We're setting up a new web2.0 type site with elements of e-commerce. Budget is kind of tight. Due to the nature of the site and promotions, etc., we expect traffic could ramp up fairly quickly. Looking for advice for a good configuration to start with, we' looking to co-lo with CalPop in downtown LA.

We've looked at Dell, ABMX.com, and got a quote from CalPop (they make their own servers as they also do managed hosting). Price range has been anywhere from about $1200-$3300 per server. We're thinking to start with a web server and db server, both with mirrored drives. It would be nice to stay under about 2k per server if possible. Min configuration for each would probably be a quad-core with 8GB Ram. Thinking to run Windows Server 2008 R2 (Web Edition?) and SQL Server 2008.

Looking for advice on the best server configurations and/or brands that fit the budget, yet will allow us to smoothly scale as traffic increases. Reliability is also pretty important. Also wondering if a switch/router is necessary or useful to connect the two servers.

  • Please specify the language that to be used within your apps. – Embreau Apr 3 '10 at 15:36
  • Considering they are going for windows server 2008 with SQL Server I'm thinking asp.net – user126330 Apr 3 '10 at 15:47
  • i would rather not assume anything... especially since c# is 100x more popular these days. – Embreau Apr 3 '10 at 16:00
  • 100x :) you like to thing BIG, but why do you assume the language is so important ? – user126330 Apr 3 '10 at 16:27

Given that you've already chosen your environment (that specific colo), it might have an impact on your decision. First, are you planning to use the colo for hands on type work? You have options. In some cases you may rent space from them but choose to do 100% of the actual work on your servers (including the hands on physical stuff). Optionally, you may plan to lean on the colo a little and have them do some of the basic management for you (possibly including racking and cabling the gear, installing Windows, ongoing patching and monitoring, backups, etc). My point is that if you are going to opt to have them help with some of the administration, using their custom-build servers would likely be a very good idea.

Similarly, if you're planning to do all of the work yourself, I would strongly consider the experiences and skills of the people/person who will be doing the work. A custom built server or something like ABMX might be great if your people are strong technically but consider the support you'll be getting. Can you fix it yourself if the RAID controller dies? Or would you prefer to be able to reach someone at 3am when the site is down? Dell will be more expensive and while their support often sucks, there will always be someone there to answer the phone and if pressed, you can usually get someone on the phone that can help and dispatch parts quickly when necessary.

  • The support argument is a fallacy. Sorry. It the raid controller dies etc. - spare parts ALONE will not help without knowledge. If knowledge is there, the spare part issue is minor. Anything else stands. I dont like dell as they have bad "sizing" in their servers for solutions that size. No small server with many hard discs ;) – TomTom Apr 3 '10 at 19:00

I would go with custom builds... ...from SUPERMICRO. Especially for the database server they have a NICE case that has 2 rack units of height and space for 24 hard discs - using Velociraptors you can build a heck of a database server here. Remember, database servers live from IO - not so much processor speed.

If you want to already preplan for scaling up the website, SuperMicro also has servers that are 2 rack units high and have 2 totally independant cartrides for computers. But they SUCK for databases (not enough local IO available - and again, databases LIVE on IO capacity - not gigabyte, IOPS).

Stay away from blased - they rarely make financial sense unless you take administration into calculation AND suck IO Wise - simply not enoug hard disc space available. IN your case they simply will not fit your needs., unless you get a BIG BIG BIG break on the price. And the casing for free, so to say.

QUAD CORE? SERIOUSLY? ;) Get one of the SUperMicro cases I talked above. Put in a proper server board for - hm - two opteron six cores. Plug in 32gb ram. Load Hyper-V in a windows server. THen:

  • Set up 3 discs as RAID 10, 64gb for operating system, the rest for hyper-v
  • Install the web server and the database server as virtual machines.
  • Plug in another set of discs as needed for the database server work drives, which you map to the hyper-v instance of the database as "pass through" discs.
  • Plug in anothe rset of discs for backup - "slow" 750gb discs in a RAID 5 work wonder here.

You get more performance, better scalability and have no real negaitves (you dont have redundance in your setup anyway).

  • Why do you assume his database needs are so large in terms of capacity? It's a e-commerce website. Regarding IO scalability on bladeserver I would say you are completely wrong, have you ever seen a real bladesystem (from IBM for example) or have you ever benchmarked such a system against high IO requirements ? Blades can have direct attached storage which at worst performs as best as your supermicro custom build, not to mention FireWire, SATA, E-SATA, SCSI, DAS, Fibre Channel and of course iSCSI. Why do you say something sucks without any real experience? I assume you work for a mom&pop shop. – user126330 Apr 3 '10 at 17:13
  • In terms of costs in the long run I would always put my money on a blade-center when the customer is a small to mid-size company since things like lower power needs, lower space requirements, lower administration costs,better and integrated redundancy, better scalability through expansions are always going to be cheaper then a server farm with custom build servers. Unless of course you are Google – user126330 Apr 3 '10 at 17:18
  • Problem with "on the long run" is that it still is a stupid invstment for anything below 2-3 racks. Blade centers have significant scaiability and maintenanace advantages. YOu PAY for them with a price through the fricking nose. I checked DELL - the BLADE was more expensive than a supermicro solution, AND I needed... to get the cage on top (around 6000 USD). Regarding IO - yes, blades DO sort of scale. Still it is hard to get proper high end IO needs on a single blade with the limits they have. AND... – TomTom Apr 3 '10 at 18:24
  • ...even IF you manage - the price is even higher. Yes, iSCSI; Fibre Channel are all great IO Solution. BUt the question was not "are blades applicable", but "I am on a budget". The blade itself is crazy expensive. If you add the SAN elements on top, buying it is a "fired for inompetence" level offense. It just makes no sense for a smaller installation - and especially not for a lower end one. FInancially stupid. – TomTom Apr 3 '10 at 18:25
  • Now, when talking aboug "oh yea, it is more scalable and redundant and all that" - remember the poster is trying to buy TWO SERVERS, not a freaking data center. This is a BUDGET setup, and blades just blow it. And yes, I have seen and debugged SQL Server installations that were maxing out 8gbit SAN links - against a HP EVa 1with 190 discs. I do not work for a mom and pop shop, but you guys definitely show a "blow the budget" attitude. – TomTom Apr 3 '10 at 18:27

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