need advise on hardware for future vmware server

Hello all, I am building up a VMware server for my small business but before I put it into production, I will be doing some testing. This is going to be a white box server. My issue is that I am having trouble determining the hardware that will meet my needs. I will be purchasing a 2nd additional system board and processor and building a backup server and using it for a parts resource in case the main system has hardware issues.

Here is what I would like;
Asus or Intel system board
Single Xeon processor
32GB of ram
Raid 1 or 5 with SAS (300GB) or SATA3 (500GB) hard drives
Raid 1 (2TB drives) for data drives.

I’m having a tough time going through all of the system boards to figure out what will work with VMware ESXi v5. I see that in the VMware compatibility list only shows the Intel system boards but I see that the Asus motherboards are being used looking through other users messages. Can you recommend an  Asus and Intel motherboard?

Which Xeon processor should I consider?

Should I consider using the onboard hard drive controller (if it has one) or going with an Adaptec controller?

With regards to the hard drives, I want to split up the drives and have RAID 1 or 5 drives for the server OS drives. I plan on installing 2x2TB hard drives for my data once I finish my testing. My question here – what should I consider – RAID 1 or RAID 5? Should I go with SAS or SATA3 drives?


johnbowdenAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Personally,I would purchase a Dell or HP server from the HCL.

If you are going to complete a whitebox, make sure you have supported storage controller and network controller. Do not use SATA disks, they provide poor performance. Use SAS 10k or 15k disks, in RAID 10, or you will be posting more EE questions, most common being my disk read and write performance is slow.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
and more disks the better, more disks = more spindles = more performance = more IOPS.

in RAID 10
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Have a read of this current EE Question - Home ESXi / multipurpose box build

This will give you some examples, specifications of motherboards, processors, costs, but I think the Asker in  the end becaus of the cost of hard drives, has now decided to purchase a complete server, or used server from eBay.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I would also install ESXi 5.0 onto a SD card or USB flash drive. You can then just leave your disks for the VMFS-5 datastore.

Here is the VMware KB on installing 5.0 on USB/SD:
http://kb.vmware.com/kb/2004784
johnbowdenAuthor Commented:
and info on the system board and processor?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
johnbowdenAuthor Commented:
I will ask the questions a different way

I am not purchasing a name brand system.
I am building up a VMware server.
I am having trouble determining the hardware that will meet my needs.
I will be purchasing a 2nd additional system board, processor and raid controller for hardware disaster recovery
I am ONLY looking at the following system boards, Asus or Intel
Single Xeon processor
32GB of ram

For the RAID subsystem, I need advise on Raid 1 or 5  with VMWare and wether I should I stick with SAS or consider SATA3 hard drives.

Here are my questions;
1. which system board should I consider - Asus and Intel motherboard?
2. Which Xeon processor should I consider?
3. should I stick with SAS or consider SATA3?
4. should I go RAID 1 or RAID 5
5. Should I consider using the onboard hard drive controller (if it has one) or going with an Adaptec controller?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
If it's based on a budget

1. Asus KCMA-D8
2. Opteron 4170 HE
3. If it's only for DR, and you are not concerned about performance in whilst in DR for a few days, bnefore production is restore SATA3.
4. RAID 1
5.  Dell Perc 6/i with BBU raid controller (this is supported), or Adaptec if supported.

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Ah okay, I think this server is Production.

SAS drives, RAID 10.
markzzCommented:
johnbowden: without sounding difficult.
You have been given the best possible advice. If you purchase/build a white box solution it quite likely with the next version of ESXi you will not be able to use it. (not on the HCL)
You can pick up very well priced branded systems either as runout models or refurbished.
These are servers, not white boxes with a few high end components. They will perform and give stability. Of course these systems will not perform your general desktop tasks as well as an intended desktop solution, they are servers and perform as such.
I think many have gone down your intended routine only to find it's just too difficult.
ESXi is very specific to the hardware as a bundled group.
HyperV is an excellent hypervisor for a white box solution.
dnilsonCommented:
johnbowden:  The advice you are getting is good avice, despite not being what you wanted / expected.  If this is your first go at esxi, you SHOULD be building a brand name system, even if its used hardware.  A first time foray into Vmware is not the best time to go experimenting with whitebox solutions - -there are so many things that can go wrong and where will you find support?  How many years experience doing this can you bring to the project?

With all the model changes going on right now, you should be able to find something like a dual Xeon Dell 2950 for $2000-2500 with better specs than what you list, SAS controller and drives, fully suported and not likely to give you any problems gettign it up and running.

53xx or 54xx series Xeon process work very nicely and are not that expensive in the used market.

Stay away from SATA drives and get 15k RPM SAS drives.

Get the 32 gig rAM you list, this tends get used up faster than CPU in my experience.

RAID 10 is nice, but NOT faster than RAID 5 in all areas, so given the scope of your project stick with RAID 5 until you graduate into a SAN storage array where you have the space to grow.  RAID 10 takes twice the number of disks as RAID 5.

So not even consider RAID 1 for the LUN/volume that holds the virtual machine images -- you need as many spindles as posible to get well performing systems.   A pair of Drives in RAID 1 is not going to cut it.

The config listed above should work well for 5-10 vms depending upon load.

With an external iSCSI San array this can increase to as much as 20 vms




johnbowdenAuthor Commented:
thank you for the advise.
markzzCommented:
As is often the case advice given become a substaintial case when backed by another.
From my perspective I may for instance read anothers valid comment and see that it requires elaboration in particular areas to convey the intended point..
We particularly see it in our working lives.
johnbowdenAuthor Commented:
No problem with me. I appreciate all the comments
Robert MarleySinger / SongwriterCommented:
Starting the auto-close procedure on behalf of the question author.

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