Wednesday 23 March 2011

Physical and Virtual Server Configuration Norms For Us

The following is one of our responses in a hardware configuration conversation for SBS 2011:


. . . it really does get difficult to work through all of this for those that may not spend time working directly with hardware.

Since we build our own servers and have been doing so for a good 12-15 years now we know the hardware side of things quite well.

We also resell tier 1 for remote clients though we don’t like the $*?$! match between them and software vendors when things break. Again, given our hardware experiences we can bring both in line most of the time and get a fix.

That being said, experience tells us that as a general rule:

  • For virtualized environments more sockets + cores is better.
    • All VM threads are processed in parallel for 2+ vCPUs.
    • Hex-Core CPUs hit a sweet spot for virtualized setups where 4 vCPUs are assigned to several VMs.
  • For physical environments more GHz is better.
    • We use Intel Xeon CPUs exclusively. YMMV.
  • More RAM is always better.
  • Hardware RAID is a must.
    • More spindles is better.
    • PCI-E 8x 2nd Gen is better.
    • Battery Backup or SSD Cache is better.
  • 15K 2.5” spindles is better than 15K 3.5” spindles.
    • SATA is only Nearline storage and never for primary production I/O.
  • SSD blows away any and all spindle based setups.

That about sums up the overall perspective we have on server hardware.


Using the above guide we are able to start with a base platform that is tailored to a client’s needs and then scale up from there.

In addition to the above, we can add redundancy features such as multi-port server NICs, additional power supplies, clustering configurations, and more.

In the end it is our aim to provide the best all around IT solution for our client’s needs.

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...

When using SSDs, do you use hardware raid? RAID 1? 5? 10?

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

We use hardware RAID for all of our server deployments.

On board software based RAID no longer makes sense when a 4 port RAID card is less than $450 (RS2BL040).