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SBS 2008/7 on Hyper-V: Hardware Specs & RAID

I'm prepping for migrating our existing SBS 2003 domain onto new hardware & OS (SBS 2008 or SBS 7 if it releases in a reasonable timeframe). I'd like to run the new SBS server on Hyper-V to make future hardware upgrades easier, reduce disaster recovery times, and to reduce my box count (linux/web servers, etc).

We currently have:

Dell PE 2900 II dual core Xeon 2.0GHZ (can't recall model...conroe or wolfdale).
2x160 7200rpm SATA in RAID 1 (OS & Exchange)
3.500 7200rpm SATA in RAID 5
PERC 5i controller

Usage: Exchange, WSUS, Symantec Endpoint Server, heavy file sharing. 35 computers, 30 users. Things seem to bog down during peak work hours. We run 1GB ethernet, and I've been told the issue is our RAID performance and low RAM.

I'm looking for recommendations on what/how to spec the new server. In particular, what should I do about hard drives & RAID arrays? Since the server will be virtualized, is there any point to a RAID 1 + RAID 5 setup? Should I run one larger RAID 5? A RAID 10 with partitions?

One option I thought of would be to virtualize both servers (SBS Premium offers 1 SBS license + 1 standard) on different volumes (ie I can put the VM file for the SBS server on the host machines RAID 1 volume and the standard server on a RAID 5 or 10) but I don't know if that would really make any sense!

As you can probably guess, I'm a bit confused, and this is only 1 of the hats I wear. This is what I'm thinking of for a new server:

Dell R510 or 710 Quad core (single processor)
12-16GB RAM
6-12 10k or 15k SAS hard drives. (more drives if I go with the cheaper 146GB drives, or less if I use 300 or 600GB drives)
Don't know what to do about RAID!

I will check back religiously and provided any additional requested information asap.

Josiah Rocke
Josiah Rocke
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2 Solutions
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
HDD I/O will be your number 1 bottleneck. The more SAS 15K spindles in RAID 10 the better.

Dual E5630 or E5640 would be your best bet for CPU.

24GB for RAM and a hardware RAID PERC 6/i series controller. Hot swap is a must.

Drop the Broadcom on board NICs for an Intel dual or quad port PRO series NIC.

You would be running SBS 2008 Premium with your Windows Server 2008 OS providing the Hyper-V Role (only one allowed for 1+1 licensing) and your SBS and Win2K8 OS as guests on the box.

Set up to allow for remote Hyper-V management with host in Workgroup mode (recommended for only DC as guest):

Dell DRAC with the KVM redirect add-on is a _must_ with a separate IP address for the DRAC to give you console and out-of-band access to the system if host OS chokes.

Josiah RockeNetwork & CommunicationsAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the reply. Bear with me as I ask some follow-up questions...

1. HDD I/O performance makes sense. Does ariel density matter? For example, I can afford 4-6 300GB SAS or 8-12 146GB SAS. Obviously, if I go with the 146GB drives, I won't have much room to expand, but how much performance will I be losing?

2. What RAID level? I'm looking at the H700 controller with 512 MB cache (they offer 2 better versions of the H700, but I'm not sure how much better they are...512+NVDIMM and 1GB+NVDIMM). Since I'm virtualizing the SBS server(s), do I need to have separate volumes for exchange+logs and the rest of the services?

3. I am getting the Dell iDRAC, but which  version? They offer 3...

4. Should I go with cheaper dual CPU or a faster single CPU? Why?

5. Thanks for the info on setting up hyper-V. I understand how I can setup the host/guests with licensing. But is there any benefit? If I'm virtualizing the SBS, does it make sense to run the Exchange/SQL services on the SBS premium license and the file/printer sharing on the Win 2k8 license?

Thanks again!
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
1: More spindles generally means more performance. Density of the bits on the other hand does make a bit of a difference. We have seen it in our real world bench testing when manufacturers started stacking the bits. I would be inclined to still run with 8x 146 GB before 4x 300 GB though.

2: RAID 10 (1+0) is the array of choice for high read/write I/O demands. Battery backup if available for the controller should also be purchased to allow for write-back enabling on the controller (better performance).

3: Yeah, I noticed they changed their model scheme to match HP's. Sell the unit then add a "license" for KVM.
  + http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/products/pedge/en/server-poweredge-r710-tech-guidebook.pdf
  + Page 49: iDRAC 6 Enterprise: • Remote video, keyboard, and mouse control with Virtual Console
You want iDRAC 6 Enterprise.

4: For the kind of load you are looking at the more cores in the system the better. You can set 1, 2, or 4 vCPUs to a VM which represent 1, 2, or 4 threads respectively that _MUST_ be processed in parallel on a CPU or CPUs. 1 Core = 1 thread with HyperThreading being somewhat helpful.

5: You can run both OSs virtualized and as long as you keep the SBS components together on the SBS VM you can set things up anyway you want with regards to file and print sharing. SQL 2005 or 2008 instances would be installed on the Windows Server 2008 OS as would Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services and RemoteApps if you use them.

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Josiah RockeNetwork & CommunicationsAuthor Commented:
I'm sorry if I'm dense, but it appears to me that you are saying I *can* setup the OSs in the manner I outlined, but I'm asking if it would be beneficial. Perhaps I'm not asking it the right way. With 35 users, mostly doing exchange (~12-16GB in the exchange folders/mailboxes or whatever you call them) and heavy file serving (~140GB data...lots and lots of read/write...all users documents/images are mapped to file shares on the server) but very little database (3-4 users use daily...maybe 1000-2000 instances of new or modified data per week) or hosted applications (sharepoint/remote apps). Maybe that would help you or someone else to give me a reccomendation on the optimal OS setup.

Thanks for info on RAID, iDRAC, and HDDs.

It appears that the most vCPUs I can assign to a VM is 4? if I am hosting 3 VMs, I can definitely see why I would want more that 4 vCPUs available on the host. Is it a one-to-one ratio? In other words, if I have a quad-core CPU in the host, can I only assign a total of 4 threads to VMs?

Josiah RockeNetwork & CommunicationsAuthor Commented:
Update: Found info on vCPUs...I think I understand that now.
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
Physical CPUs = a component plugged into a socket on the server board.
Cores = an individual processing core on the CPU (can be 2, 4, 8, or more cores on 1 CPU).

vCPU = A virtual CPU assigned to a guest running on Hyper-V or other hypervisor product. See attached. We can assign up to 4 vCPUs to a VM guest.

1 vCPU = 1 Thread to be processed by the physical host.

1 Thread = Can be processed by 1 physical core on the CPU.

Therefore, a VM with 4 vCPUs assigned to it require 4 Threads to be processed by the host simultaneously.

If we have one physical CPU with 4 cores, the above VM may be a performance hit due to the host's need to process other threads too. So, the VM's 4 threads may have to wait in a queue until the physical CPU has 4 cores available to process it.

Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
Oops ... see attached.

Josiah RockeNetwork & CommunicationsAuthor Commented:
Makes sense now! Still looking for recommendations on the optimal VM setup.
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
Your partition setup could be something like this:
 95 GB OS partition
 35 GB Swap File Partition (check the settings in OS Swap properties for optimal before creating this partition)
 You could partition off the rest and drop VHDs for each VM in a dedicated partition. This would avoid fragmentation issues.

Use this tool to create fixed VHDs quickly for _fresh_ VHD creation:

Josiah RockeNetwork & CommunicationsAuthor Commented:
It took a couple refinements on my part, but MPEC SInc was able to answer my questions and provide reasonable basis for his answers which is what I really needed to know.
Really good Q&A.  Found this to be VERY helpful!!
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