I'm planning on deploying my ASP.NET Web app in the production environment using a Windows Server 2003 machine. But I know nothing about the CPU brand names and what's best.

I know 4 GB RAM, with anything over 3 GHz clock speed will be a good bet and will serve a large number of users.

But tell me what's the latest and greatest processor brand-names for running a Windows Server 2003 OS today?

And what edition of the Windows 2003 Server do I need out of the following, if I have to run a website to support about 100,000 (a hundred thousand) users, 60% of who are expected to be online at all times?

  • Web Edition
  • Standard
  • Enterprise
  • Datacenter

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Server_2003

The article says that the Web edition can only support up to 2 GB of RAM. Will that be sufficient for the above user population?

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And what edition of the Windows 2003 Server do I need out of the following, if I have to run a website to support about 100,000 (a hundred thousand) users, 60% of who are expected to be online at all times?

You need a calculator. This will be ServerS - plural. You talk of a system where 60.000 (!) users are connected at the same time. If you keep ANY state server side, the memory requirement will be high. If you do not - the number of hits will be tremendous, too. Unless the pages never refresh, in which case the users are not really "online".

If a page refreshes once per minute, using 10 hits to load everthing.... this is 600.000 hits per minute, /60 = 10.000 hits per second. Want to go on with the math?

This is not the issue for one server, it is only viable via a number of servers (cluster). Not sure how many - depends truly how long your page takes to process.

You need:

  • Multiple servers using Web Edition.
  • Ram of the servers depends. Seriously. It depends pretty much on how much RAM you need to store session data.

And you definitely do NOT need Web Server 2003 - any particular reason you choose really outdated technology today? Go for 2008 R2 server, license by SPLA.


If you're looking for mainstream x86 chips then in terms of outright CPU/memory and IO performance then for the moment you're looking at Intel's Xeon 55xx-series chips (their new 75xx-series aren't out just yet and may be overkill for most people's needs anyway). I spend a lot of time choosing specific CPUs and the E5540 is a really nice price/power/heat/performance combo but there's no denying the X5570 and W5590 are the best performers, especially for low-thread-count apps often found in the Windows world due to their higher turbo-mode multipliers.

If you're looking for more of a balance between low cost and power-requirement/heat and care less about ultimate performance then AMD's Opteron 8435 or Intel's Xeon L5530 are good choices too. Unless price is the only concern I'd steer clear of desktop CPUs (i.e. Intel's 'Core' and 'i' range), there are many benchmarks that show them on equal parity with Xeon/Opterons but their 'drop-off' under heavy load is much more pronounced.

In terms of which servers to go for, I couldn't recommend HP's DL360/365 and DL380/385 models higher if you're looking for 2U rack-mount machines - although both IBM and Dell do very accomplished models in the same vein too.

As for which version of Windows, well I think you'd soon come to regret the Web edition, for the 2GB reason you state - memory is super cheap these days and helps enormously with pretty much every application out there - why limit yourself. At the other end of the scale it doesn't sound like you need the DC edition and Enterprise (although the version I exclusively buy) is really there for its clustering and 1:4 VM licensing capabilities - if you need that then go for Ent, if not then Standard will do you just fine.

By the way, you seem dead-set on going for 2003? 2008 is easily my favourite MS code ever, it's fast, easy to install, really stable, functional and has no EOL in sight - I'd implore you to consider it, especially in 64-bit guise.

Best of luck and feel free to come back with any follow-up questions.

  • Bad server choice. Both Tyan and Supermicro allow 2 servers with 2 processors each in 1 rack unit. That is 4 servers, all dual processor, 12 cores, in 2 rack units high. A lot more dense than one computer in 2U rack mount. Higher density = lower cost. – TomTom Sep 16 '10 at 22:12
  • I disagree entirely, this guy has said nothing about wanting even more than a single server so a solution that lets him have more per U is simply not relevant. You may as well say that I can get 32 dual-cpu HP BL2x220's into 10U (i.e. >3 servers per U) - but that's not relevant either. The DL380 is the biggest selling server in the world and has been for over 5 years now - way ahead of anything Dell or even supermicro sell - and the reason is that it's pretty good at a wide range of tasks and given how little we know about this guy's needs I believe it's far from a 'bad server choice'. – Chopper3 Sep 16 '10 at 22:21

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