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Critique my server build please


DEUSmachina
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Hi,

 

I've been reading many posts on this website over the past month and decided to sign-up. One thing that's drawn me over here is the people which seem to be very genuine and helpful.

 

Anyways, I now have the following hardware available:

 

- HP N40L server

- 2x 4GB DDR3 Ram modules (KTH-PL313E/4G)

- 1x 128Gb Crucial SSD

- 5x 2TB WD Green HDDs

- 1x Sony External USB Slim DVD

- 1 eSATA-to-SATA cable

- 1x 4 PIN Power to 2x SATA Cable

- 1x Patriot 16G Xporter XT Boost (quad channel) flash drive

- 1x 5.25"-to-3.5" mounting rails

 

I'm wanting to achieve running VMware ESXi5 to run a Windows server OS plus and also Windows 7 24x7, and a variety of test machines on an ad-hoc basis. I require the Windows server to run 24x7 for media streaming (movies, tv shows, music), news hosting, and for my electricity monitoring software which uploads to the internet. I'd like to keep the 5x 2TB disks in a RAID5 FlexRAID (software RAID) configuration too.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I would be achieve this?

 

Should I install VMware onto the USB flash drive, then store guests on the SSD and once booted into Windows server configure the software RAID5? Will this work? Will other guests be able to see the software RAID 5 (I think not)...? Or am I better simply to run up a physical install of Windows Server and install either hyper-v or VMware on it and then configure the software RAID5 from there?

 

Any suggestions appreciated - TIA

Edited by DEUSmachina
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To maximize the limited RAM you can install on that box will will have to go with ESXi for the base OS. Any Windows machine will be able to see the RAID array as long as you share it out. I know nothing about the software program you intend to use for the RAID array, if you can afford enough for a dedicated card that woudl be better.

 

With only 8gig of available RAM, I would guess you will only be able to run about 3 machines at any one given time and I would look for a spindle drive for the VM's as you will not gain much in performance and will soon run out of room.

 

Those are my initial thoughts.

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Hi and thanks for the reply.

 

I was steering away from hardware because a. if i don't need it why get it, b. its a central point of failure, c. if any 2x disks fail its bye bye to all data, d. cost. That being said if I need it I need it...

 

I think I'm confusing myself, but to put it another way I could configure 2x 2TB disks as a windows software RAID. This would work if 1 server was accessing this but would it if there were two configured to access the same physical disks? I'm more worried about concurrent servers accessing the RAID5 at the same time and stuff getting corrupt etc.

 

Regarding the SSD vs spindle comment I'm not planning on growing VMs much (4-8max) so I'm really hoping 128GB is enough, plus all data will be on the RAID 5. If not I'll upgrade at that time.

 

Before anyone asks I'll have an external 3TB HDD for off site backups too :)

Edited by DEUSmachina
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One one server can access the array at any one time. These N40L can only be used in a RAID 0 or 1 configuration natively so you will have to use either a RAID card or your program. This will get a little tricky because you will have to pass thru thru the 5 disks to the VM and then build a RAID 5 array which in my mind creates multiple points of failure.

Get the RAID card and never look back.

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Hi,

 

I've been reading many posts on this website over the past month and decided to sign-up. One thing that's drawn me over here is the people which seem to be very genuine and helpful.

 

Anyways, I now have the following hardware available:

 

- HP N40L server

- 2x 4GB DDR3 Ram modules (KTH-PL313E/4G)

- 1x 128Gb Crucial SSD

- 5x 2TB WD Green HDDs

- 1x Sony External USB Slim DVD

- 1 eSATA-to-SATA cable

- 1x 4 PIN Power to 2x SATA Cable

- 1x Patriot 16G Xporter XT Boost (quad channel) flash drive

- 1x 5.25"-to-3.5" mounting rails

 

I'm wanting to achieve running VMware ESXi5 to run a Windows server OS plus and also Windows 7 24x7, and a variety of test machines on an ad-hoc basis. I require the Windows server to run 24x7 for media streaming (movies, tv shows, music), news hosting, and for my electricity monitoring software which uploads to the internet. I'd like to keep the 5x 2TB disks in a RAID5 FlexRAID (software RAID) configuration too.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I would be achieve this?

 

Should I install VMware onto the USB flash drive, then store guests on the SSD and once booted into Windows server configure the software RAID5? Will this work? Will other guests be able to see the software RAID 5 (I think not)...? Or am I better simply to run up a physical install of Windows Server and install either hyper-v or VMware on it and then configure the software RAID5 from there?

 

Any suggestions appreciated - TIA

 

As an alternative, have you considered:

 

(1) Load WHS2011 as your host system and use virtual box to load your Win7 and other test environments.

Advantages:

WHS2011 is inexpensive but is a powerful 64b Server OS. WHS2011 is based on Server 2008-R2 Foundation which is a very good family tree, IMHO. By being the Host OS on the MicroServer – WHS2011 will see all your SATA and USB ports – if WHS2011 is a VM in ESXi or Hyper-V you would have to pass thru SATA ports (which is fairly easy) but you would be unable to pass thru USB ports (or at least it would be very difficult – which will complicate many things you may want to do).

 

(2) Instead of using RAID have you considered using Stablebit Drive Pool or one of the other Drive-Extender type add-on for WHS2011(also works on SBS2011 & SBSe2011). Listen to a few of the recent podcasts for Dieharder’s assessment of the available Drive-Extender type add-ons.

 

Check out Podcast 180 that has information on Stablebit Drive Pool and Virtual Box. A number of people have been running Virtual Box for some time. In 180 they discuss how to load it on top of WHS2011 and set it up to shut down gracefully whenever WHS2011 is shut down or rebooted.

 

The only issue I see that you may have with loading WHS2011 directly onto your MicroServer is it’s requirement for a 160GB OS drive. There are a number of workarounds for this and each alternative is discussed elsewhere on this board as well as other boards so I wouldn’t expect it to be that big of a deal to load it onto a 128GB SSD.

Edited by Joe_Miner
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These are all great ideas. (I was going to pull a Dave and say "It's crap", but that's not nice.) Since they've covered most everything that I could possibly think of, I'll just comment on the one that that was left out, your USB drive. ESXi can run on a 4GB stick proven at my house. I realize this is an ultra fast USB stick, but you'll never go over USB 2.0 for transfers. However, that's just my opinion and I'm cheap. :) For me, these guys have given sound advice, so if you'd like to ship all of your hardware to my house, I'll take care of it for you. Good luck!

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These are all great ideas. (I was going to pull a Dave and say "It's crap", but that's not nice.) Since they've covered most everything that I could possibly think of, I'll just comment on the one that that was left out, your USB drive. ESXi can run on a 4GB stick proven at my house. I realize this is an ultra fast USB stick, but you'll never go over USB 2.0 for transfers. However, that's just my opinion and I'm cheap. :) For me, these guys have given sound advice, so if you'd like to ship all of your hardware to my house, I'll take care of it for you. Good luck!

 

Lol - noice. Unfortunately the shipping from Australia to the US would break me ;)

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As an alternative, have you considered:

 

(1) Load WHS2011 as your host system and use virtual box to load your Win7 and other test environments.

Advantages:

WHS2011 is inexpensive but is a powerful 64b Server OS. WHS2011 is based on Server 2008-R2 Foundation which is a very good family tree, IMHO. By being the Host OS on the MicroServer – WHS2011 will see all your SATA and USB ports – if WHS2011 is a VM in ESXi or Hyper-V you would have to pass thru SATA ports (which is fairly easy) but you would be unable to pass thru USB ports (or at least it would be very difficult – which will complicate many things you may want to do).

 

(2) Instead of using RAID have you considered using Stablebit Drive Pool or one of the other Drive-Extender type add-on for WHS2011(also works on SBS2011 & SBSe2011). Listen to a few of the recent podcasts for Dieharder’s assessment of the available Drive-Extender type add-ons.

 

Check out Podcast 180 that has information on Stablebit Drive Pool and Virtual Box. A number of people have been running Virtual Box for some time. In 180 they discuss how to load it on top of WHS2011 and set it up to shut down gracefully whenever WHS2011 is shut down or rebooted.

 

The only issue I see that you may have with loading WHS2011 directly onto your MicroServer is it’s requirement for a 160GB OS drive. There are a number of workarounds for this and each alternative is discussed elsewhere on this boardas well as other boards so I wouldn’t expect it to be that big of a deal to load it onto a 128GB SSD.

 

Hi Joe. I was approaching the same logic. I think if I go with the software RAID I need to build a physical server with virtualisation software installed on-top which then presented the software RAID5. I had a bit of a read RE: Stablebit and it looks similar to FlexRAID from what I can tell. Although Stablebit isn't free its only $20 and you get support.

 

As a sidenote I noticed there is the VMware View for iPad and VMware vSphere Client for iPad in the iStore. VMware View allows you to RDP to WinOS which is pretty cool especially when I'm trying to make my iPad controll as many things as I can (eg. sonos, Tivo, TV, etc, etc).

 

Ahh I guess it comes down to whether I want to spend dollars on the hardware RAID so I can then install ESXi5 on USB, or do I just build the physical and throw VMware/Vbox) ontop. Decisions decisions... <_<

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I ordered the Highpoint 2720 today with a miniSAS to 4x SATA cable today guys. I decided I want to do this properly which for me mean't going hardware RAID.

 

So should I connect the existing miniSAS to 4x SATA into one of the miniSAS ports on the 2720, and the 5th one in the ODD bay into one of the 4x SATA cables on the new miniSAS to 4x SATA cable I've ordered and plug it into the second port on the 2720?

 

I've decided I want to run ESXi5 off an internal USB, and should I store the vmdk files on the SSD and just back them up?

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The ODD should be connected to the extra SATA port on the MOBO and not to the RAID Card.

 

I've decided I want to run ESXi5 off an internal USB, and should I store the vmdk files on the SSD and just back them up? Not sure what you mean here.

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