Thursday 7 October 2010

Intel Server System SR1695GPRX 1U 1P 4x Hot Swap = Excellent SBS Virtualization Platform

The question was asked a while back in the comments section about the platform we would use to virtualize both servers included with SBS 2008 Premium.

It is our preference to set up and install rack mount server products so that everything can be mounted in a relatively inexpensive enclosure thus keeping them physically secured.

Standalone Virtualization Server

To date, we have been using the Intel Server System SR1630HGP outfitted with an Intel Xeon X3450 or X3460 CPU and 16 GB of RAM. The RAM would either be four 4 GB Kingston Intel tested DIMMs or recently we have been looking into the 8 GB Hynix Intel tested DIMMs that we can get branded as a SuperMicro product.

We then install an Intel RS2BL040 RAID controller with the battery backup and three 300 GB or larger Seagate 15K RPM SAS drives.

  • Intel Server System SR1630HGP(NA) 1U 1P rack mount server system
    • 3x hot swap bays for SAS/SATA
    • 2x Intel Gigabit NICs
  • Intel Xeon Processor X3450 or X3460
  • 16 GB ECC RAM (4x 4GB Kingston Intel Approved)
  • Intel RAID Controller RS2BL040 PCI-E 8x Gen 2.
    • Intel RAID Smart Battery Backup
  • 3x 300 GB Seagate 15K.6 or 15K.7 SAS drives
  • Advanced rack mount rail kit for in-rack servicing (AXXHERAIL or AXXHERAIL2)

The newer Intel Server System SR1630HGPRX 1U 1P system is an “almost there” as far as needed product features in an entry level 1U server. We gain access to remote KVM over IP via the RMM3LITE add-in along with the five NICs on the server board. One NIC will be dedicated to the RMM3LITE while the other four are enterprise class Intel PRO/1000 EB NICs that support hardware acceleration for virtualization features.

Since they have become available here in Canada recently we have been using them as our base platform for all 1U 1P server systems.

Ideal Standalone Virtualization Server

As mentioned above, Intel has been moving towards providing us with Intel branded server systems that compete with Tier 1 systems that have had needed server features such as remote management and multiple NICs for years. This is a very welcome change in the rack mount product line.

The system we would configure for a client requiring a standalone server with the Hyper-V role set up on it and SBS 2008 along with Windows Server 2008 as guests would be as follows:

  • Intel Server System SR1695GPRX2AC(NA)
    • Dual power supply version of the server system.
    • 5 Intel Gigabit NICs (4x EB series)
  • Intel Xeon Processor X3460
  • 16 GB Kingston ECC RAM (4x 4 GB Intel Approved)
  • Intel RAID Controller RS2BL040
    • We would option out the RAID battery.
    • Cost wise it does not make sense to use the budget I/O Expansion Module RAID controllers.
  • 4x 146 GB 15K Seagate SAS drives RAID 10
    • Trays support both 3.5” and 2.5” drives so X25-M SSD would be an option to our clients.
  • Intel Remote Management Module 3 (AXXRMM3LITE)
    • Gives us out-of-band remote KDVM console access to the system whether the host OS is functional or not.
  • Intel Tool-less Rail Kit (AXXHERAIL2)
    • Quick and easy access to the chassis.

The Intel ServerConfigurator Site shows the new server system product but there are still some parts like the dual and quad port Gigabit I/O Expansion Modules (product site) that are missing.


Those missing components are important in that the SR1695GPRX provides an excellent platform for an inexpensive 2 node Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 cluster using iSCSI for SAN access.

We posted a base server configuration sheet similar to what our clients would get on our Web site:

The premium for this particular base 1U versus our SBS base pedestal is actually not that high. Since we are going to be running both the SBS 2008 OS and the Windows Server 2008 OS on this one box we provide power and cooling savings over the 36 month life of the system.

Hyper-V Features

Now, the one thing that we would miss with the SBS 2008 Premium setup would be the hot swap disk capabilities that we have in the R2 version of Hyper-V. Given that the cost of an Open Value License plus SA is not that expensive year over year we would discuss the option of running Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard x64 as our host OS. Having hot swap capabilities means no down-time when there is a need to swap out external USB/eSATA backup drives.

Once SBS v7 RTMs we will have a Premium SKU that adds a separate Windows 2008 R2 Standard license just as SBS 2008 Premium adds a Windows Server 2008 Standard license. When that happens then we can use the 1+1 licensing of the Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard to virtualize our SBS v7 “Premium” solution.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer


Anonymous said...

How would you recommend partitioning your drives? Is 280gb of space generally enough for your clients? Especially since there are only 4 bays?

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

280GB is a starting point for an entry level server configuration.

For a 5-7 seat client looking for TS RemoteApps tied into their SBS 2008 setup this setup would work fine.

It would not be too much in the way of cost increase to bump the drives up to 300GB 15K SAS drives for a 600GB storage total.

The host OS would get its own partition on the RAID 10 array with a swap file parition and then a partition for the VM's VHDs.

We would use VHDTool to create our empty Fixed VHDs for our SBS and TS/RDS VMs.


jasper said...

I am curious to know what brand of small rack you are using to mount the server and firewall etc....

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...


We use the APC NetShelter SX 24U enclosure (AR3104).

It is a compact well made enclosure for smaller offices. They even make some silencer style enclosures for a 1U and a 2U UPS setup that can sit anywhere in the office.

We use APC's enclosures for all of our rack mount needs.

Occasionally we will mount some equipment on the wall such as switches or such. We source those from a local electrical distribution point.