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Need hardware suggestion for cheap 2U RAID server, hopefully with cheap SSD's?

Posted on 2012-03-28
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Last Modified: 2012-04-09
Scenario: USA, small to medium-sized business

Problem: I need to purchase a new, 2U 512GB RAID5 or RAID10 redundant-power supply server on a limited budget. I have built my own such servers with 3Ware cards, but would prefer to *avoid* building this time (and just customize the build by choosing the hard drive and raid controller). I will likely run an instance of Windows Server 2003 (nothing higher for budget reasons and because we have the licenses already) running a proprietary Btrieve database and a separate instance of Windows Server 2003 running Exchange 2007 (also not 2010 for budget reasons and because we have already purchased the Exchange CALs).

Question: Any hardware suggestions? Is it reasonable to purchase top-rated consumer-level SSD's (e.g. 360+ outstanding reviews: Crucial CT128M4SSD2) for such a server using hardware-raid such as the LSI 9260CV-4i?
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Question by:light-blue
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by:Perarduaadastra
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Most hardware vendors will expect to supply RAID controllers and storage with their servers for reasons of reliability and warranty.
I well remember once trying to get a 3Ware RAID controller working in a Dell R300 and discovering that the latter's BIOS was hard-wired for their LSI controller and no other... Dell was polite, but regretted that it was unable to help - unsupported configuration, sorry sir, can we help with anything else?

New hardware may pose problems if driver support for W2k3 is not available or is being phased out - you could find yourself high and dry a year or two down the line.

If you want to avoid building the whole server it's probably best if you buy the whole server, especially as you don't have to buy an operating system with it; just make sure that whatever box you buy has support for your version of Windows Server.

Regarding SSD's, their performance is amazing, but so are their prices. As they have no moving parts they should be inherently more reliable than conventional hard disks, but they haven't been around long enough to say for sure.
One aspect of SSD's that could be a problem is that of capacity; the largest one I've seen is 600GB, and it costs over £700 here in the UK.

As you mention budgetary constraints, you might be compelled to stay conventional, this time around at least...
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by:dlethe
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Well, first, you can just forget viability of using cheap consumer class SSDs behind RAID controllers.   No TRIM support, no diagnostics, so performance will degrade over time, perhaps rather quickly.   Not only that, but you need a premium controller or it will be a big bottleneck.

Furthermore, lots of interoperability issues between SSDs and many RAID controllers. Some or all the error recovery algorithms and appropriate low-level commands that many controllers expect aren't coded into SSD firmware .. except for the high-end models.

How much USABLE data do you need?
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by:light-blue
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Thank you both. First, I have successfully set up a RAID5 3ware controlled SSD server running 5 instances, several Windows 2003 Server and several linux without issues, outstanding performance, and with seemingly good monitoring via the 3ware card (I even replaced a drive once without trouble):

 x ($89.99) CASE RAIDMAX|ATX-612WBP 500W BK RT $89.99
1 x ($209.99) MB ASUS|P8Z68-V PRO Z68 LGA1155 R $209.99
1 x ($380.99) SSD 256G|CRUCIAL CT256M4SSD2 R $380.99
2 x ($79.99) MEM 4Gx2|CORSAIR CMZ8GX3M2A1866C9B $159.98
1 x ($314.99) CPU INTEL|CORE I7 2600K 3.4G 8M R $314.99
16-116-042 RAID CD 3WARE|9650SE-4LPML KIT R 1 $319.99 $319.99
16-116-051 RAID ACC 3WARE|BBU-MODULE-03 RTL 1 $99.99 $99.99

Second, I am specifically looking for hardware recommendations, i.e. links please! Although as you both rightly point out, SSD is *not* a requirement in this scenario.
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by:dlethe
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curious ... are you aware that data on SSDs is volatile?  without proper 'housekeeping' data could start rotting away in systems you built just last year right about now...

data longevity is one of the differentiators between consumer junk and what you need to put in enterprise systems...

what 3ware controllers & ssds did you use?  if I have any test data that I can release (i have NDA with 3ware division and some SSD makers ... perhaps I can let you know if you are in trouble)

anyway .. what is the desired capacity of the ssd and qty and budget?
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BigSchmuh earned 500 total points
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One driver in your case is that RAID 5 needs a HW RAID card and its battery ($420) which cost you a drive or 2.

In your example above, I would:
-Challenge the capacity/price in RAID 5 and RAID 10 (using the embedded raid MB capability)
  ==> Buy 2x 1TB HDD (mirrored) and 2x 250GB SSD (mirrored) to get both capacity and fast IOPS capabilities
-Enhance the RAM ! Buy more memory to raise the VM cache capability, 4GB DIMMs are cheap ! Fill enough slots to enable NUMA feature !
-Buy a MB that you can overclock easily ! That is 20% to 40% off the CPU price !
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by:light-blue
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excellent
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