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What is the value to use a "server" CPU versus a regular variety( eg. Intel E5500 series vs. i5, or i7)- I'm not asking for these specifically, just why would I buy a "server" CPU and a "Server" motherboard over a regular one? ECC seems to be one reason, but that can be found on a regular motherboard as well. RAID can also be found on regular board. Everything "Server" costs 2x the price. (Ref: Newegg.com)

Target: small web server that needs to run 24x7 with less that 300 users a day, small load.

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This type of questions has been asked many times over on here. Perhaps one of those can answer you. –  MDMarra Jul 10 '10 at 20:41
    
I've never understood why people want to use consumer grade components in servers. Is this for a business or a hobby? –  John Gardeniers Jul 11 '10 at 7:04
    
People want to get good value for their money, which is why this question asks "what is the value to use a 'server' CPU . .". There are good reasons to use good-quality hardware for important applications - and there are also plenty of jerks who are happy to charge 2x-10x for the same hardware and say "Well, THIS is for SERVERS . . " as well as purchasers who assume that spending more money (usually someone else's money) automatically leads to better quality. –  gbroiles Jul 11 '10 at 8:19

4 Answers 4

Here are some reasons off the top of my head;

  • Multiprocessor support - if you want 2, 4, 8, 16 or more CPUs you need to use a Xeon or Opteron.
  • Larger memory support - want more than a handful of memory slots, you'll be needing a Xeon or Opteron.
  • More cores/threads - want 8/12/16 cores plus hyperthreading, you know what you'll need.
  • Performance under multiuser load - same again.
  • Need lots of IO, like 4-way QPI - take a guess.

and finally, the most important

  • Reliability - Xeons and Opterons (in particular 7500-series Xeons) just stay up longer through a variety of RAS features.

I'm sure there are more but these leapt out.

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I doubt you could manage this on a consumer-grade hardware: software.intel.com/en-us/blogs/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/… –  Mark Henderson Jul 10 '10 at 22:31
    
I've had a play with that exact machine, it's a HP DL980 G7 with 8 x not-yet-released 'Sandy-Bridge' Xeon 7650 16 core + HT CPUs - it also has 4TB of memory too! :) –  Chopper3 Jul 10 '10 at 23:15
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What the ffffffffff... it's like sysadmin porn. –  Chris Thorpe Jul 11 '10 at 2:01
    
actually I think that screenshot was taken from a 84-rack-unit HP Superdome (two full 42U racks) with Dual Core Itanium II's... But hey, 256 cores is 256 cores nomatter which way you look at it. –  Mark Henderson Jul 11 '10 at 4:21
    
Ah, ok, those DL's are out in testing at certain HP customers however ;) –  Chopper3 Jul 11 '10 at 6:58

On the whole you will find the difference is more notable the other way around.

If you put standard kit into a 24x7 environment with load, heat, friends - you will see more failures. The 'twice the price' will normally be reflected in a lack of hardware grief and a happiness to run within an industrial environment long term.

If it IS going long term into a racked environment, if it IS going to be relied upon, and if you getting to it to work on it is going to be grief (server remote administration out of band is a serious plus iLO/DRAC etc.) - server. Otherwise - regular variety will be fine.

It's all about your time - where it is going - and how much pain you are going to get if it stops working.

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Well I think for your needs a normal machine will do. I have setup lots of email and web servers on non server hardware. But yes if you would want things like Dual SMPS, Chasis options like rack mount etc etc I think one needs to go for a Server hardware. One main thing is expansion slots for memory is less on a normal machine. If one needs memory in the likes of 16GB definitely server hardware is the only way to go.

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Not sure what you are getting at here. I have 16GB RAM in my workstation that doesn't run a Xeon. –  MDMarra Jul 10 '10 at 20:42
    
I have 16Gb of RAM in my i7 machine at work as well. If you had said "128Gb of RAM" that's a different story –  Mark Henderson Jul 10 '10 at 22:30

All my PERSONAL servers that run my consulting business run off home-built systems using "consumer" grade motherboards and other hardware. At one point, running Server 2003 x32, one of the servers was up for 10 months without issue (AMD Athlon X2). This system has 6 hard drives (at least 4 brands of drives) all small (160 GB or less) and they've been running ESSENTIALLY non-stop since May of 2006 (well, there have been two breaks when I moved).

Now I will agree that server quality components SHOULD be more hardened and less prone to failure. For ME, that's fine. Further, I could (obviously) build systems to act as servers for my clients. But I won't. I recommend they purchase name brand systems with - what I CANNOT and WILL NOT ATTEMPT TO OFFER - 24x7x365 Warranties with 4 hour on-site response time. As I point out often - if the server is designed to service your clients and/or generate business for you, it's UNWISE to be running a generic system at your own location. A better option would be at a Datacenter someplace - a place with redundant internet connections, backup power, and techs available to service hardware 24x7.

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What you personally do is one thing. What a professional sysadmin should do in a business environment is a whole other matter. A server is more than just the operating system. I also have workstations that never power down unless there is a power outage but I don't try to kid myself into thinking they're servers. –  John Gardeniers Jul 11 '10 at 11:48
    
John - you apparently failed to read my 2nd paragraph. Allow me to be clear since you apparently failed to understand - ANYTHING can be a server, YES. Server class systems are meant to be more reliable. Anyone trying to run a business - ESPECIALLY a business servicing hundreds of clients and probably with multiple employees should be wanting to reduce the odds of failure as much as possible - this means using real server hardware. I fully understand the risks I'm taking and in my circumstances, if any of the servers I use fails, it will not create serious problems for me for hours or days. –  Multiverse IT Jul 11 '10 at 17:08

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