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Building A Server With High Budget

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April 19, 2011 7:37:55 PM

Hi Guys!

My friend and I are building a server for a 1u box with a budget of about £2,500 [no debate about whether this is high or not please]. We need some help with chosing the specs as are software-guys at heart.

For HDD we want 1xWD TB

For Procsessor we want an Intel Xeon with an Intel 1366 (X58 Chipset)

We then want a RAID system set up with 3x 3TB WD HHD with 3x 3TB WD HDD Back-Up

What motherboard, powersupply and RAID Controller would we need (and anything else that we might have missed out on). We also need this to fit into 0.5amps of power.

If there's anything else you need to know about this or if I have made a mistake please leave a comment!

Thanks So Much In Advance!
Eden Crow
April 19, 2011 7:41:00 PM

Sorry for the typos that I know are there. For some reason I can't edit any of my messages here!
April 19, 2011 11:50:48 PM

I hope one of the typos is it can only use 0.5 amps of power!

Also, what are you serving? If it is just files then the Xeon is overkill.
Related resources
April 20, 2011 6:48:18 AM

Hi,

I'm Joe - I'm working with Eden on the project.
Unfortunately 0.5 is not a typo.
0.5 Amps/125 Watts is the restriction given by the datacenter. It would double the price of the datacenter if we used 1 Amp.
The guy I was speaking to at the Datacenter said if the machine is optimised correctly then it should easily fit inside the 0.5 limit.

As for the Xeon, I thought this may be worth it as the server will be hosting the actual website AND storing the data for users uploads (so will be uploading and downloading many similtaneous users files) and possibly converting files for users to download.


Thanks for your response,

Regards,

Joe
April 20, 2011 8:18:53 AM

X58? Can't an SB server do just as well? And why not an SSD for the main drive. A single WD drive isn't more reliable.
April 20, 2011 8:46:59 AM

I was looking at this mobo: http://www.amazon.com/MSI-X58M-1366-Intel-Motherboard/d... (X58). (Even though I can only seem to find it in the US).
"Can't an SB server do just as well?" - What do you mean? As well as what? You get more bang for your buck from building from your own parts if you're recommending just going out and buying a Small Business server..
"And why not an SSD for the main drive" - We were thinking about getting an SSD for the main drive if it fits into the budget after getting the more important components.
April 20, 2011 2:09:50 PM

Just like to say that Joe is with me if you were wondering.

With SSD, how big are the biggest of the lot (as in capacity, not size). We would need something with a lot of room bit that doesn't take up that much space as we have to fit everything into a 1u size box.

Thanks for your help so far!
Eden Crow
April 20, 2011 2:11:44 PM

Also, what would you reccommend for the processor then if the X58 wouldn't be that good?
April 20, 2011 2:31:16 PM

SSDs have enough space for us - we only need it for the OS and user information database etc.
For the processor I'm pretty sure we'll need a Xeon of some kind as we need the server to be able to take a LOT of uploads/downloads, page loads and possibly file conversion..
April 20, 2011 3:29:45 PM

0.5amps at 125 w/ gives you 61 W of power. If you mean 0.5A, avg power or peak power it goes from doable to you need an atom to pull it off.

Greens require ~5watts, so for 6 of em that's 30W, or half your power budget alone.

IE, not happening unless you go with an atom.
Better idea would be to raid 5, 3x 3 TB drives, giving you 15W of power.

RAM I don't recall exact number, but with low v RAM, you're looking at like 8-10 W per stick.

Add up 3 HD's and 1 stick of Ram and you're looking at 40W for CPU. Only Nehalems with TDP that low are the L56XX ones, which are severely under clocked/low performance chips. If you want the best one of these, the L5630, that's $560 for the CPU alone, which is a really poor value.

Better bet would to be go with SB. If you want 2 core hyper threaded, an i5- 2500t is 45W TDP, so underclock that a bit and you're fine. Only $220 too. Other option is i3-2100T at 35W TDP, though that's only dual core.

Honestly, 0.5A is not getting you much. The typical standard is 1 A, which gives you under clocked 95W TDP CPU's and 5 drives.

You're better off spending less money on the server, and more on the hosting, because the best possible build you can do would be a low performance and actually only like $1500.

April 20, 2011 3:35:19 PM

The server IS also do the hosting though.
Depending on how much the server machine costs we COULD up the power usage to an amp (250 Watt) however it would work out £660 more expensive per year.
Would you recommend stepping up to the Watt? (If we did - we'd need to make cuts elsewhere (the current server & RAID budget is £2250 while the colocation (storage and power) is only£660 PA).
If we up to 1A we will need to make some cuts (or find some better prices and hardware) for the machine itself.
April 20, 2011 3:57:37 PM

Oh wait, you're UK. Thought you were US for some reason. That makes things diff then. You do actually have 125W, which is the standard for the industry (I thought that was weird).

Anyway, with that, it's definitely doable. I'd still recommend staying away from Nehalem's though. They really are power hungry.

Grab an i7-2600S for 65W TDP. 4 core Hyperthreaded CPU. ~$310
Throw in 2 sticks of ram for 16W-20W. ~$110
Then do Raid 10, for 6 3TB HD's for 9TB of space for a total of 30W. ~$900
Throw in an 120gb SSD for boot (2-5W). I'd go with Intel for reliability. ~$240
Add in H67 mobo and case of your choice. ~$250
Then add in a GOOD PSU. AKA this seasonic x400 $130
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Any other less than 500W 80+ gold PSU with active pfc will also work.

That'll put you at ~120W and ~$1950. Prices may vary a bit for you guys, but with the difference in value of pound vs dollar, should be close to that amount in the end.

Alternative is to do 2, 3x 3tb Raid 5 arrays. That'll give you 4TB of space with a full backup if needed.

Honestly though, for data integrity purposes, a Raid 5 alone is enough. Not quite sure of your plans in terms of the raid array. If you're trying to avoid hardware failure, Raid 5 will work.

If you want backup for virus/hacking/data center issue/other reason, then you'd be better off with an offsite backup anyway, not an identical array at same location.
April 20, 2011 4:00:42 PM

Ok - Thanks for your quick (and informative) reply!
I'll look into these components a bit more later today - but for now I have a few questions.
1) Why the i7? I thought i7 was more for desktop computers (and I've been previously recommended to stay away from it for this reason)
2)Will this all fit inside my 1U limit? (I'm mainly worried about the 6x 3TB HDs..)

Thanks again,

Joe
April 20, 2011 4:30:21 PM

i7 basically means a 4 core hyperthreaded CPU.

Any Sandy bridge CPU is a much more efficient and power per mhz CPU than nehalems. Since no server SB cpu's exist yet, you'll need to go with mainstream ones.

The term i7 encompasses so many chips over like 8 families and 2 architectures, that it's an essentially meaningless term. Intel basically can't name things in a way that makes sense if their lives depended upon it.

Above build will fit inside 120W, so you'll have a little overhead as well. To clarify, is 0.5A the average usage or PEAK usage allowed? That makes a pretty significant difference. Above build is fine for 0.5A average.

As for physical space, wow I gotta stop skimming posts >.<.

I'm not sure what kind of racks your data center uses. The 1U term has a standard for width 19" and height, 1.75", but not depth.

Also, if the data center is using 1U racks, why are they making you build the PC? Typically data center supplies the 1U units and rents them out.

I've never actually heard of a data center just letting people throw w/e hardware they want into a 1U unit.

As for HD, 1U units use 2.5" form factor, not 3.5" drives. Anyway, you should talk to the data center and figure out exactly what they allow, and what depth racks they use.

But yea, standard desktop hardware you buy won't actually fit in a 1U unit. HD isn't a big issue though. There are plenty of 1U servers that fit 8 2.5" HD's.
April 20, 2011 4:39:25 PM

Ah ok - that makes sense I guess.
As for space 1U in width and height and when I asked them about depth I got the following response:
"The post-to-post depth is 800mm. This fits all standard Dell/HP/supermicro servers I believe."
So I only get 800mm depth..

The data center are letting me (and actually recommend me to) build my own machine and put it in their racks (so I can fully customise the software and hardware on the machine).

I asked about the 0.5A being peak or average and got the following reply:

"The 0.5amps is the sustained current draw. We use a meter during the boot process to observe the current, and then estimate "high average" usage. This ensures that if you were running CPU and disks at 100%, this would be your usage. So it's almost but not quite peak."
So unfortunately this is a near peak value :( 
They also offered a 0.75A option which costs £1020 PA (this could be an option I guess).

He also gave me some advise with relation to the machine:

"Keep your CPU TDP to a minimum and choose a server motherboard (these generally use less power and can be more reliable). Unfortunately, if you want good high capacity disk drives, they will use more power. The "green" low power alternatives tend to be slower and more prone to failure. "


With regards to your different form factors, I don't understand what any of that means - You can just use whatever HD sizes you want can't you?


Thanks for your help,

Regards,

Joe
April 20, 2011 5:14:17 PM

I think what the center means if you can buy whatever 1U sized server you want and install it. Not, go a build your own PC and put it in.

Well you can use any hardware you want, but a 1U server is actually pretty packed.

All 1u designs that have >4 HD's stack them in front on top of each other. This means 2.5" drives will fit, but 3.5" won't as they're too tall.

Where I can't help you though, is finding/buying server PSU's since I've got no clue where to find them. We just buy Dell blades here (yea I know, but university has a stupid exclusivity contract).

Power wise, I don't know actual power numbers for the WD drives at load, but I doubt you're gonna be much over. Just undervolt the CPU. Honestly, even if you downclock all the way to 2.0ghz, the i7-2600s is still a better performance CPU than the xeon.
April 20, 2011 5:20:22 PM

Although the quotes I've given make it seem like they don't really think I should build my own server - they have actually encouraged it greatly as it's cheaper and you get better quality!
So to confirm what we think so far:

CPU: i7-2600S for 65W TDP. 4 core Hyperthreaded CPU
HDs (Data): Raid 10, for 6 3TB HD's for 9TB of space for a total of 30W //Ofsite backup?
HD (Boot & Database): 120gb SSD for boot (2-5W)
Mobo: A small, good, server motherboard (We need to look into this)

It'd probably be much more effective if we could use 100% of the Data HDs in the machine for the storage, and then back then up offsite (this was recommended to me by the company as well). There would also be an issue here though as even the company has admitted that their offsite backup service is not cheap (is there a better/cheaper way?)

Regards,

Joe
April 20, 2011 5:34:42 PM

Mobo wise, just grab any good h67 mobo and you'll be fine.

Ex. Asus p8h67
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Microatx will also save you space.

If you're gonna do a full offsite backup, then just use 2 Raid 5 setups I mentioned above. so 3 x 3tb drives at the data center (6tb of space) and an identical setup offsite.

Is there any reason one of you can't just stick the HD's into a PC you have at home?
Offsite backup doesn't need to upload anything, just DL so bandwidth shouldn't be an issue.

If you want to stick with 3tb drives ( I think no 2.5" 3tb drive yet), then 4 is the theoretical max you can easily fit into a 1U. So if you really need 9TB of space you can do that.
April 20, 2011 5:55:23 PM

2 x RAID5 (3x 3TB (9TB))
I could do one onsite (Will the 3 3.5" drives fit?) and I could also put one in a spare computer I have and store it at my headquarters (where my paperwork will be stored). My issue with the offsite is simply this - how on earth do I actually get the data from the site to my backup computer?
I can't think of any way without either having to drive up there every week or having to use a lot of the bandwidth... I'm guessing there is some obvious solution that I can't think of and would appreciate it if you could point it out to me :p 

As for the mobo - Looks good! Out of interest, what's the difference between a Mini ITX (which is the Asus P8H67) and a MicroATX (which is what you suggested)?


Regards,

Joe

EDIT: Also after some research it would appear that the i7 2600S is actually not available for purchase anywhere. Could you recommend another processor? (Probably another low power one in the i7 range)
April 20, 2011 7:09:11 PM

I'm not familiar with UK hardware sites, but a quick search on ebay.uk turned up a few.
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Intel-Sandy-Bridge-Core-i7-2600s-...

International shipped from Hong Kong though.


2600s is the only hyperthreaded 65w sandy bridge out.

i5(4 core no HT) you can go with 2500s
i3 (2 core HT) you can go with 2120.

Mini itx and micro atx are just size standard for mobo's. Mini ITX is slightly smaller, but less common. It depends on what type of board their 1U racks are capable of mounting. May mount both, no idea.

As for the backup, does the data center have a bandwidth limit too?

Most automated backup software just copies over any changed/new files. So basically it's not like you're transferring 9tb each time you backup, just anything that's changed since last backup.



April 20, 2011 7:13:55 PM

Ah ok - thanks for that link (Ebay seems about the only place that sells it xD).
I don't think the datacenter has a bandwidth limit (I'll double check with them - but I'm pretty sure I seem to remember having a conversation with them about bandwidth) but I just think it'd be a bit stupid to have to transfer all the files (and hence slow everything down) by transferring the files over the internet.
Is there any other way or will I have to live with this rather petty annoyance? :p 


Regards,

Joe
April 20, 2011 7:22:43 PM

Unless you wanna drive, then yea only way. You can just schedule it backups for a low usage period, aka 2am-7am. You can also cap the transfer rate, or give it a low priority in software so that it doesn't actually slow anything else down.

April 20, 2011 11:05:40 PM

SB--not Small Business, but Sandy Bridge. But I think you got that. i3-2100T, i5-2XXX, etc.

HDD Backups--go RAID 5, RAID 10, or RAID 6. If you don't want to waste money on two extra HDDs, do RAID 5 w/ offsite backup. But do not use ALL drives for storage. You want at least minimal redundancy.

Make sure you get a good PSU. I'd go Seasonic or PC Power & Cooling.
April 21, 2011 7:00:36 AM

Ah - Ok. Sandy Bridge makes an awefull lot more sense! :p 
"Do not use all drives for storage. You want at least minimal redundancy" - I don't understand what you mean by this, I was planning to use all of the HDDs in the internal RAID array for storing data (and then the SSD for OS and website+database).

My planned hardware specs so far:

CPU: i7-2600S for 65W TDP. 4 core Hyperthreaded CPU (http://bit.ly/eUVGwh ?) £240
HDs (Data): Raid 5 for 4 3TB HD's for 9TB of space for a total of 30W (15W) £700
HDs (Backup): Same as above £700
HD (Boot & Database): 120gb SSD for boot (2-5W) (http://amzn.to/dJacMY ?) £130
MOBO: MicroATX/MiniITX server motherboard (http://amzn.to/eTxC5E ?) £120
RAM: 2GB RAM (16W-20W) £35
PSU: <500W 80 PLUS GOLD Active PFC (http://bit.ly/esGWe3 ?) £150
CASE: Any 1U (with 800mm depth) case £60
MISC: Fans, etc. £60

NOTE: I rounded a lot of these prices up for my estimates (sometimes by a fair way) as I might not be able to buy them from where I was looking at the price (usually Amazon) and you never know what might boost the cost up. (Also this money directly contributes to the ammounnt we loan and we'd rather take out more than less)
April 21, 2011 9:08:51 AM

I wondered why you were on about Small Business Servers! Lucky that you were actually talking about sandy bridge! Think that we will probably do Raid 5 with off site backup. Just need to look into exactly how that would happen. With the Raid 5, what should we look for in a controller (or what controller would be good with out exisiting set up).

Thanks For All Your Wonderful Help So Far!
Eden Crow
April 21, 2011 11:08:49 AM

Also, for the off-site back-up would a really cheap computer with the exact same storage by good enough? Its not going to need much processing power etc. I assume?
April 21, 2011 1:52:20 PM

EdenC said:
Also, for the off-site back-up would a really cheap computer with the exact same storage by good enough? Its not going to need much processing power etc. I assume?


yea any pc will do, all it's gonna do is dl data. Heck, you could just buy a cheap NAS and connect it to your home network, no additional PC required.

Even cheaper, you could also just install drives into your home PC, though that does run the risk of data loss if you're the type who gets virus and/or crashes all the time.
April 21, 2011 3:04:47 PM

OK. Thanks. I think I'm going in the right direction with the offsite back-up by asking on askubuntu.com (not that Tom's Hardware isn't the best forum around). Here's a link to the question I asked: http://askubuntu.com/questions/36263/setting-up-automated-offline-back-up Are the answers provided going to be what I need to do?

Thanks For All Your Help So Far!
Eden Crow
April 21, 2011 3:15:31 PM

Probably better place to ask software questions, this is mostly a hardware site. I personally leave the software stuff to my programmers and network admins.
April 21, 2011 3:26:29 PM

Fair enough. [t'was just a little joke].

What do you think about ventilation in a 1u unit? [Fans and things like that]
April 22, 2011 5:42:28 PM

Ventilation does seem an issue in a small 1U unit (we will need some kind of special 1U heat sinks and fans apparently).
Also - apparently the PSU we have chosen is way to big for a 1U unit and we'll need a special 1U one of some kind. Any recomendations?
Also we need RAID controllers for the RAID arrays. Any ideas for this?
April 24, 2011 1:20:52 AM

Yea, as I mentioned above, PSU wise I can't really help you. I don't deal with server PSU as a hobbyist or professionally since we buy our servers at work.

Cooling wise is another place I'm not too familiar with. You'd need to go with 40mm fans and low profile Heatsink, but I don't really know any details.

Raid controller wise, Mobo ones are sufficient. Aren't amazing, but they do the job.
April 24, 2011 6:28:46 AM

Ah ok. For the PSU then I think we might go for something like the following: http://www.pcpower.com/power-supply/turbo-cool-300-1u.h...
As for fans and heatsinks - I'll have to do some research!
"Raid controller wise, Mobo ones are sufficient. Aren't amazing, but they do the job. " - Really?
I've been told that mobo RAIDs are actually known as "fakeRAID" and should be avoided at all costs.

Regards,

Joe
April 24, 2011 4:38:46 PM

It's not fake raid, it's software vs hardware implementation. ON board and cheaper raid cards send the raid calculations to the CPU to do. The really expensive cards are hardware implementation, meaning it has it's own CPU on the card to do the calculations, hence the much higher expense.

There's tons of debate with hardware vs software RAID, and it gets into a whole buncha technical nonsense with server load balancing and other stuff thrown in to sound impressive.

End of the day both will make a RAID, whether the added cost for hardware raid is worth it for your particular use is what people pay network administrators the big bucks to figure out.
April 25, 2011 6:20:29 AM

Ah ok - I''ll do a little research into the field then :p 
As for the power of the machine itself (remember that is has to host the files AND the actual website (plus maybe features like file conversion)).
Would you say it's too powerful and we should spend more of the budget on the bandwidth, or is it about right (only a little OP (which is always good for heavy strain)) than we need?

Thanks for all your help,

Joe
April 25, 2011 2:02:16 PM

Well that goes back to the whole you need a network admin to tell you the final answer =D

In reality, I can't say, simply because I've got no idea the traffic you'll get, the website design, how many database searches it'll need to do, etc. We run our personal networked drives on a 4 year old dual core xeon and have no issues since all it's used for is HD storage.
On the other hand, our genomic and molecular modeling databases are connected to a full rack of quad core hyperthreaded blades. Obviously your needs will be somewhere in the middle, but until you actually get everything up and running, I don't think even you can accurately predict exactly what you'll need.

I can't really comment more without knowing details about website and looking at some statistics of load and usage.
April 25, 2011 2:44:01 PM

Hmm. Ok.
In that case I think we'll pretty much stick with the specs we have as I want the machine to be very flexible and able to handle a lot of growth (as well as advanced tasks such as fie conversion).

Are there actually other people on this forum that know things like PSUs and Ventilation?
If you (the reader) are one then I'd appreciate your thoughts on these subjects.

Thanks for all your help banthracis,

Joe
April 25, 2011 2:45:05 PM

OK Thanks. I think we need to look more into the website backend itself and see what we need to do so as to have a better picture of exactly the specs we need. For now though I think we've got a good enough picture of the specs to move on and actually start getting a system running.

Thanks For All Your Amazing Help, We Really Appreciate It!

@JoeSavage1 NINJA'D
April 25, 2011 2:52:30 PM

I'm not sure you'll find much help on server PSU and ventilation here. These forums are primarily hobbyist and enthusiast's in personal PC building.

I'm not actually sure where you can find a good custom rack server building forum.

Most people who use actual rack servers are businesses/universities, and you won't find many professional IT guys who build their own hardware. We just buy on company money =D
June 29, 2011 11:54:20 PM

I know this is WAY late, but in hopes you haven't made up your mind yet, look at offerings from SuperMicro and Intel. I recommend NOT building your own server unless absolutely necessary, (i.e. you REALLY know what you are doing and have VERY strict needs) I build servers for low budget clients with Intel server hardware. DO NOT buy consumer motherboards etc... for server needing the reliability you seem to need. I love mt home PC's with mid-range Asus and Gigabyte boards but, I would NEVER trust them in a setting where reliability is key aspect #1.

No offense here but, The two of you looking to build this have little idea of what you are actually doing. You should KNOW the Rack standards before building one. 4 post server racks have (Sorry for the imperial measurements) 1U=1.75"H x 16.75" W x 27.5" D Where H: Height, W: Width. D: Depth. Standard 4-post, server racks share these dimensions. YES, there IS a depth limit. And you either need a full length server chassis or half length server chassis. I recommend a FULL length so that it is supported on all 4 corners. Note: When you purchase a 1U chassis, make sure it has rack ears. Better yet, purchase a chassis and rack rail combo that has the ability to pull the complete server out on a track. I believe they are Slider rails? similar to many kitchen cabinets, keyboard trays, etc...)

I usually use Intel chassis for server builds, here is an example: SR1550, comes with a PSU and everything. If you have not realized the strict, special needs for these, do yourself a favor, stick with software and either RENT a server from the datacenter or purchase a preconfigured unit because as is quite apparent from what you are bringing up, you will not successfully build a reliable datacenter quality server, and if you do/did, it is, for all intents and purposes, a miracle.

If you NEED help looking for these parts, I work in correlation with Intel suppliers and can look at the Intel catalog to find server components you should use. PM me because I will not hold your hand through this on a public forum. I work on Enterprise equipment as a profession and time I spend posting online for free is opportunity value lost working with my company.
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