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I'm going to be working on a project in the near future where the company in question will possibly require above average quantity of storage. Initially images will be the media of choice with up to 40 images per "Job", but I'll also continue developing their system and allow videos up to 720p at variable length to be uploaded as well. Images I can optimize and it will take it a while for just images, but videos at 720p will take a substantial chunk of space and eat it up fast. I don't know if there's ways of optimizing videos automatically on the server side, but that's a topic for when I get to that point.

Moving on, I would have offered them a dedicated server from GoDaddy (because I like it GoDaddy and have used dedicated servers from them for 3 years and they're local for us), but even their "Memory Hog" variant will be depleted fast-ish, so I want to offer a more custom solution. I'm thinking of a custom server from say Dell, and set it up in a data center here in Phoenix.

The problem is, I've never worked with a customized server, meaning I've never bought one before and set it up at a data center.

I'm curious, how do upgrades work on those servers? Obviously, just like any other computer I can just toss in an HDD as I need it, but what happens when I run out of slots? Is that when the "Direct Attached Storage" boxes come in? How do they connect to the main servers? How many can be attached to the main server? How does it even show up to the OS of the main server, is it like one huge HDD or will it show a bunch of HDDs? What happens when you upgrade the DAS with additional HDDs?

I also don't know what a good data center in Phoenix would be, nor do I have any clue as to how much it would cost to put a server at a data center.

Anyway, help on my questions above would be greatly appreciated!

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4 Answers 4

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Traditionally, DAS meant SCSI, either with an HBA (the OS sees each drive individually, and you can run software RAID), or with a RAID controller (so the OS sees just a single big disk). Modern systems will typically use SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) now, but the approach is the same. On a Dell combo, you'd be looking at a PowerEdge with a PERC/5e and a PowerVault MD1000. The MD3000 is the next step up from that; it does the RAID on the shelf, so you only need a SAS HBA in the server. (There are also variants with 6Gbps SAS, 2.5in disks, etc.)

You can also get Fibre Channel shelves, or iSCSI, and use them as a single-machine DAS, but that's getting more into true SAN territory.

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Is the PERC something like this: PERC 6/E SAS External RAID Adapter, 256MB? –  Alex Oct 7 '10 at 3:56
    
Out of curiosity, can I configure the RAID after I get it or does DELL have to configure it for me? –  Alex Oct 7 '10 at 3:59
    
Do both the PowerEdge and the PowerVault have to have a PERC card in them to connect to each other? –  Alex Oct 7 '10 at 4:06
    
Yes, "PERC 6/E SAS External RAID Adapter, 256MB" sounds like the right thing to use with a PV MD1xxx shelf. You can order it with a RAID config from the factory, but you can change it through the BIOS (or while the OS is running, if OpenManage is installed.) The PERC card is the controller in the server; the PowerVault shelves include the required cards to mate with the PERC (or SAS HBA, for the fancier PowerVaults). –  techieb0y Oct 8 '10 at 1:20
    
If money is no object, I'd recommend using an PERC H800 instead of the 6/E. The 6/E is limited to 3Gbps, while the H800 is a next-gen 6Gbps controller. The PowerVault MD lines have also recently be rev'd as well to more modern technology. –  ktower Oct 8 '10 at 4:27

Yep fiber channel SAN is the way to go if you decide to rack it yourself. Dell Poweredge R610 or something similar as the server. With Dell Powervault MD3000 or 1000 as the storage.

Basically you configure "virtual disks" and present them to your server. As an example, you could take a 8TB SAN and carve up 2x 3TB disks as RAID 5.

Your server will see them as a single disk and you format them as you would a physical disk. You may want to look at Equilogic SANs if you need more than that. Get a Dell rep and they will come and explain it and help you out, you're gonna need it.

If you are expecting a lot of users then you might need 2 front end servers, load balanced.

Generally this will be cheaper in the long run, but Amazon will be cheaper initially... Without more info that's a tough call.

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I thought so on the virtual disks. There will be no less than 80 users active at launch, with possibly +2/m there after. The system will be dedicated 99% for administration of any kind and 1% for customers to access their accounts. It will have a web side for office works and iDevices for field workers. And as far as I know cost shouldn't be that much of an issue (within reason) because the owner already spends ~$150K/y for his current band aid setup... –  Alex Oct 7 '10 at 3:36

Amazon's EC2 cloud solution sounds perfect for your project. This platform would offer you many benfits such as:

You can add instances as you need when converting a large number of videos.

Regarding storage, the Elastic Block Storage allows you to add additional storage within a matter of minutes.

This article sounds similar in nature to what you are wanting to do. Hopefully it will help answer some of your questions as well.

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Fibre channel.

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I assume you're trying to say that the DAS is connected to the main server via Fibre channel? That answers one of my questions I guess. –  Alex Oct 7 '10 at 0:53

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