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I have been given a Dell PowerEdge 2650 with dual 2.8 Xeon, 6gigs ram, and 5x75gig SCSI drives (32 bit archtecture only). The main objective of this is to replace my current dedicated linux server that has a single core AMD 1500 with 512mb of ram and an 80gig IDE drive.

Currently on the AMD1500 I only have linux running with 6 Virtual Hosts.

On the new server I am running Win2003 Server with VMServer. I have a linux guest VM running that I am migrating the virtual domains over to. I also have a development linux guest VM and a win2003 vm to play around with.

Long term am I better off with this old dual cpu 32 bit server architecture or selling it (~$350 or so) and building a brand new system using desktop 64 bit architechture. For the money I could build a 3.0ghz AM2 dual core, 4 gigs ram, and dual 500g Sata drives in a raid 1 mirror array.

How will the older server handle several VMs versus a newer desktop running the same applications?

How will system stability be on the server versus the desktop?

How often will components or drives fail in the server versus the desktop?
I know I occasionally have junk go bad in my personal desktop. I have also had server failures in my AMD1500 dedicated server and had to restore from backup (it is just a desktop also).

Any other advice anyone has is appretiated!

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what runs on it? is it business-critical or just a playground for you? –  pQd Jun 19 '09 at 13:33
    
Somewhere in the middle I guess. It runs a couple of my friends and my domains and a couple domains that people pay me to host. So nothing that if it was down for an hour due to a power outage anyone would cry or lose money over, but still important enough that I want it to run smoothly. –  Anonymous Jun 22 '09 at 15:29
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3 Answers 3

Why not try out the new (used) server and see how you like it. if you setup the 5 drives as 5 seperate drives and put one VM on each of them you'll likely get better disk through put since each VM gets a dedicated drive. On the alternate system, all your VM's would have to share the same spindle. Might be ok if you get a good hardware based raid card with a nice amount of ram on it.

If you wanted raid on the Dell, you could do it as a RAID1 and a seperate drive as RAID5.

Also don't under estimate the 6 gigs of memory, I have a brand new HP desktop, single drive and 4 gigs of RAM. The most VM's I can run at once are 4 with 512megs each before I max out memory.

Assuming the Dell wasn't abused, you should have no issues with it, servers are built to last.

Are ou sure the Xeon is only 32bit? I thought (though I haven't checked) that all Xeon's were 64bit but its been a while since I really dug into that.

Also try out ESXi, from VMWare rather then VMWare Server, ESXi is a hypervisor and free for use, I use it since there is no overhead of a host os.

Also even if you check out the Dell setup your VM's and relize it's not enough, you just save the VM's to a disk and go buy a new server. No time lost since you can use the same VM's on the new server.

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+1 for ESXi - he'll see a massive win over VMWare Server –  Chopper3 Jun 19 '09 at 14:08
    
I installed ESXi at first, but unfortunately there is no USB support through ESXi which is a huge downside. It did run good as was mighty zippy. The Xeon single core processors were only 32 bit. I know this is a bummer, it keeps me from running any new 64 bit technology. I really like the idea that if the server fails, I could stand a backup of any of the VMs on any pc temporarily to be up and running in a matter of minutes. –  Anonymous Jun 19 '09 at 17:56
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My understanding is that server hardware is typically built to higher tolerances, and you will find the components fail less frequently. Also, servers are typically left turned on 24x7, so there's not a lot of wear caused by power cycling. The hard drives and fans, however, are mechanical - and would be the first thing I would watch for failure.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the server likely has redundant power supplies / fans, etc - while the desktop system will not. If uptime is important to you, this is something else to consider.

I've been tempted to use cheaper desktop hardware for servers a number of times, and unless it's for a very temporary usage, have found the more expensive server hardware well worth the reduced headaches.

That being said, if you are wanting to host any of the new windows applications on this hardware, 32-bit is not going to work. Take a look at your requirements for 64-bit applications, and your decision might already be made for you.

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IME, the limiting factor for virtual machines is memory. You tend to run out of memory before you run out of disk. The amount of CPU you require depends massively on the number to VMs that will be actively busy (as opposed to just running) at the same time. You want the number of CPU cores to be equal or greater than this number, although it's not the end of the world if it's not. I'd recommend 64bit, purely down to the greater amount of memory they can address without hacks like PAE.

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I plan on only having two Ubuntu VMs running at all times. One will be for my personal domains and one will be for other peoples domains. Neither of these will be real busy, but there will be traffic. The other VMs that I have created, like aa Win2003 VM was just to play around with stuff and would not be production stuff under heavy load. Hopefully 6 gigs of ram will be enough. So far with the core OS, one Ubuntu VM, and one Win2003 VM there is barely any ram or CPU being used. Thanks so much for the responses. –  Anonymous Jun 19 '09 at 17:59
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