I want to give a last boost to my old ProLiant ML350 G5 server which just needs to be reliable for a few more year only ! With a defined budget of about 1500$ (I do not have more), i plan to replace the CPU (+ adding a second one), the battery cache of my raid controller (E200i), double the RAM, and change all hard drives.

I have 7 HDD (SAS 10krpm, 72Gb) + 1 spare in RAID5, and my system is all FULL (no empty tray, full disks).

in my current RAID5 array, I have 2 partitions: - 1 OS partition, 20Gb - 1 data partition, 350 Gb

I plan to replace these 8 disks with : - 2 x 300Gb SAS 15krpm in RAID 1 (= 1 partition for OS) - 2 x 2Tb SATA 7.2krpm in RAID 1 (= 1 partition for DATA)

My biggest constraint is that I have only 01 day to upgrade my server. Therefore, I'm looking for cloning all my files (OS + data partition) to my new arrays, i.e : - the OS partition shall be cloned to the RAID1 "2x300Gb array" - the data partition shall be cloned to the RAID1 "2x2Tb array"

My second problem is that I need to physically remove all the old hard drives before inserting the new ones.

I'm running Windows Server 2003 R2, and even if MS support will expire soon, I cannot buy a new licence and spent time in configuration. Obviously, with 1500$, I cannot also buy a new server that I could start configuring from now !

Thought about ASR (NTBackup), but I have no floppy drive (and do not really want to invest in one !) Thought about a clonezilla clone, and read this interesting link : Windows Server 2003 - move C: partition to a new SAS disk , but i'm not so confident in using Clonezilla with RAID5.

What should be the best option to quickly and easily (if possible!) "copy/paste" my OS (so no need to reinstall and reconfigure all) and DATA / programs / services, etc... ?

Thanks for your comments

  • How much more space do you need? – ewwhite Jun 6 '14 at 13:12

Totally love this question - thanks for asking it!

Now I have a cunning plan - take this time to virtualise and make all future work super-easy.

The plan would be to get a temporary/rented server, install basic (free) ESXi onto it, take your server down for a few hours and convert the current server to a VM on the ESXi box, install the vmtools and test it while isolated from your real users.

If this testing goes well you can schedule to do the same thing again, but for real this time!

What you'd do is shutdown your server again, convert it to a VM again but then remove all of your disks and set them aside as a fall-back option. Then add the extra CPU/memory/cache and create your new array on your new disks. Install ESXi on this new array and simply copy the VM from the temp ESXi box to the newly upgraded one, start it and install the vmtools.

If all goes well then you should see a huge performance increase from the extra CPU, memory and disks - yes you'll lose a few percent of that performance to the virtualisation layer but now you'll have an easily transported server that can be moved, upgraded etc. as it'll be encapsulated inside a VM. If it goes badly simply re-insert the old disks and you're back to where you were.

Does this sound feasible? I know you don't have the budget for paid support from VMWare but your setup would be super-easy and we could help with the config of this if you had specific questions, plus you get to 'play' with this temp server anyway - don't forget that temp machine doesn't have to have oceans of CPU, memory or disk performance, just enough to hold the new VM.

Hope this helps.

  • Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. P2V is the way to go since the server get old and may be not as reliable as i was. With a free ESXi (it takes my 2 CPUs and all my RAM, I'm just limited to 1 VM), i'm independant of the hardware now ! – Antoine Jul 29 '15 at 7:57

Can you please outline how much space you need for the short-term?

Let's look at logistics. This is a ProLiant ML350 G5 server. You have 7+1 disks, so they're 2.5" small-form-factor disks (server has 8-bays). There aren't any HP disks that are officially supported at the 2TB size for that server. If you're looking to use consumer or cheap SATA laptop disks in the machine using HP drive trays, there will be cooling/thermal issues with that combination...

If you just need a little bit more space to get through a year, your least-expensive option is:

  • Update the BBWC and cache of the E200i controller.
  • Convert your spare disk into a data drive and expand the existing RAID group. This will give you 72GB of additional space.
  • Buy a used 72GB disk (they're not made anymore) and use it as a cold spare.

The proper solution is to backup and restore. You're not talking about a tremendous amount of data.

Another option is:

  • Update the BBWC and cache of the E200i controller.
  • Buy 7 or 8 new/used/refurbished disks of appropriately-larger sizes... e.g. 300GB, 450GB or 600GB. (Do NOT buy 15k SAS disks for this server. It won't make an appreciable difference in performance)
  • Swap each drive for a larger disk and allow the array to rebuild in between.
  • The resulting array will be substantially larger, and you'll have the option to just add space to the existing RAID5, or transform it into a RAID 1+0 while expanding it.
  • All of this can be done online and at your leisure and your OS installation will remain intact, so it's the approach I'd take.
  • Thanks for your comment. I really like your second option (swap new larger drives) but 450 or 600GB SFF HDDs are quite expensive. Yes, 2TB SFF does not exist, my plan was to acquire also a LFF cage, mainly because 3.5" HDD are less expensive whereas performance or life-time loss is not critical for me. Also for capacity. (I need a few tera, 1 or 2) Thanks again, I'll assess your answer in a few more days. – Antoine Jun 9 '14 at 1:47

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