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Virtualization is one of the areas where I could really use some experience. I also run quite a few services (web, mail, dns, etc.) out of my home. Since most of my hardware is getting a bit old (I'm running on stuff that was surplused years ago...) I decided that it's about time I start renewing some things, and also play around with virtualization a bit more. My plan is to setup a SAN box (simple iSCSI target, relatively inexpensive gigE switch), get a pair (for starters) of new servers, and start building some new stuff with Xen, specifically planning on playing with live migration and full virtualization.

Does anyone have recommendations for used, older "servers" (really anything in a rack-mount form factor, I'm not too worried about things like iLO/iLOM for the test nodes) that support VT-x/AMD-V? I'm biased to HP, but it looks like they didn't make Proliants with VT-x/Vanderpool processors until G6 (for the DL360) or so, which is way out of my price range.

I'm looking in the sub-$300 range (or less, if possible), used, probably Ebay.

Any recommendations are greatly appreciated.

Edit:And, to catch this before the comments start coming - these are personal systems. I have first-generation Proliants still in use (I got them as corporate surplus in 05, they've been running since then, and probably were running since 01 or 02 prior to being sold). I don't need anything shiny and new - I've got a bunch of old boxes, at least one complete replacement for every model in use, and that's fine for me (and easy on the wallet).

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4 Answers 4

Here are my first, second, and third blog posts on running XenServer on commodity hardware. Eventually, I scored an amazing deal on a Dell Poweredge T110 for under $350, and moved off of the commodity hardware to server class--And I have never looked back!

Hope it gives you some ideas-

-Josh

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Yes, Dell lists Poweredges for as low as $269, and just upgrade it as you need to down the line. –  Joe Internet Mar 17 '10 at 3:30
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I can't help with old/cheap servers but really, you don't need server-class hardware to do this stuff. Grab a cheap somewhat recent Dell PC, put 4 or 8GB of RAM in it, and you can run 25 VMs on that box if all you're doing is personal testing. That's the sort of "sandbox" I use at home and at work for testing stuff.

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The only thing driving this requirement is space - I have a 42U rack that's about 75% populated, but I don't have any space for storing a bunch of towers, even 2 or 3 of them. I could throw them in the rack, but the cheap non-slide-out KMM that I have would be useless. –  Jason Antman Mar 17 '10 at 12:37
    
i.e. I'm looking for 1U, 2U at the most, form factor. –  Jason Antman Mar 17 '10 at 12:39
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Have you looked at ex-lease equipment, rather than ebay auctions?

In Australia alot of manufactures (Dell, HP, IBM) sell off their ex-lease equipment via sites like www.graysonline.com.au (not very helpful for you). You will often see servers, storage, network and backup devices that are ~2/3 years old and include a 3 month warranty from manufacture.

As for what to look out for, the Dell 1850/1950 range should meet your requirments (just double check VT compatibility on the processor before you buy) and are great pieces of kit.

Good luck

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CPUs supporting VT-x/AMD-V aren't necessary unless you must run virtual x64 stuff. For a personal or test setup without x64 requirements, you can get by just fine with DL360/DL380 G4 or G5, with as much RAM as you can throw in them.

For the storage back-end you can use any server with enough disk space, and OpenFiler.

Seconding icky's sentiment also, a desktop with thumping heaps of RAM/Disk works well for test/learning purposes, at an agreeable price point.

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That's not exactly true. Xen will run modified guests without hardware virtualization support. But it will not be able to run HVM, unmodified guests, aka windows. So as long as your only worried about running Linux guests then hardware that doesn't support hardware virtualization will work. But I would avoid it personally and just get hardware that supports virtualization as the main goal here is to make a virtualization test bed. –  3dinfluence Mar 17 '10 at 1:25
    
Since I'm buying new hardware, I'd at least like to consider the possibility of running HVM. But if the technology is still so new as to be prohibitively expensive, maybe I'll just stick with a few more machines like I'm using now (DL360 G2 or maybe G3). My initial plans were for two 1U nodes, and a new(er) storage server, a SATA RAID, mounted via iSCSI. –  Jason Antman Mar 17 '10 at 12:53
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