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I co-own a company with a friend of mine and we have decided to buy a new server to support our business (our current server is an Asus EEE Box, working great but too limited :) ).

I should mention that we are web developers but occasionally we do small-office sys admin. Thus, 99% of time we work on GNU/Linux (mainly Ubuntu) but from time to time we need to setup a Windows environment to assist some customers (e.g. setup a temporary SQL Server 2008).

Our requirements:

  • Low budget: we don't want the cheapest solution out there but we can't afford to spend too much. Budget could be ~1000-1500€ (before VAT)
  • Robustness: we would like to setup a RAID array and maybe have an external disk where we can store backups
  • Virtualization: we need to be able to setup few servers for development. The scenario is something like this (~8 appliances running in parallel):

    • Redmine + GIT server
    • Bacula server
    • FTP server
    • 3-4 virtual appliances that could be set up on demand to test our applications or support a customer. The appliances could be: LAMP, Tomcat+PostgreSQL, SQL Server
  • Support: if something breaks down it shouldn't be too difficult to find a replacement.

Now, given the main requirements, there are some doubts we need to clarify:

  1. Do you suggest to buy a prepackaged solution (for example a customized Dell PowerEdge T110 or T310) or to assemble the server by ourselves (buy the separate components)?
  2. What RAID configuration do you suggest? I was thinking of RAID1 (probably cheaper) or RAID5.
  3. should we buy a hardware RAID controller or is it ok to use a software RAID (mdadm)? In case, which controller do you suggest?
  4. What processor do you suggest (Intel Xeon, i3, i5, i7, AMD)? How much RAM? (I was thinking at least 8GB, ~1GB per appliance)
  5. What virtualization software do you recommend? VMWare seems to be the best choice, but what about XEN or KVM? We don't want to buy licenses at the moment so we would like to consider only free options.
  6. What OS do you recommend? We know Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo very well (we would like to use Ubuntu Server), however it seems a lot of people goes for CentOS.

Thanks in advance if you can help us with this!

It's our first "serious" server so many doubts popped up :)

Please feel free to add further recommendations if you have some to share ;)

Have a nice day

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closed as too localized by SvW, RobM, Ben Pilbrow, sysadmin1138 Nov 19 '11 at 17:16

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
posting my answer below since it slonger than comment –  Vangel Nov 19 '11 at 14:19
    
SQL Server (and probably other RDBMS) require decent IO bandwidth to perform well. I don't know what sort of size datasets you are planning to work with but you may want to consider a set of disks dedicated to SQL Server. You can always try it and then add disks later if necessary. –  pipTheGeek Nov 19 '11 at 16:50
    
I don't know what OS VMWare is based on, but IIRC the Xen hypervisor is supported on Ubuntu which might be easier for you to admin. I'm a (windows) developer by trade and run a Citrix Xen box at home for various things and have found it easy enough to work with. –  pipTheGeek Nov 19 '11 at 16:55
    
Thanks for the advice! :) –  Giordano Nov 20 '11 at 15:40

1 Answer 1

up vote 0 down vote accepted

FOr your budget youc an skip hardware raid for sure. Raid 5 would require extra disks only if you use software RAID.

Xeon is recommended for virtualization needs if you can however get i7 please do. with number of systems you want in parallel you can use the extra compute power.

get as much RAM as possible. Dont only think of Guest OS RAM. RAm is easily depeleted depending on your guest os usage and you end up with disk swapping which is far worse.

HOST OS: CentOS is my experience to be the most stable. VMWare: if you are new or want least VM management hassle just go for VMWare.

Compare pricing of pre package solution with an assembled one. DOn't forget the warranty that pre package provides. Dell has same business day warranty which you should get for 3 years as problems dont occur in 1st year but hardware problems occur second year on.

If you can self service a bit and know your way around installing the parts you can get an assembled one with room to grow and add on stuff in future as your budget allows.

Complete answer after budget change: Great!. If in doubt about CPU I would check out cpubenchmark.net dont look at everything, just the Xeon we have been talking about. So you know exactly what to get performance/price basis. prices may differ in your area but its a good estimate. With your extra budget you could go for a branded pre packaged solution, so you can get warranty and replacement. i7 is good, in my experience however it could be pricier and Xeon is always great for the price. If you have cash left get Raid5, disk is cheap, put 3 in and you have 2/3rd space for use. 16GB ram preferable expandable. hth – Vangel yesterday

More: note please go for CentOS6 it has considerably better and more up to date packages than CentOS5. appliance wise, get whatever you like. once your server is running you can add whatever. don't forget a regular DVD writer. It comes in handy when you need to backup stuff and network isnt helping. 2 gigabit ethernet is recommended (for DMZ and LAN) else one should suffice. – Vangel yesterday

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As the server chipset you should probably be looking for Xeon instead of i7. Current Xeon chipsets (last two years or so) allow for better memory mapping in VMs for better performance. –  Top__Hat Nov 19 '11 at 15:24
    
Thanks for replying! From what you're saying I could go like this: - processor Xeon (any family recommended?) - RAM 16GB - no Hardware RAID and choose RAID1 (so I use only 2 disks---or is it better to pay something more for +1 disk and have RAID5?) - OS: CentOS + VMWare Server and in the appliances? Ubuntu? (I know they have a special version for appliances) or maybe Turnkey Linux? –  Giordano Nov 19 '11 at 15:30
    
I changed the budget to 1000-1500€... 800-1000€ is probably too little to get anything decent. –  Giordano Nov 19 '11 at 16:06
    
Great!. If in doubt about CPU I would check out cpubenchmark.net dont look at everything, just the Xeon we have been talking about. So you know exactly what to get performance/price basis. prices may differ in your area but its a good estimate. With your extra budget you could go for a branded pre packaged solution, so you can get warranty and replacement. i7 is good, in my experience however it could be pricier and Xeon is always great for the price. If you have cash left get Raid5, disk is cheap, put 3 in and you have 2/3rd space for use. 16GB ram preferable expandable. hth –  Vangel Nov 20 '11 at 13:05
    
More: note please go for CentOS6 it has considerably better and more up to date packages than CentOS5. appliance wise, get whatever you like. once your server is running you can add whatever. don't forget a regular DVD writer. It comes in handy when you need to backup stuff and network isnt helping. 2 gigabit ethernet is recommended (for DMZ and LAN) else one should suffice. –  Vangel Nov 20 '11 at 13:10

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