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New Windows Server and Hyper V setup

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October 27, 2012 5:06:54 AM

Hi guys,
first off please let me say that I'm familiar with most 'home computing' topics (building PCs, home networks / servers, OCing, etc etc), however, I've never really had to work with business class products (ie. Windows Server).

Anyway my enthusiasm has landed me the unofficial IT guy at the small company I work at (15 employees).

Short story is, we currently do not have a server, and we absolutely need one.
I'm finally getting admin warmed up to the idea, and I want to start thinking about the actual setup.

The main reasons why we need a server are
1) To host a CAD (we do 3D design) Product Data Management software. This is a two fold software: Parts of it is an 'archive server', and the second part is a 'SQL server'.
2) PC client backups
3) General File sharing

Those are the main reasons, but also, I do want to keep room for expansion because I know once everybody realizes the benefits, we will want to move other applications to the server (like accounting, inventory, orders, etc).

My question is regarding visualization, which I never worked with on a server level.

I understand that best practices state that, for businesses, there should be 1 application per server.
From what I could understand from my readings, this approach is more stable because if a VM crashes, the other VMs keep running. Also, this insures no interference between softwares, as they are installed on different VMs.
Since there is no way we will purchase multiple server, I was wanting to setup VM's and have one VM per application.

The trouble I'm having is defining 'applications'.
Should I have separate VMs for the 3D archive server, the SQL server, the backup server, file sharing, DHCP & printer sharing?

That's a total of 5 VMs, plus future expansion- seems excessive considering we're new to this; no?

Also, if we take the visualization approach and use VMs, do we run anything at all on the 'host OS', or is the host only used to run the Virtual machines?

Windows 2012 Standard can be installed as host + 2 VMs.
I was thinking to run all engineering software (3D archive + SQL database) in one VM, and everything else in a second VM, nothing on the host.

As you can see I'm looking for a bit of guidance here.
Your input would be very appreciated.

Thanks.
October 27, 2012 5:26:25 AM

If you want to run VM's I would recommend something like WMware ESXi as the host OS, then run all the windows VM's from that, that's what we did in the Medium sized business I worked for.
For something like that you want would a Min of a Quad Core Xeon, Preferably 2 x Quadcore's depending on the VM's , lots of Ram (16gb+) and fast Disk subsystem, like SAS drives etc..
October 27, 2012 5:02:40 PM

For a small business environment, it's going to cost much more to step into ESXi then starting with Hyper-V, the licensing fees are quite different when you're looking at the lower number of devices and VMs. Plus, for me anyways, it seems that Hyper-V is less complicated and easier to get up and running if you've never done any kind of virtualized environment before, especially if the business doesn't even have a server yet. I do like ESXi, but if this is the first server, and this will be your first time with any server OS and virtualization, I'd stick with Windows as it has less learning curve.

Planning in some flexibility and upgradability with your server hardware is quite important in your situation I feel. You may have a few things to begin with that you can already move to your server but just as you said, in a couple years who knows what else you may want to throw on there!

In a lot of cases, you do have many places referring to single service for a single VM, so if you need to modify a service, or a system has some fault, it only affects that one service and not everything else. However, this is very inefficient in terms of cost and resources when you have multiple services you need for in a small business. It just doesn't make sense to have to purchase all that licensing and additional hardware to run so many VMs when you can consolidate into just a couple or a few.

What you are thinking is probably what I would recommend. You will need one virtual machine for running your application server (3D Archive and SQL) and one virtual machine for running Windows services like print server and file sharing. For the size of your office, this is probably going to be the most efficient use of resources.

On the hardware side, you may consider looking into a dual-socket server system. This doesn't mean you have to buy a server right away with dual processors, but if you do need to expand the server to meet your growing demands, then you can throw in another identical processor, more RAM, and you have a lot more resources now to work with without having to completely replace the server. I'd recommend looking at a quad-core hyper-threaded processor at least to begin with, perhaps even a hexa-core or greater. I don't think you'd need to worry too much about keeping high clock speeds for your processors as you currently don't have the workload that will require it. Plus, higher clocked server processors bring on much greater expense! Start out with 16 GB of RAM at least, saving 4 GB for the host OS and 6 GB for each of your VMs or whatever works most efficiently for their appropriate demand. If you go with a dual-socket server, you'll be able to accommodate much greater amounts of RAM as needed.

Also important is considering your storage subsystem. The more throughput you have for your hard drives the better your overall server performance will be! At minimum, I'd recommend 10K or 15K SAS hard drives in either a RAID 1 or RAID 10 array for your host OS and running virtual machines, and another RAID 1 or RAID 10 of enterprise class 7K SATA hard drives or 10K or 15K SAS drives. I usually recommend keeping your "storage" data separated from your "virtual machine" data so it's easier to manage, backup, and organize.

It's hard to give a whole lot of specifics on what to recommend here as I'm not too sure of details about your business such as file sizes that you are working with, how much data storage you need, the levels of redundancy and backup you are wanting, the amount of acceptable downtime due to faults with the server, or your budget. However, I will try to help out however I can if you have any other questions or need more details!
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October 27, 2012 9:16:39 PM

wow thanks very much for the detailed and useful info!

Choucove, from the points you brought up, I think you already have a good understanding of our situation.
We are a small business with only 15 employees, currently running no server at all (peer-to-peer). It's pretty terrible.

I'm new to the company, and although they actually had planned to install a server, they had nobody to do it.
It would be a huge advantage to us, and I think it's something I can tackle as an extra responsibility in between projects.

Flexibility & Upgradability is indeed key for us, because I feel we will, slowly and over time, be moving apps to the server.
Your recommendation for the hardware is pretty much close what I was looking at:
I am actually looking at Dell's 1 socket servers like the R210 or R320, which are much more affordable than 2 socket servers (even if there's only 1 processor installed). If we really outgrow the capability of a Xeon processor, than we can always buy a second physical server. It would also be better down the line to have 2 physical servers for easier disaster recovery.
16 GB of RAM is what I was looking at (4x4Gb).

In terms of the shear number of VMs, exactly like you said, for such a small company, it doesn't make sense for us to pay for all this licensing. We were hoping to get away with 1 Windows Server 2012 Standard license (which is 1 host + 2VMs). Down the line, when we decide to move more things to the server, we can always buy a second license which would up the number of VMs to 4. I think this is all we would ever need.

The critical server roles, or in other words, the first 2 things that will be moved to the server are 1) Engineering (3D data + SQL database) and 2) client backups.

Your suggestion was this:
VM#1: 3D + SQL
This seems uncommon because SQL is generally a VM all on its own. In our case, since SQL would only be used for the engineering software, it makes sense to put them both on the same VM. I agree.
VM#2: print server + file sharing + client backup

Is this right? I added the backup role to VM#2 in there.
So nothing runs on the Host, correct? This is something I was a bit unsure about: the host is essentially only used to run the VM, if I understand.

Finally, you bring up an excellent point regarding storage!
Actually, first off, let me say that the engineering VM (3D + SQL) would need to be a lot more powerful than the other VM.
We have dozens of project which all have 3D assemblies of hundreds of parts, which translate to hundreds of files. Individual projects easily reach 2-3Gb in size each.
When a project is open, all these files need to be read to open the 3D assembly.
Anyway I'm sure you understand that the 3D + SQL VM will always be the most demanding VM we will ever have. We will never have a VM requiring more resources than the engineering VM.

Now back to storage:
I'll be honest this is where I get a bit lost; there are so many more options than consumer grade HDs, and prices are quite a bit higher as well, plus I have to balance price, performance, redundancy and ease of recovery.
Here's what I understand from your recommendation (not sure if it's right):

-2 15K hard drives in RAID 1 for host + VMs
-2 7K hard drives in Raid 1 for general file storage.
(Raid 10 is probably not the option for us because of its high price).
The Dell servers we're looking at can have up to 4 hot swapable drives; so seems like it would work.

What I'm wondering is, what are the VMs 'aware' of in terms of storage?
Let's say my OS and the 2 VMs run off the 15K drives in RAID 1. This probably would not require much space, so 146GB should be enough.
Now are you saying all the engineering data (database + 3D files) would be physically stored on the 7K hard drives?
Same thing for the file sharing VM - all files would be stored on the 7K drives?
So essentially it's a bit analogous to installing Windows 7 on the C drive, and saving data to the D drive.
In this case, the host + guests run off the 15K drives, but all data is stores on the 7K drive.

Did I get this right? Please excuse my ignorance :s
My only 'concern' is always for the engineering VM: would performance be good enough with the 3D files and SQL saved to 7K drives?

Thank you thank you thank you!






October 27, 2012 9:42:37 PM

Given your needs, I'd be hesitant to stick with a server that can only offer four hard drives. You're going to need more storage and flexibility than that unless you set up a whole separate server for storage and essentially move towards a Server with a separate SAN.

Look into the HP ProLiant ML350p series servers. These systems are dual-socket, but come normally with a single processor to begin with. They can support either six large form factor or eight small form factor hard drives, and tons of RAM. You also get the option for redundant power supplies which can be beneficial if you have some poor power quality issues in your area like we do here.

Your description of the two VMs is what I was thinking of as well. This keeps the 3D and SQL data isolated from the rest of the Windows services and file storage option. Adding another whole VM just to run your SQL database, at your size of business, I don't think would be beneficial but possibly even detrimental to your performance and cost. And you are correct, ideally you want the host OS to just be a bare metal installation that runs your virtual machines. The less other tasks it has to do, the more resources that are free for efficiently running your virtual machines, and the less likelihood that something strange will cause your system to go down.

Client backup can be done in many different ways. Do you have a program in particular that you are running as a service to back up clients? The easiest way I've found to do this, and the cheapest, is to set up Windows 7 Backup and Restore Utility to automatically backup to a network storage location for each computer. You can have it do this automatically at a scheduled time and recovery is pretty simple and straightforward. Plus, this is all free software already included in Windows.

Hard drives are perhaps one of the most expensive components for your entire server. If you want the best performance, it's going to require a large number of drives in separate RAID arrays for the best performance. For example, your host OS would run on a RAID 1 array of 15K SAS drives or a couple SSDs. Next you would need a couple of drives in RAID 1 on at least 7k RPM SATA enterprise hard drives for your Windows services (file sharing etc.) and for data storage. You'd then need another RAID 1 array of 15k SAS drives or a couple of SSDs that you can pass through directly to Hyper-V to use as the OS drive of your 3D + SQL virtual machine. All this really adds up and you are limited by the capacity of individual hard drives in 10k SAS and 15k SAS as well as SSDs. This is why RAID 10 could be beneficial. A group of four 500 GB 7k SATA hard drives in RAID 10 will offer rather close performance to a couple 450 GB 15k SAS hard drives in RAID 1, but you are getting more than twice the storage capacity at about half the cost.

Again, I'd highly recommend for your purposes looking into the HP ProLiant ML350p series of servers. You can buy the base unit and add your own hard drives and memory FAR cheaper than purchasing a fully loaded system directly through them. The same story goes for Dell. Purchasing a base configuration and adding your own hardware is going to be more feasible than trying to fully load your system with their outrageous upgrade prices!

In the end, though, if you have only four hard drives total to utilize, and are trying to get the best performance as well as the best capacity out of just those four drives, you're going to have to make some sacrifices. I'd have to say in that scenario you're best bet is to run the host OS, your Windows services VM, and the data storage for that VM on a set of RAID 1 10k SAS drives in as high capacity as you can possibly afford, and even then you may be quite surprised how fast you use up that space! I'd then say you'd have to do another set of RAID 1 10k SAS drives in as high capacity as you can possibly get just for your 3D and SQL virtual machine and all of its data and pass the whole RAID array through Hyper-V to the virtual machine. This isn't going to give you a lot of room for expansion though. As it is, you already are at the maximum capacity of your server now and no longer have room for adding new servers or the expected growth of your server over it's expected life span.
October 27, 2012 11:32:38 PM

One thing I might also point out: You can spend all the money you want on a server system and overkill the performance beyond anything you can dream. But if your network infrastructure is not adequate for the demand, or your design isn't set up properly, then it's not going to make any difference.

I guess I should state that most situations we have had to put in a server system for a small business for the first time, the biggest task is not setting up the actual server. It's setting up the entire network to accommodate the server in the most efficient way, as well as migrating data onto the server and assisting users in learning how to utilize the server properly instead of leaving data all over their desktop and My Documents still.

If you're looking at getting the kind of throughput and performance from your server that it sounds like you are pursuing, I should also ask what kind of network hardware you have in place. Do you have gigabit switches? Do you have enough ethernet ports for multiple NIC interfaces on your server?
October 28, 2012 12:42:19 AM

So you seem to think that a dual socket is really the way to go?
I also noticed Tower servers seem to be less expensive than rack servers. I suppose for a single server (or 2 max down the road) there is little benefits to go the rack route (it's just we have a rack, figured might as well use it).
I will really have to compare product offerings from Dell, HP and Lenovo. There are even some refurbished servers that can be had at a fraction of the price. I guess step 1 is finishing to define our hardware needs.

As for backups, I was hoping Windows Server 2012 had an integrated service that could automatically backup client PCs (like Server Essentials has), but it doesn't seem to have that. Your suggestion (using Win7 Backup & Restore) will probably be the way to go.

Ok now I really understand why RAID 10 would be beneficial, and a quick price check on newegg reveals buying the HDs separately is cheaper! I also notice 3.5" HDs are more available, and have much cheaper per GB price compared to 2.5" drives. Hot swappable drives are also more expensive, and this is probably not a feature I think we would really need, so we will probably steer clear of these and go with conventional SAS drives.

So here's a potential setup:

Host: runs only Hyper V (VM1 + VM2) and anti Virus; nothing else. Runs off w 300Gb 15K RAID 1 drives.
VM1: engineering (3D + SQL) + anti virus.
VM2: print server, file sharing, client backup + anti virus.

The OS drives for the host and the two VMs are the 15K HDs in RAID1.
VM1 engineering data and VM2 file sharing and backups all get stored to a separate RAID 10 array consisting of 4 1Tb 7K drives. So total HD requirements for this setup are six 3.5 drive bays.

Let's say we need to expand in a few years: would it not be better to get a second physical server?
With a single server, if the server fails, everything is down. With two servers, VMs can be ported to the working server while the broken server is repaired.

I ask because if we plan to eventually have 2 physical servers, then this diminishes the need to have an empty socket on server#1 (this server). Also, no need to have tons of empty drive bays. As a result, this would reduce the price of this first server.

This server would be rolled in over time. We will have to buy a gigabite switch, I know that. Our office is wired in cat5e.
I am part of engineering, and step one will be making the server available to engineering department only.
Over time we will connect the other clients.

I was planning on letting the DHCP be handled by the router, as to have this type of connection:
ISP -> modem -> router -> gigabite switch
and have the server + all clients wired into the gigabite switch.

This is how I have my home network setup (with a home server). I don't think letting the router do DHCP is the best for a business, but I'm otherwise not 100% sure how to setup the server to do that.

Thanks again for taking the time to help out.



October 28, 2012 2:26:14 AM

For your size of business, though depending upon the type of router you are using, I don't think it should be a problem having your router do the DHCP instead of delegating this role to your server.

When it comes down to how VMs are saved and use physical storage, it gets very tricky trying to plan how to keep things segmented for ease of migration (in case you have to move to a different hardware platform for some reason) as well as getting the best performance possible.

If it was me, I know it's more expensive, but what I would recommend is keeping each of your VM systems on its own set of RAID 1 hard drives. There's several reasons for this, so let me try to explain. Please understand though that I'm not an expert, but this is how it seems to me:

Your Windows services VM will not need be pulling as much data constantly as your primary 3D SQL VM. It's lower performance demand means you could use a couple 7k SATA hard drives for this VM and give it plenty of room to grow by using higher capacities. I'd recommend two 2TB Western Digital RE4 hard drives, set as a RAID1 mirror, passed directly through to Hyper-V for the VM to run. In the event that the system went down completely, you'd have access to all of the information on the hard drive still as complete files, not just a VHD file, which can be taken to any computer, connected with an external or internal SATA connection, and have access to all of your data instantly.

Being that the VM is on its own set of hard drives, no other VMs may be affected if you need to replace out those physical drives such as upgrading for capacity or speed. Additionally, since the VM is residing on it's own physical hard drives, you're getting much better performance efficiency because those platters only have to handle demands from a single core service instead of addressing the needs of two VMs simultaneously.

Now since your 3D SQL database requires more performance capabilities, this is where you will need to spend the greater part of your budget for hard drives. Get two 10k hard drives in as great of capacity as you can afford. This gives you the benefit of everything as stated above plus some additional performance over 7k SATA hard drives.

Finally, for your host OS you won't need a whole lot really, but it is critical that it stay up and running even in the event of a single hard drive failure or everything else is down. You can get a couple 7k SATA hard drives for this since your VMs are residing on completely separate hard drives. It may even be economical to get a couple mid-capacity SSDs in a RAID 1 array for only a little more cost.

I know that I was toting the benefits of RAID 10 above, but in the case of only using a total of six hard drives in your specific situation, this is more like what I would recommend. My thoughts on RAID 10 above were more of a general comparison, sorry I didn't clarify. The benefit you are getting here above RAID 10 is that none of the data on your hard drives is striped which means that you can pull any single drive and have all the data accessible on another computer to recover.

You are also talking about down the road adding another physical server perhaps, and one of the key things I hear you talking about is high-availability. Now again I'm not an expert with enterprise server systems, but it sounds like what you are getting closer to suggesting is a fail-over cluster environment. In this scenario, you have two or more nodes, which would be your "number crunching" servers, and one SAN device which does nothing but hold all the actual data that your number crunching servers are connected to. A common way of doing this is, using your scenario, would be each server would be running just a single VM by default, with the actual virtual hard drive files or RAID arrays being stored and run from a third server. In the even that one of the servers were to suddenly go down, the second server would detect the failure and would automatically take over and start up another instance of the VM so it is now running both of the VMs and you experience little or no downtime.

This is the ultimate high-availability goal for any company, but the problem is it gets very complex and very expensive.

If you were looking to using two servers at your office but didn't want the extra cost and, admittedly nightmarish, complexities behind it, there's a partial way you can achieve this, but it takes planning from square one in purchasing your servers, even if you aren't getting both right away.

If you are running two physical servers, you could install a host OS on both physical systems and then run a single VM on each, offering the greatest flexibility of individual system resources for the VM. Given that you are doing a diligent backup of your servers and VMs onto external storage, in the even that a single server went down, you could copy the backup of the VM onto the working server, start it up, and you're back up and going again with a little configuration of settings. Yes, it does take some work and some time, but it can overcome a couple days of downtime in the event of a catastrophic issue.

The big thing with this is IF you decide to try and take a path like this, you need to be sure that each of your servers has the hardware capacity - in processing, memory, hard drive capacity, and network connectivity - to be able to run both VMs for a while, even if not at full performance capabilities, until the other physical server system can be restored. In the end it is going to cost you more than getting just a single physical server, of course, but it's also going to offer you a higher level of high-availability and fault-tolerance to continue working. It all comes down to acceptable levels of downtime and what your company is willing to budget to make it happen.
November 8, 2012 10:57:10 PM

Hello again,
sorry for the delayed response - I have been looking around for hardware, and now got the go ahead to do a full proposal for purchasing. I have to dig a little deeper into the hardware options.

For example, the Proliant DL360E G8 with a E5-2403 CPU (1.80GHz, 10Mb cache) which supports up to 2 CPUs, 16Gb ram and 8 Hard drives is only $400 more than the Proliant DL120 G7 with an E3-1230 CPU (3.2GHz, 8Mb cache) which supports only 1 CPU, 16Gb ram and 4 hard drives.

The first choice seems obvious, but I can't find good benchmarks of this CPU, which I find has a slow clock speed (1.80GHz). So I have some more digging to do here.

Things have also evolved a little bit regarding the server setup, and I've also been doing more reading.

As mentioned before, we only have 15 employees, and obviously no on-site (or any for that matter) IT support.
If we go ahead with this server, I would be setting it up in parallel with my own work. I have decent knowledge, but have never set up a server (other than Windows Home Server), and I definitely wouldn't want this thing crashing down on me every few weeks.

Given the size of the company and the fact that we have no IT, I think Windows Server Essentials 2012 is more geared towards our needs, as it has been developed for companies with less than 25 employees. It's also cheaper and requires no CALs.

The big drawback is it does not support virtualization.

The applications we will need to run have changed a little. There is 3 main roles:

-Engineering: 3D data (no more SQL database, however)
-Print server, file sharing, and client backup (Windows Server Essentials is a piece of cake for setting up automatic client backup, which is a big advantage)
-WinDev: We have this custom application based on WinDev which would need to be moved to the server.

So all of a sudden, we have 3 server roles, and no real IT to set this up or maintain it (other than myself).
Obviously, we want to set this up for best performance, while also minimizing licensing costs.

I'm really at a loss as to how this should all be set up?

Maybe buy a Windows Standard license, and run 2 virtual instanced: 1 Windows Server Standard and 1 Windows Server Essentials?
Any ideas?



November 8, 2012 11:57:02 PM

If I'm not mistaken (and I could be, I've had difficulty 100% confirming this) a single license of Server 2012 Standard will also allow you to run two virtual instances using that same license. I honestly don't know much about the Windows Server Essentials. Every time we have looked into running a Windows server environment we've either kept it very cheap and just run Windows 7 Professional, or gone ahead and gotten everything needed and run the full Windows Server Standard edition.

However, if you are more comfortable with Windows Server Essentials, then you may feel that is the best route to go. I really do think that Windows Server 2012 Standard is pretty easy and intuitive to understand. Plus, given that you have the option at least of virtualizing, it's worth the money it seems.

About the hardware selection. Do you have a rackmount space available to use the DL series of rackmount servers? If so, then you have some other options beyond what is available with the pedistal servers but be prepared: Rackmount systems cost more for the same type of hardware and performance than a pedistal system. The E5-series Xeon that are quad-core I'm a little hesitant with if you're going to be doing more than low-computation services such as print sharing and file sharing. The low clock speeds can slow down any server-based applications you are running such as the WinDev that you are speaking about. Even where you are planning to run several services on the server, you're going to see a benefit over having a higher clock speed even with fewer cores then having a huge number of cores.

Definitely keep the RAID controller in mind. It might not seem like much but this is a huge deal and can make or break a good server configuration. You want a RAID controller that is hardware based, and has some cache memory of some kind. The entry level servers, and even some of the more mid-range offerings, come standard with only a software based RAID controller. You will want to get something with hardware RAID if this is your primary server. Another thing to consider is the additional cost of configuring a Generation 8 server from HP. These servers REQUIRE HP hard drives with their SmartDrive caddy, which are incredibly expensive compared to buying G7 simple drive trays and using any 3rd party hard drives.
November 9, 2012 12:42:51 AM

Your sir are very punctual with your replies! This is great. There's little info on the A to Z process of setting up a first server for small business, so I plan on updating this thread (probably over the next few months) with questions / comments and just the general train of thought which I'm sure will come in handy for others in the future.

I can confirm to you that 1 license of Windows Server 2012 Standard allows to run 1 Host and 2 Virtual instances (which can be downgraded to Essentials, actually). I'm pretty sure only 1 of the 2 virtual instances can be downgraded, however, because I think I read somewhere there can't be 2 Essentials Server on the same network (though this might not be accurate info).
Windows Server Essentials can be installed as virtual using, for example, ESXi, however, it cannot only be installed once: either as main OS on server, or as virtual on a standalone hypervisor.
Just for the virtualizing option alone, I think Windows Server Standard is worth it, however, to keep in to 2 VMs, I would have to set up as follows:

-engineering VM (running on Windows Server Standard VM)
-WindDev application + backup + file sharing etc (running on Windows Server Essentials VM)

The Essentials VM is starting to have quite a few apps, but I think this is our only option for us, a small business wanting to keep licensing costs relatively low.

We do have rackmount, and it's my understanding we want to have a tidy installation with the switches etc etc.
Good catch about G8 servers requiring (pricy) HP drives!!
I am very much leaning towards the DL120 G7 with Xeon E3-1230 (3.2GHz). I think Quad core will be beneficial to the engineering VM.
This particular model offers little expandability (only 4 drive bays, no empty CPU socket), however, it is very cheap ($1000 + Ram + Hard drives).
I think minimizing price of first server will be appealing to management. If need be, a second server may be purchased in future years.

Hardware RAID is absolutely on the list. At the moment I am thinking of running the engineering VM on RAID1 of 15K SAS 6Gb/s 600Gb 3.5" drives, and running the Host and second VM on RAID 1 of 10K SAS 6Gb/s 1TB 3.5" drives.

More to come as things move on....
November 9, 2012 12:33:35 PM

Sounds like a good plan! Its understandable if you are concerned about the limited upgradability of the DL120 G7 server, as there's not a whole lot of room for growth and its hard to tell what kind of performance you may need a year or two down the road once you have this set up. While the quad-core processor may be enough for your needs, the server is limited on the maximum capacity of RAM and the number of hard drives you can install.

You may look into getting a DL180 G6 server. I myself am looking into one of these right now instead of a newer G8 server. These systems come with a quad-core processor, can support up to two processors, tons of RAM, include a hardware RAID controller (usually P410/256 or P212/256), support for 8 or 12 LFF hard drives, and even redundant power supplies. They're not too much more than a DL120 G7 either, as you can buy new units from resellers looking to get them cycled out of stock.

One thing to keep in mind about a 1U server like the Dl120 G7 as well is that it is going to be noisy in general because it has to use several very small fans to keep things cool, and there is much less space for upgrading components. A 2U chassis like the Dl180 G8 can support more add-in PCI-Express cards, may run quieter than a 1U server, and can offer more space for components like processors, RAM, and hard drives.
November 12, 2012 11:28:54 PM

Duly noted - I will look into these.
I thought I had read somewhere that the DL120G7 (for example) has 4 LFF bays, but could accommodate 8 SFF drives or of course 4 LFF drives.
I'm not sure where I might have read this, and now that I want the info, I can't find the reference!

Anyways for now, price is definitely a limiting factor (as well as warranty/support), so a new DL120G7 is definitely appealing.
By the way, the latest 'server config' I might run is installing ESXI (free) on an SD card - The DL120G7 as an SD card slot directly on the motherboard for this purpose.
This way ESXi is completely separate from all the VMs.
Drive wise, four SFF 7200rpm SAS 6Gb/s drives (1Tb each) in RAID10 will be used for all VMs.

November 13, 2012 1:41:28 AM

Going the route of an SD card is pretty handy for ESXi, we have done similar for testing servers but just used a USB flash drive, as more motherboards accommodate them, most can boot to USB device, and they are very cheap and easy to swap out in the even the medium dies.

I do believe the DL120 G7 can be configured with SFF, but I don't recall seeing any of their base configurations coming with that option. If I'm not mistaken, you would have to custom order that configuration directly through HP which is going to cost you several times more than using a pre-configured base model of any server.

Additionally, there's some real benefits but also some risks involved when considering using RAID 10. Of course with RAID 10 you get the benefit of fault tollerance as well as speed, as well as being able to combine several smaller and often cheaper drives into a larger capacity storage space to utilize. However, in the event that your computer goes down and you have to recover data, it becomes a problem! All of the data on your drives is now striped. You can't just pull out a hard drive, move it to another computer, and have access to all the original VMs or data because it's all now part of a RAID array.

Now, this isn't a deal breaker. Tons of people use and love RAID 10, but personally I've had this go south on me more than once and it would have been really nice to have been able to just pull one of the SATA drives and have all of the data regardless of the RAID array which you can do in most RAID 1 arrays but not in RAID 10.

I'm curious why you are choosing to use 1 TB SAS drives instead of 1 TB SATA drives for this server. I'm not criticizing at all, just curious what you are choosing one for over another given the difference in cost between them often. Personally I think it is great to use the SAS drives where possible in a server, but I think logically if it's going to still be 7k RPM and the same capacity, and that there is likely a decent price difference between the two, what is the benefit in running the SAS drives for the server configuration?
December 20, 2012 7:01:44 PM

Have you thought about using either the Dell PowerEdge T320 (Single CPU) or the Dell PowerEdge T420 (Dual CPU – You can just purchase 1 CPU), both of these server are Towers, but can also be mounted in a rack with a rack kit. Both of these servers run in a fresh air without the need for a noisy fan. You can go for up to 8 x 3.5” HDDs or 16 x 2.5” HDDs.

I am personally looking at the Dell PowerEdge T420, Dual CPU, 2 x 16Gb RAM, 3 x 1Tb SAS 2.5” HDD in a RAID 5.

I am looking at going down the Server 2012 Standard route and making this the host by using Hyper-V. Now I have read that I can buy a couple of SD Cards and install Hyper-V on that, this will make the Host more reliable and have a lot less updates that may cause issues.

I am also looking at installing Server 2012 Essentials and using this as my main Server. I am also look at having Exchange which will need another Server (VM) as Essentials do not support Exchange anymore.

Has anyone had any experience of installing Hyper-V on to a SD Card, if so what size card would I need? Dell has two options, 1Gb and 2Gb options, is this enough?

Is there any instructions out there for the installation of Hyper-V on to a SD Card?

Graham.
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