I've founded a start-up recently and am about to add a little structure to it, regarding management, communication and data. I am a software developer and do not know any details about server topologies, etc. However, as the budget is small, I need to set up an environment myself.

My plan is to rent servers, root or virtual, depending on what makes more sense, to set up the following servers 'in the cloud' (sort of).

Here is what I would like to set up:

  • MS Sharepoint Server 2013 with Project Server 2013 MS Team Foundation

  • Server 2012 (a more or less lightweight source control server)

  • MS Exchange Server 2013

We want the minimum hardware to make it work satisfyingly (it doesn't have to be awesome) for <10 users with the option to upgrade the architecture if our demand increases. There is nothing special we are trying to achieve, we just want to use the more or less basic functionality of each application. I own legal, permanent licenses for each.

Of course, for SharePoint to work, I need a SQL Server.

I have a number of questions regarding this:

  1. Do I need a domain controller running on a dedicated server to set up this environment or is there a way around this?

  2. How many servers do I need minimum to distribute the server roles to? Are there any conflicts that I am not aware of?

  3. If I install multiple server applications on one machine, is this good (more hardware for each when the others are idling) or bad (conflicts). Do I need to cumulate the hardware requirements?

I am happy to provide more information, if required and will be screening the thread constantly today. Thanks!!

  • You can run domain controllers virtually but it's not really reccomended. I'd suggest using Active Directory to make things a lot easier. I'd think two mid-level servers running as domain controllers, one mid-level server for your exchange server and then one mid-to-high server for your application, at least. – tombull89 May 7 '13 at 10:13
  • You could, in theory, buy one server and run everything in Virtual machines with ESXi or Hyper-V but that's opening you up to a world of issues if your one server dies. – tombull89 May 7 '13 at 10:14
  • Ok, one server would be quite insecure, but apart from that there are no conflicts? What is the idea behind two domain controllers? I thought one would be sufficient? If you post as an answer, I'd upvote ;) EDIT: Ok, one backup domain controller makes sense. – Marc May 7 '13 at 10:18
  • Two domain controllers are to provide redundancy with AD, DNS and DHCP avalibility, yes. – tombull89 May 7 '13 at 10:28
  • Would you mind joining me in chat so we can get a better idea of what you're after? – tombull89 May 7 '13 at 10:31

First of all I would strongly recommend that you fully virtualise this setup, given it's 100% MS I'd stick with Hyper-V on Server 2012 - it's increasingly mature and it sounds like you'll have the skills to implement it.

Obviously we don't know exactly which version of Server 2012 you have or want but they vary the number of guest OS licences they come with. So if we assume that Guest ODS licences aren't a problem I'd be inclined to have separate VMs for each major function (i.e. DC and possible secondary DC), SQL, Exchange, Sharepoint, Project, Source Control etc.).

I suggest this because if you start out with all of these running on a single physical host server then all network comms will be super quick and the whole thing will be easy to setup and manage. Then as you grow you can simply add more physical hosts and migrate the various functions between them - so you can grow pretty linearly with minimal rework or service interruption. The only real downside to this regards guest OS licences, if you have multiple VMs then each needs an OS licence and that can get expensive if you don't buy the right Server 2012 version - does that make sense?

From a technical perspective you just need a decent server with a sensible number of cores - I'd go for something like a HP DL380p Gen8, it can take two CPUs, just fit one 6 or 8 core Xeon E5-24xx CPU now, knowing you can add another at pretty low cost and effort. Fill it with a good amount of memory, it's cheap at the moment so don't scrimp on this as Hyper-V isn't as efficient with memory as VMWare's ESXi. The biggest technical weakspot with my suggestion is that it puts all the disk IO into one server - so you'll need a good bit of performance with this aspect. Either go for SSDs in RAID 10 if you can afford them or go for 15k rpm disks instead - don't go for those consumer/prosumer-grade 7200rpm disks because they're cheap, there's a reason they're cheap.

Hope this helps.

  • This does help a lot!! Let my digest it for a moment. This was pretty much was I was hoping for, I'll find out about the licenses... And: Yes, it does make sense, the 'guest licenses' are a good point that I didn't think about so fra.. – Marc May 7 '13 at 10:34
  • Just had to remind myself but it's the Datacenter edition of 2012 that has unlimited guest OS licences - spendy though! – Chopper3 May 7 '13 at 10:50

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