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What other "accessories" do I need to turn this bare-box Server into a functioning Database Server

Posted on 2008-10-18
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2008-10-19
Hi all,
I have just inherited a bare-boned used IBM xSeries 445 Server for private use and I want to accessorize the box for "virtualization" (I will like to run multi-OS on it) and for database servers for training purposes. Given the following information about the box, what do you see that I need to make the hardware come alive for the purpose stated above. This is important as I am not a hardware person but willing to learn some. Please suggest hardware and software (especially if I can get them free or cheap) such as RAID drives, server Operating System (64-bit OS), etc etc. I will truly appreciate any help I can get on this matter.
                              Hardware Data
IBM xSeries 445 EIGHT P4 XEON MP 2Ghz 4096Mb Server (EIGHT XEON MP CPUs! 4Gb RAM)
Brand IBM
Model xSeries 445
Form Factor 4U
Operating System Not Included
Warranty 30 Days Exchange Warranty
Processor Manufacturer IBM
Processor Type Xeon MP
Processor Speed 2.0GHz
Quantity Installed 8
Max Quantity Supported 8
Interface Type Onboard
Included Memory 4096Mb
Max Memory Capacity 32GB
Memory Type PC133
Hard Drive
Quantity Installed 0
Interface SCSI
SCSI Card On Board
Supports RAID Yes, Supported
Optical Drive Primary
Optical Drive Secondary
Type Not Included
LAN Controller Included
LAN Speed 10/100/1000 Mbps
LAN Ports 2
Modem 56K
Serial 1
PS/2 2
Power Supply
Quantity Installed 2
Maximum Power Supplies 2
Expansion Slots
PCI-X Slots (Available/Total) 6
Additional Information
Floppy Drive Included
Keyboard Not Included
Mouse Not Included
Power Cable Not Included
Color Black
Width 17.5 in
Height 6.75 in
Depth 29 in
Weight 97 lbs

Question by:Enuda
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LVL 42

Accepted Solution

Paul Solovyovsky earned 1000 total points
ID: 22751000
I didn't see this model on the HCL list for VMWare but that doesn't mean that is not compatible


Most likely installing ESXi will work just fine and since ESXi is free it's real easy to try.  You did not mention how many and what type of hard drives are on the system, you'll also need to connect them to the oboard raid controller (if one is onboard) or a RAID controller (for redundancy when drives crash).

I believe ESXi has a max of 2 CPU sockets for the free version (not as much of an issue with the newer servers because of multiple core CPUs) but that should be ok for testing, the memory usually plays a bigger role.

You will definately not be able to do is run 64 bit OS virtual machines (guest Operating Systems) because the P4 does not support this.  You will need to have a CPU that supports Intel Virtualization or AMD-V for this to work.

For a test system it's a nice box and will most likely give you a good test lab.
LVL 56

Expert Comment

ID: 22752502
It'll certainly keep your house warm if you leave it on all the time!

Author Comment

ID: 22752827

Thanks for your response...which lead me to the following questions:

(1) The system came with no hard drive and no operating system. Could you suggest "Test Lab" cheap hard drives (Off-the-Shelf maybe) I can purchase.  SCSI Card On Board and RAID is supported. I say cheap because the only earthly thing I will be doing with this machine is for personal training purposes only.
(2) The machine specs say it is a EIGHT P4 XEON MP 2Ghz CPUs Server. I definitely want to be able to run a 64-bit OS and to virtualize. What can I do about it? For this machine, how difficult is it to upgrade to a 64-bit capable  CPUs? You mentioned a CPU that supports Intel Virtualization or AMD-V. Do you have any specific recommendation, parts number, anything of that nature?

(3) Could you explain further what you mean by "You will definately not be able to do is run 64 bit OS virtual machines (guest Operating Systems) because the P4 does not support this.". Can a 64-bit OS be run on the machine vitualized or not?

Again, thanks immensely for helping me understand what I've got myself into...


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LVL 42

Expert Comment

by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 22752917

See if you can pick up a few drives from Ebay, otherwise they will cost you quite a bit since they are hot plug drives.  

The server is not upgradable to 64 bit CPUs, your only option is to get a different server if that is a major requirement.  64 bit OS can be virtualized but not on the CPUs that are in the system, only CPUs that support Intel Virtualizatio and AMD-V will support virtualizing 64 bit OS.

It may make more sense to get an off the shelf whitebox with a Q660 quad core processor and a few sata hard drives and 6-8GB RAM.  You can install VMWare Server on top of Windows and run 64 bit virtual machines.  You can probably pick up a system for under $600 since 64 bit OS is a requirement that X445 can't provide.  

LVL 29

Assisted Solution

by:Bill Bach
Bill Bach earned 1000 total points
ID: 22752940
1) With no drives, you'll obviously need to buy some.  Many companies sell refurbished hard drives that would be a good deal for a test system, in which you don't care about the live of the data.  I recently bought a batch of drives from C-Tech (www.c-techonline.com).  They were refurbished 300MB drives (Dirt cheap!), and with 4 of them in a RAID5 array, I easily build a 900MB disk subsystem for my own VM box running ESXi.  

(Incidentally, I agree with paulsolov in that VMWare ESXi is the way to go.  It is free, quick, and easy to install.  You won't need the extra management functions of the expensive version, so why pay for it?  With this, you won't need to do a bare-hardware OS install, since the 32MB ESXi image will act as the OS for you.  You will need to select OS'es for the VM's, of course, but you can pick ANYTHING for that.)

2) Running a 64-bit OS on that system will be like roller-blading the Autobahn -- it just ain't gunna happen!  You'll need to scrap the machine and buy a newer one with the appropriate hardware support.  In many cases, the chipset and the CPU must match, and although you might be able to find some way to get around it, it'll likely be a painful learning process.  It's easier to either forgo the 64-bit desire, or just buy a new server instead.  (In any event, having 4GB on a 64-bit machine is kind of a waste anyway, since even a 32-bit CPU system can make full use of 4GB, and you'll be carving it up into smaller VM's anyway, so each one will have more like 1GB of memory.  Having said that, you might want more memory for your VM's anyway, so think about maxing out the box's memory, if you can.)  

3) You MIGHT be able to get away without having the virtualization extensions if you use a hosted VM solution, such as VMWare Server or Microsoft Virtual Server (or Virtual PC).  You would need to FIRST make sure that you have a 64-bit CPU in there.  Find the EXACT model number of the CPU (which is not listed in your original post).  If it starts with a 6 (i.e. 630, 640, 650, etc.) then you will have 64-bit support.  If it starts with a 5 (i.e. 540, etc.), then you won't.  If you DO, then putting a 64-bit Windows 2003 Server on it, then running a 64-bit version of VMWare Server or Virtual Server on it might be possible, and you might just get away with a 64-bit OS as a guest.  However, don't expect super performance.  For a test lab, though, it might work...

Author Comment

ID: 22752998
You have been very helpful. I thank you. I have thirty days return for exchange and I now know what to ask for.

LVL 29

Expert Comment

by:Bill Bach
ID: 22753035
If you can, get fewer CPU's (saves electricity) and make sure you know which model they are -- they must be 64-bit.  Check with the Intel site if you're not sure.  

Also, get one with the Virtualization extensions mentioned by paulsolov.  While you're at it, get hard drives and memory, too.  ;-)  You might even be able to get them to configure the drives in a RAID array for you, lightening your own work load.
LVL 56

Expert Comment

ID: 22753486
>If you can, get fewer CPU's (saves electricity)

That's what I said (although not in so many words). It's totally stupid to use an 8 way server for self training purposses.

Author Comment

ID: 22754411
Young man, watch your language...In polite society, "It's totally wasteful to use an 8 way server for self training purposses" would be much more acceptable and much more appreciated...

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