IBM System x3500 M3 Server Configuration

Posted on 2011-10-03
Last Modified: 2012-05-12
I would like some feedback about this server configuration, hopefully some easy points for the IBM experts!

This server will be used for:
Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V Host
Virtual Machines
Exchange 2007
Domain controller, DHCP & DNS, Sharepoint Intranet, File & Print Server
SQL Server
IPFX Phone System Server
Approx 100 users

Server hardware:
Tower Server
2x Intel Xeon Quad Core Processors @ 2.4GHz
16 DIMM slots
32GB (8*4GB) memory
6Gbps ServeRAID-M5015 SAS/SATA controller with 512mb cache & battery
IBM Serve RAID Manager
8x 3.5" Hot Swap SAS hard drives
2x 146GB 15K SAS 3.5" hot swap HDD (RAID 1) Operating System
6x 300GB 15K SAS 3.5"" hot swap HDD (RAID 10) Virtual Machines
Integrated dual port Gigabit ethernet
Additional dual port gigabit ethernet card
2x Hot swappable redundant power supplies
IBM UltraSlim Enhanced SATA Multi-Burner
Integrated Management Module (IMM)
Virtual Media Key (web based out of band control)
IBM Systems Director

Some questions:
Is the server hardware OK for the workload it will have
Are 3.5" hard drives cheaper than 2.5"
Is it worth spending the extra $ on 15K drives or would 10K be OK
Is the ServeRAID-M5015 a good RAID controller
Is the RAID 1 for OS RAID 10 for Data the best RAID configuration
How does remote management of IBM System x servers work
What are the features of the IMM vs the Virtual media key
Can I install IBM Systems Director stand alone just to get hardware email alerts for this one server
What are the IBM warranty & support options

Any other feedback would be appreciated
Question by:dee_nz
    LVL 12

    Expert Comment

    You havn't said what you are going to do with the system, but I would want more RAM. What sizes are you goint to make the individual VMs. What level of over-committ is there.

    You have lots of teir-1 apps on this server if it fails you are going to have 100 very unhappy users, especially if they loose telephony as well because that depends on IPFX. You only have one RAID partition so you can't put the SQL or Exchange logs on separate physical drives as is considered best practice.

    Yopu probably don't have enough spindles at raid-10 to deliver the IOs per second you need for 100 users with 32gigs of RAM.

    The remote managment is a web app. The virtual Media Key adds full remote console control and is usefull if the OS has crashed or being un-responsive.

    You can install IBM systems Director for one host.

    IBM have a range of support options. Download the IBM Standalone Solutions Configuration Tool (SSCT) from :-

    (its towards the bottom of the page). This has list prices for all IBM kit and shows the support options for each country. It also shows which hard disk configs are allowed.
    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    Thanks for your comments - and the link to the IBM tools page.
    Attached is a list of the VMs workload/resources I plan to allocate.

    Agree that I will have 100 unhappy users if the server fails - when are users not unhappy!
    Plan is to get 2x of these servers over the next 2 years and spread the high workload across the 2 physical host servers & implement MS VMM for management but there is no real redundancy.
    I will have to rely of good support from IBM 24x7 and good backups (using shadow protect) to be able to recover VMs to another physical host. I also have an older System x3400 (with 7200 SATA disks) that this new system is replacing so I can test that and keep it just in case I need to recover VMs if one of the x3500’s has a major failure.

    Not sure if Exchange or SQL will need separate log disks. I know its best practice but will have to do some performance monitoring to see if there are any issues there. ATM Exchange is running on the System x3400 with 7200rpm SATA disks so 15K SAS drives should improve performance a lot.

    So in general terms
    - disk performance of RAID 10 is better than RAID 5 (reads & writes)
    - more disk spindles (more drives) are better than fewer (so maybe 8x 300GB drives?)
    How do I work out how much memory to allocate to get the disk performance, memory is not that expensive so should I go for 48GB?

    Thanks again for your help
    LVL 12

    Accepted Solution

    1- Yes Raid-10 is much more efficient on writes than Radi-5. It Also behaves much better should you get into degraded mode. You don't want to get into degraded mode. Get a hot spare. On the other hand RAID-5 is fine for the Exchange database drives (and lots of other things) at lower cost.

    2. Yes more spindles help performance,

    BUT both SQL and Exchange are 64-bit so they can trade storgae for disk i/o.

    I think sizing for 100 users is really tricky. If you know try the sizing guides, because It so depends on what the users do. IBM has a solution sizer, for Exchange, go here and
    and put "Microsoft Exchange" and choose "System x". , however when I tried it wouldn't run in IE. However both Dell:-;4&c=us&l=en&cs=g_5

    and HP

    We run our VMWare boxes on 48GB. I ran the Dell sizer and it came up with 8gb for 100 very heavy users

    You might also want to look at VMware as you can get the IBMs with VMWare on a USB stick.  

    Actually for Exchange you can get full resiliance without shared storage or vmotion. An Exchange Database Availability group ises replicated storage. You do need Windows Server Enterprise and EITHER sperate CAS servers with Windows NLB or a hardware load balancer. And of course Active Directory and DNS are distributed so again can be resliant without shared storage.

    hope this is usefull,

    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    Thanks for your comments - some useful info and links there!
    LVL 4

    Author Closing Comment

    Thanks heaps for your help

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