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Advice on new Server Hardware

Posted on 2012-03-27
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I have a hardware dilemma so I am turning to the sharpest group of tech people I know.
 
I am purchasing a new 2U server.  This server will be running VMWare 5.0 esx for the OS, and the main VM running under that will be a windows server 2008 with a SQL database for Prolaw software. (Other VMs may be added later.) We will be running 4 constellation 3TB drives in a raid 10 configuration. 128 GB RAM and dual processors.  I am leaning towards Dell brand servers.

I am satisfied with most of my specification decisions but I would like some input on the items below.  I am looking at 2 processor / ram configurations and I am very torn between them.  Some of this indecision is because I haven't kept up on the higher end technology so I am not sure which would suit our system best.  Here we go.

1st config:
Processor = AMD Opteron 4284, 3.0Ghz, 8 core, 8MB L2 / 8MB L3 cache
RAM = (8x16) 1066Mhz, Quad Ranked, RDIMMs (Low Volt),  AECC (?)


2nd config:
Processor = Intel Xeon E5-2630 2.3Ghz, 15MB cache, 7.2 GT/s QPI, Turbo, 6Core, 95W
Ram = (8x16) 1600Mhz, Dual Rank, x4, RDIMMs (Std Volt)

I like the extra bang for the buck that I get from AMD, and VMWare says that both processors run equally well with their OS.

I like the extra cores & Mhz with the AMD, I like the 1600 Mhz RAM with the Intel.  
I don't know what the Dual and Quad ranking means to the RAM performance.
I don't know the GT/s rating for the AMD.
I don't really care about the power usage (Low Volt vs. Std Volt) unless it is a factor in performance or longevity.

The AMD says that is supports 1600 Mhz RAM, I'm assuming that they are not in the AMD quote because of motherboard / other limitations (I have that question submitted to Dell and I am awaiting an answer).

My Question is:
Which or these configurations would you recommend given the information above, and why.
Also, if anybody can briefly explain what Dual and Quad ranking means to the system (performance? Longevity? stability?) that would be very helpful.
Thanks in advance!
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Question by:dosdet2
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18 Comments
 
LVL 123

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 1000 total points
ID: 37772293
Dual, Quad ranking performance. Quad newer and better.

I would opt for more Cores and CPU cycles, but if your choice is AMD now, you must ensure it is in the future. Its easier to Mix old and new AMD CPUs in VMware Clusters, than mix AMD and Intel CPUs in clusters.

Are those SATA disks, consider SAS if they are, and also check your vSphere Licensing, as vRAM is now in effect with licensing.
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LVL 8

Author Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37772349
Thanks hanccocka.  

So will the 1066Mhz -Quad rank out preform 1600Mhx -Dual Rank RAM?

I doubt we will ever use clusters.  We are just a small shop - only our 3rd VM server.

I think I mis-spoke about the drives, the Dell quotes were 3TB SAS and not Constellation.  The other quotes were 6Gb/s SATA.
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LVL 3

Assisted Solution

by:HyperAdvisor
HyperAdvisor earned 200 total points
ID: 37772368
Stick with the Intel processors if you're running a hypervisor

The new range of Dell servers are designed to be cooled with "fresh air", the claim is that they can run at termperatures as high as 45 degrees C

This will save you on air conditioning as well
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LVL 123

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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 1000 total points
ID: 37772609
But if you want to migrate from an old server to a newer server makes it easier.

You will not notice any performance differences with a hypervisor.

its apples or pears.
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LVL 8

Author Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37772742
Hanccocka, i don't understand your statement about migration.

Are you talking about the hard drives, Quad rank ram or processors?

We are using esx 4 now but our contract gives us a free upgrade to 5.0.  

I have been checking out the vram licensing.  I guess the upgrade will force us to use vcenter server to manage the vram licenses.  One of our esx servers is a backup server off site with all our VMs backed up to it.  Vram licensing put's a crimp in our backup plan.  :-(  
I guess if our office burns down, we can use the "burned-down" licenses on the backup server to get all the VMs running.
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LVL 123

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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 1000 total points
ID: 37772767
if you decide in the future you want to migrate live using vMotion, and younhave mixed AMD and Intel servers, you cannot.

if you have no vMotion license, no intention of purchasing a new server.

Intel or AMD will suffice, also depends on your growth and loading, how many VMs you need.

Memory is often the bottleneck not CPU or Cores.
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LVL 56

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by:andyalder
andyalder earned 800 total points
ID: 37772854
>I like the extra bang for the buck that I get from AMD

Where do you get that from? Not saying you're wrong but I can't find a vmmark result for an Opteron 4284 based machine. Several of them for the Xeon E5s.
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LVL 56

Assisted Solution

by:andyalder
andyalder earned 800 total points
ID: 37772901
Oops, missed the 7.2K disks, doesn't really matter what CPU you use if you're only going to have a couple of hundred IOPS available.
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LVL 8

Author Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37772914
I was referring to workstations that I have worked with, not servers.  I have not had enough experience with servers to rate them accurately .  That's why I'm posting here.
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LVL 8

Author Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37772950
I asked about the disk speed also, the answer I got was that whatever technology and speed they are using, they still rated at 6Gb/s transfer.   What could I say?  

Our current disks are 15K rpm with 3Gb/s - Although I pretty sure the controller is limiting that.
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LVL 56

Assisted Solution

by:andyalder
andyalder earned 800 total points
ID: 37773067
Closest I can see on VMmark is to compare a 2 CPU HP BL460c G8 (Xeon E5) with the 4 CPU HP BL685c G7 (AMD "bulldozer") and the AMD scores a bit higher (but it's got twice the number of CPUs in it). Can't see a 2 CPU AMD based one.

http://www.vmware.com/a/vmmark/?s_submitter=d

Note that of course they submit results for the fastest clockspeed and most stuffed with RAM, but it's still fairly relevant to the slower CPUs. I think they may even pick the fastest CPUs out by testing a batch and use those they get them most turbo out of.
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Accepted Solution

by:
andyalder earned 800 total points
ID: 37773141
I'm not sure whether it's a deliberate trick of Dell salespeople to quote the bus transfer speeds of disks rather than the IOPS, seen a few cases before where people have bought 7.2K disks from them expecting miracles. Sure the controller can write to the disk's buffer at 6 Gb/s, but the buffer can't write to the oxide at a fraction of that speed. Phone them back again and ask about IOPS, you'll get close to 200 IOPS for a 15K disk, about 80 IOPS for a 7.2K one (unless it gets hot and goes into read-after-write mode).

I wouldn't worry whether the RAM is dual or quad ranked as far as speed is concerned, quad ranked is like two dual ranked DIMMs stuffed into the same socket.
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LVL 8

Author Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37773195
This is how the line displays on the written quote:

3TB 7.2K RPM Near-Line SAS 6Gbps 3.5in Hot-plug Hard Drive (342-2336)

Maybe I will call Seagate and get their take.  ;-)

At $600 a pop, I want to get the right thing. Problem is that there are not many choices right now because of the flood.  :-(
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LVL 123

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 1000 total points
ID: 37773221
I would use 15k SAS if youbwant top performance.
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LVL 8

Author Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37773302
I was told that they were not available, at least in Seagate.  I'm a little skiddish about WD.
Maybe that is unfounded.  (I did have some bad experiences in the past w/ WD.)
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LVL 123

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 1000 total points
ID: 37773313
Provided we have 1hr or 4hr support contract to exchange hardware and fix, RAID configured and backups, we do not get down to whether we select Seagate or WD!
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LVL 8

Author Closing Comment

by:dosdet2
ID: 37773501
Thank you all.  I have a lot more to think about now.  

I hope it's OK, I just divided points evenly for all responses. It was all good information for me.
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LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:andyalder
ID: 37773508
You don't get to pick with HP, I've even had mix of Seagate and WD shipped for a single order and put them in the same array. You can always use a few more 10Ks or 7.2Ks in the array to compensate of course; 4 * 15K disks would be about the same speed as 12 * 7.2K ones. That would give you too much capacity if you used 3TB disks by the looks of it and take up a lot of room, but that's why they have lower capacity small form factor ones, don't see many 3.5" disks any more except for backup-to-disk units.
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