SATA drives with the mfg warranty and nothing else. You can buy more warranty, but it comes out to be the same price as buying SAS drives with the warranty on the server.
 

RocketTech

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Good Point, Innocence. WD Black drives are great, have a 5-year warranty, and can keep up with SAS for most non-seek intensive applications.SAS 15K is definitely outside of the scope of this project.

Be careful using 2TB drives (or any other large drives) in Striping applications (such as RAID 0, RAID 10)- you may find yourself unable to boot or format the entire volume, unless your RAID controller supports it.
 

Mackintire

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ok now you're going into my domain...."Hardware"

SAS drives are faster with smaller more frequent access patterns. They also play nicer with both the HP and Dell RAID controllers. The SATA drives perform much worse under multiple applications.

Without specifics I can not tell you how much worse, but I will tell you that short of a single tasked fileserver or NAS, I'm not going to use SATA.

That said for OPs purposes 7.2k SAS drives in RAID 10 should be sufficient.

Lastly in cases where I would consider SATA drives, I would not use WD Black drives for a higher level RAID array 5,6, 50. 60. I would use WD Red drives in a NAS or homebrewed file server, or the RE series elsewhere. For Seagate that means ES drives.


The reason the WD black drives do not support trim. The HP and PERC controllers will puke a drive out of the array with far too often frequency in the circumstances listed above.

Another homebrew option is the 10k Raptor drives...which do support trim.

Lastly....If at all possible always use hotspares when your drive density is over 1TB per drive and more than 6 drives are in the array.
 

schnell

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Do. Not. Build. Your. Own. Server. For. A. Business.

This x1000. Trust me you don't want to be telling your boss at 4am that the server you built to save a few bucks is down. You want to be able to tell him that Dell/Hp/whoever is going to replace the dead parts on a 4hr SLA and the server will be back up tomorrow because you have maintenance agreements.
 

KuJaX

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Any other comments or suggestions about backup/failover setups?
 

thrash408

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It seems like something as simple as a QNAP or Synology NAS would be good. You could have your server do daily backups and sending them to the NAS. Or you could pay for a offsite backup, which would probably be a pretty penny over time.
 

RocketTech

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I do on-site and off-site backup- nothing beats the speed of on-site backups, and the security of off-site backups is hard to beat.
For smaller installs, I use the built-in backup utility- Windows 7 backup is pretty good, and Server 2012 backup will now do Hyper-V backups. Setup storage space for backups, then backup the storage space to your favorite off-site storage- I use Amazon and CrashPlan.
 
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