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Recommended HW setup (RAID) for virtualization

Posted on 2011-09-08
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2016-12-08
I've done some virtualization at home with VMware ESXi, but have never used VMware or Hyper-V in production at any customers. I this case i will use Hyper-V.
I still feel that virtualizing 2-3 servers on on physical server should be easy enough with the right hardware.
I'm thinking a HP Proliant ML350 with two 4-core CPUs, 16 (or more) GB RAM and 8 SAS drives should be enough for 2-3 virtualized servers. What do you think? I could add another drive bay to add more hard drives though.

My question is more of how to set up these disks.
The customer needs one server running SQL, database size about 2-3gb. They need Exchange on one server and terminal services on the last one.
They have got 17-20 users.

Which RAID level is the most beneficial for me to use?
How many RAIDs should be used?
How many drives do i need for a proper setup?

I will upgrade Cache on the RAID controller and add more network adapters to match the amount of servers. Anything more i should think of?


Question by:lurer
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

ID: 36501457
Here is something completely different.  Since they are running SQL, and database is small, then just get a pair of SSD and mirror them.   for $600 or so, you can get 20,000 random I/Os per second compared to a few hundred on mechanical disks.   Terminal services is not an I/O factor at all.  I really don't see you needed a quad processor unless the users are doing some serious CPU work.

if the SQL server needs a lot of throughput, then I would just get another pair of disks and mirror them (RAID1) just for the sql server.  Let the pair of SSDs serve as the boot, swap for all systems, as well as 100% of the data for exchange and terminal services.

You will NOT need an expensive RAID controller, just get one that can do RAID1, and make sure it has a battery backup for data integrity in case of a drive failure.  Find a controller that supports SSDs and make sure you choose SSDs that are tested with the controller.

Expert Comment

ID: 36501727
RAID10 is right option for you, and you do not need SSD for now, because 8 SAS HDD IOPS will be enough for few little size DB servers and Exchange server. By the way, with your server specs, you could  virtualizing even more than 2-3 servers.

Author Comment

ID: 36501730
Thanks for the fast reply.
Their ERP system has a couple of databases. The main one is about 2 gb and there is some smaller ones at 100-200mb.
I plan to run Sharepoint Foundation 2010 on the SQL-server but so far their use of Sharepoint has not been gigantic.

So you're suggesting something like this? :

Mirror SSD0 and SSD1
On these you suggest to run Hyper-V host, SQL-server and Terminal server, is that correct?

What about Exchange? And would you have a separate SAS-raid for normal file storage?

I might have misunderstood something. Could you please list/draw up how you think this could look like?
A total of one host and three Win 2008 servers running SQL, Exchange and Terminal services. I would need 300 gb of total file storage.

I'm a newb to SSD in servers, and even though i have some familiarity to SSD in laptops i don't know their usability and capability in servers. Especially how a SSD setup could match or outmatch a normal SAS setup. Like how much SSDs are need to match a certain SAS setup and vice versa.

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Author Comment

ID: 36501751
You're thinking of 8 SAS-drives in one RAID 10 or split up in multiple sets?
I know that the specs could probably handle more, but the server hardware is anyway not the big cost here, and two CPUs and a few extra gb of RAM is not very expensive.

Expert Comment

ID: 36501770
Let start with few questions, like:
How much GB you want to assign to each virtual machine ?
If money is not a concern you could use Intel or Crucial M4 SSD drives, they are very reliable, a lot of IOPS and very fast. DON'T go with OCZ SSD, they are dying like flies
If you want to know how good are these drives - take a look in newegg, there are plenty of reviews.

Author Comment

ID: 36501800
Money is of course a concern, but $1300 for a second CPU and a couple of gigs of RAM is not the big cost considering software and my working hours.
I've read some reviews of SSD drives and that OCZ has some trouble, but i would go for Intel drives if i were to choose that.

I guess the servers would need to be 40gb each at the minimum, thats without databases and logs.
Lets say 120gb for both the SQL and Exchange servers and 60gb for the Terminal Server. If i had a 300gb filesystem for Userdata available on the terminal server everything should be covered.

Expert Comment

ID: 36501851
Have you already bought the server or you are planning to ?
I think 4x Crucial M4 256GB in RAID5 is what you need. You will have ~715Gb of usable space, and it will be tolerant to 1 SSD disk die.

Author Comment

ID: 36501882
I have not bought it yet.
SSDs sound like a good idea. Just sent an email to my supplier and asked what is needed to implement SSDs instead of the SAS hard drives that its supplied with.

Expert Comment

ID: 36501930
Have you considered to build server by yourself ?
I`m saying this becase there are available some cheap 8 core opterons, which one can be put in the dual socket G34 motherboard, each opteron is about 230$ - 250$, about the same price in EU.
If you interested, i can send you "server configs"  and complete list of hardware in case, if you want to build server by yourself, of course, included hot swap 1U - 4U case.
It's almost the same as building desktop PC. You could save and for that money buy more ram, because you will need it.
LVL 56

Expert Comment

ID: 36502235
I wouldn't use self-build for a customer, and I wouldn't use SSDs except the ones that HP supply, it doesn't invalidate the warranty but they would have to take them out and test the rest of the server before logging a call ith HP.

If you're upgrading the RAID controller to a 1GB FBWC then you're unlikely to have performance problems using 10 or 15K disks since the writes will all be cached and with enough RAM in the server reads may also be cached by the OS.

Exchange is low IOPS, so if you use 1 array with a RAID 10 for the OS and VMs, RAID 10 for SQL data and RAID 5 for Exchange data that should be sufficient, putting it all on one array lets SQL have any spare IOPS that would be used by Exchange if it had separate spindles for each job.

Author Comment

ID: 36502423
I have built my own server with two quad core Opterons, 16gb RAM and SATA drives. I didnt know that ESXi didnt support RAID on SATA drives using my onboard controller so for my own purpose i use single drives. It's just hosting my own servers and its working fine for that purpose.

I could build one for my customer, but i'd rather not, as it is much more convenient to reply on HP service and support if something is happening.

Anyways. the customer has approved my original suggestion with all hardware and software, though based on two physical servers (for SQL and Exchange, Terminal server is not part of the original suggestion to them as they already got one older server that is doing its job). I thought i could virtualize instead so thats what im looking at right now.

What you're saying is; one RAID 10 for everything? RAID10 will use up tons of disk space, but 8*146gb should give me 550gb or so of usable space. Could manage with that.
You're mentioning separate RAID 5 for Exchange data and RAID 10 for SQL. I'm not sure what you mean by that. All in data, OS and VMs in RAId 10 or splitting it up?

Sorry to be so difficult :)
English is not my native language so in worry of missing out on something i need everything with a teaspoon ;)


Author Comment

ID: 36502729
OMG what prices we are talking about for the SSD drives that is tested and recommended by HP.
Cheapest one is roughly $2400, thats 100gb SATA MLC Enterprise class.
The top of the available disks, 200gb SAS SLC is roughly $9000.

It's not an option for me to build anything for myself and use disks that is not recommended by HP, so i guess its SAS drives for this project.


Expert Comment

ID: 36502793
Raid10 with 15K SAS,   8 - 12 drives will do the job, make sure that RAID controller is good enough.
LSI 9260-8i will do the job pretty well. If you are going with more then 8 drives, you should get SAS expander.
LVL 56

Accepted Solution

andyalder earned 2000 total points
ID: 36503050
With the HP Smart Array Controller that you'll get with the ML350 you can have multiple logical disks on one array, therefore you can put all 8 disks in one array (which doesn't have a RAID level associated with it) and then put RAID 10 and RAID 5 logical disks on it. That was when you were going to use Hyper-V and one physical server though.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 36503207
Good description of how to get the most out of an array.

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