Would 15k SAS drives be overkill for our needs?

Afternoon all,

We're a small business and planning to purchase a Dell server to hold our SQL database.
The machine currently holding our SQL database is running XP Pro with 3gb ram.

The server we're currently getting quotes for, will have 8gb RAM and an Intel Xeon E3-1220 Processor (3.1GHz).

Chances are, we will be using SQL Express!

the main database is 1gb and can have up to 15 concurrent users.

I know that 15k drives are better than 7.2k.
I know that a Bugatti Veyron is better than a mini cooper but if you only need a car for 30mph roads...

Simply put, is it worth us investing an extra £500 into 15k drives?!
We don't care much about space, just speed.
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Kruno DžoićSystem EngineerCommented:
O yes, you need fast HDD, not only for speed , 15k hdd are long lasting, do you want to recover data because you buy cheaper HDD's.

I use Dell T410 with RAID PERC 700 and SAS 15k drives, for 15 users on Database at the same time and that server are in the room with airconditioning. HP server that I have in the firm of the same size, installed 2001 and still running, no HDD problems
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
So the 15k SAS drives aren't only faster, but much more reliable to 7.2k SATA drives?

Is it worth the £500 though?!

You have to excuse my very poor knowledge of hardware setup.
I thought a RAID was something police do...
Kruno DžoićSystem EngineerCommented:
The best way to setup SQL is :

RAID-mirror for all drives
2 HDD for OS
2 HDD for Database
2 HDD for LOG files

Price for
HDD 300GB SAS 6Gbps 15000rpm 3.5" is £200
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Your database is only 1 GB??

Then just buy a pair of SSDs and mirror them.  Real-world, this would be 5X - 10X faster then a SAS config and a heck of a lot less money.   If you were running Win7 then you could use the O/S to do software-based mirroring, so that would mean you save expense of a RAID controller too.

A high quality SSDs can easily do 40,000 random I/Os per second, while a 15K SAS is around 150.  (Throughput will only be twice as fast, but with 15 users, you will be doing more random I/O then sequential anyway)
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
There would only be 2 x  300gb 15k drives in this server.

We can't afford to spend £1.2k on hard drives.

The whole server itself with 2 x 15k drives and Windows Server 2008 R2 is just shy of £2k.
Without the 15k drives and having SATA 7.2k drives it's £1.5k.
You are over configuring the server.  With a pair of SSD doing the I/O you don't need a RAID controller.   A PERC 700 is absolutely way over the top.  Software RAID is just fine, in fact will outperform the PERC on many benchmarks using SSD.
Kruno DžoićSystem EngineerCommented:
ask for price if you buy 4 x 300GB SATA 10k
If the server you have is giving acceptable performance, then pretty much anything you buy will be better.  I have clients with databases in the 20-50GB range size wise with 30-50 users that are running fine on less hardware than you are looking at.  

Go for reliability.  On a database with your size and load, if performance is a problem, it is probably due to inefficient query/table design.  Mirrored enterprise grade SSD drives for the database and mirrored 10K drives for the system should be more than adequate for both.

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INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
Here's the full spec with the 15k. I will try see how much a SSD version with cost.

This comes to £1920:

PowerEdge R210 II Chassis, 2x3.5" Cabled HDDs, Quad-Pack LED Diagnostics
Intel Xeon E3-1220 Processor (3.1GHz, 4C/4T, 8M Cache, 80W, Turbo) 
R210II EMEA1 Ship Docs No Power Cord (English/French/German/Spanish/Russian/Hebrew) 
1U Rack Bezel
8GB Memory (2x4GB Dual Rank LV UDIMMs) 1333MHz
2x 300GB SAS 6Gbps 15k 3.5" HD Cabled
PERC S300 3Gb/s SAS/SATA Internal Software Controller for 3.5" HDD Chassis
16X DVD +/-RW Drive SATA with SATA Cable
2M Rack Power Cord C13/C14 12A
Embedded BMC
Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Standard Edition, English, Incl. 5 CALs, No Media
PE R210II Electronic System Documentation and OpenManage DVD
2/4-Post Static Rack Rails - Short
C4 2HD/4HD - No RAID with PERC S300, Exactly 2 SAS/SATA Drives 1

Open in new window

Get rid of the PERC controller, and those SAS drives, and go to a dual processor too.  I see no need, based on what you posted to go Win2k8 either, beyond the fact that Dell won't support it on their servers.  (But you can get a highly reliable workstation).

Seems a shame to give all that money to microsoft for something you don't need.  Just adding a pair of SSDs to your existing configuration and upgrading to 64-bit Win7 will save you a great deal of money too.
change 2 x 15K drives to 3 x 10K drives and setup an online spare on your RAID

that way you can loose 2 drives and still be running
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the comments everyone. I was hoping for a debate to get the best answer to a seemingly difficult question.

Doesn't win 7 have a limit to the number of connections?
It's one of the reasons we're upgrading from a desktop to a server because we understand that XP Pro can only allow 10 concurrent connections.
I think dlethe was referring to the hardware not the OS
Good point, I don't know what the upper limit is of SQL-express, so if you have to go to Win2k8 then so be it.  I'm addressing the hardware needs only.
The express editions of SQL Server don't cap the number of concurrent connections - they exert limitations in other ways - such as the maximum size of the database (4GB), CPU sockets (1) and amount of memory (1GB), so you should be OK with that
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
SQL Express might not limit users itself, but wouldn't it just use the computer's maximum?

1xSSD and Win7 64bit sounds like all we need to buy.
Stick it in a machine with a half decent consumer processor and 3gb ram on a gigabit network and that's it.
Seems like if speed is an issue we should spend money on developing a better database?

Who would agree with this?
If so, can you recommend a good database analyser?
SQL Express might not limit users itself, but wouldn't it just use the computer's maximum?

Yes, so you will need to install a windows server OS


1xSSD and Win7 64bit sounds like all we need to buy.
Stick it in a machine with a half decent consumer processor and 3gb ram on a gigabit network and that's it.

If your moving to a server, I would recommend using RAID either 1 or 5 to protect against data loss in the event of a drive failure, so you will need a RAID controller and 2 or more drives

To allow more than 10 concurrent users you will need a Windows Server OS, 2008 or 2008R2 - 32bit or 64bit, 64Bit to future proof, remember this solution should last for 3 to 5 years

8Gb RAM for Windows 2008

2 NICs teamed, and dual power supplies

It all depends of how much money your client is going to loose per minute/hour/day/week in the event of downtime

I know businesses who would loose €100,000 an hour, and the IT guy his job

others might not be affected for days

How much would it cost to have the employees standing around for 8 hours thats usually a good indication
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
Thanks HyperAdvisor,
At most, we would lose £150/h for downtime. Plus I probably wouldn't lose my job.
We're a small Market research agency. Most research is done by telephone via surveys and these surveys are stored in database.

There can be up to 10 people completing surveys at any one time, 2 - 3 people searching through records (answering queries and doing analysis etc) and possibly one other machine running scheduled maintenence.
15 is our maximum number of concurrent users.

I'm aware that SQL express is limited to to only using 1gb memory.
If I had 2 databases running from one machine, would this be limited to 1gb PER database, or 1gb for both?!
SQL 2008 R2 allows 10GB per database

Here is the full matrix:
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
What kind of speed are you looking for ?  Looking at your bugatti veyron analogy you have to understand that getting one it really depends on what you want to achieve and your budget.  As for you, I'de recommend that you don't focus your hardware choice solely on response time but also to think about things such as backups.
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
<<that way you can loose 2 drives and still be running>>
Actually RAID5 only allows recovery only provide single drive fault tolerance.  Perhaps, you meant RAID6 that can only be achieved with a minimum of 4 disks but provides dual drive fault tolerance.  As for data physical preservation and performance, a 2 disk RAID1 is the about same speed, except on writes, than as a 3 disks RAID5, assuming the RAID1 has faster disks.
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:

Ask yourself the following questions :
> What would happen if you loose totally your data without hope to recover it ?
> What tells you that faster database disks will actually speed up the application performance as perceived by final users ?
> Have you asks your users what kind of speed they want?  Perhaps they want to speed up some specific things and do not care about speeding up other things.  One partly sizes up according to fault tolerance then subjective performance, especially for small business.

Hope this helps..
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
Note if the database size is only 1GB, you could get one of these:


to really speed thing up, but you'd need to get about 4GB extra memory.  Getting this and a backup disk unit could do the trick ...hope this helps...
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
Hmmm... Racimo,
You post intrigues me.
I've been to the website and read all the information I could, but it doesn't seem like it would change the fact that SQL express limits to 1gb.
I might be completely misunderstanding it though!

don't worry about backups, we take backups every 2 hours because the database is so small. These are on and off site.
Speed is a requirement. We do customer satisfaction surveys on the phone, and we roughly do 100 a day. When on the phone to a customer, we don't want there to be any delay when going through pages of questions.
I know that some of the speed is down to query and table design so I am looking into that at the same time, but ideally I want to look at hardware, software and database design to ensure we can get the fastest speed possible.

For us, speed = money, but not enough to justify the cost of a 15 CAL SQL Server licence.
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
I suggest you separate problems:

> If you want ultimate speed, use DATARAM.  Will cost you the price of an extra 4GB of RAM.  Probably the cheapest but a weaker fault tolerance. I guess if restoring is not a problem and you can afford some downtime, that would your best solution.
> If you want cheap stuff, use MDSE Express: it is free and does not require any cline CAL's.  MSDE Express 2012 is now limited to 10GB
> SQL Express memory usage limits has nothing to do with DATARAM which simply acts as a DISK SUBSYSTEM for SQL except that it is on RAM.    You can use 1GB for RAM for SQL Server and use 4GB of RAM for DATARAM to place the DATA and LOG files with no problem.  Simply mount a DATARAM drive and put the DATA and LOG files on it .  Try it for yourself and see since the basic version of DATARAM is FREE.
> If you want fast speed, using SLC SSD.  4 * 64GB disks in RAID10 with 2 disks in RAID1 for OS will cost you about 2500 dollars but it will be hard to beat in terms of performance/price ratio/fault tolerance.  Don't buy general public SLC SSD's since they are NOT reliable enough for business usage.   For higher end SLC, you can use MICRON P300 or MICRON P400 disks.  

Hope this helps...
You are seriously over thinking things.  For a 15 user database where the input is coming from people answering questions, you would have to have some seriously poor queries for the response time to the user appear as anything but instantaneous.  

If you build any reliable system, it will be more than adequate for the application you are describing.  Put mirrored 10K hard drives in a server, install SQL and be done with it.  Do regular backups and monitor the system for the problems you  will probably never have.
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:

you're most likely correct. The database is 3-4 years old and many developments have added and added to the table structure/queries and application. It used to be a lot faster, but we did have less people using it.

Can you suggest a piece of software or add-on (preferably free) that will be able to analyse the tables and give suggestions to changes?
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
For a start use index tuning advisor
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:

I could be going blind here, but I can't see that anywhere in SSMSE.
And after googling it, nowhere tells me how to get it!

I understand it's Database Engine tuning advisor now.
If it was installed, it will be under Programs->Microsoft SQL Server 2008->Performance Tools->Database Engine Tuning Advisor

You can install it off of the installation media
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
It isn't there (we're using 2005 currently), so it must not have been installed.

Any way to re-install it?
Run setup on the installation CD.  It will give you the option to add missing components.
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:

It was a download by the looks of things and I just tried to run it with unfortunately no option!

The offices are closed over Easter, so I'll come in then and upgrade to 2008.
Anthony PerkinsCommented:
The Database Engine Tuning Advisor is not supported in the Express Edition.
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
<<The Database Engine Tuning Advisor is not supported in the Express Edition.>>

I guess MS considers that performance issues should not occur on below 4GB database (given current poor development practices, they are so wrong about that)...The fun part is that below 4GB are the vast majority of SQL database in number...

Indeed Interesting....
Anthony PerkinsCommented:
Here is the link that shows it is not supported (sorry, I could not find it at first):
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
thanks antony...
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
The quest continues.

any other suggestions for a database cleaner/checker/optimizer?
Anthony PerkinsCommented:
any other suggestions for a database cleaner/checker/optimizer?
You state your company cannot purchased CALs and yet you spend an inordinate amount of time to find a workaround so that you can use the "free" SQL Server Express Edition.  There is something that does not compute here.

I hate to put it across this way, but at the very least isn't your time more valuable than the $50 that it would cost to have purchased the Developer Edition in the first place and had all the tools available?
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
Limitations of Developer Edition?

The only limitation or difference from Enterprise to Developer is the license. You cannot use Developer in an environment other than development or you are violating your license agreement. Otherwise this functions exactly as Enterprise Edition.

We have speed issues with express. We don't know if it's because of poor database design, hardware, or software limitation.
By the looks of the comments in this thread, it seems that a small database like ours should not be slow even on a low grade computer - this means the database design is poor.

Because of this issue, paying for any new hardware or software, is basically polishing a turd!!
Wouldn't you agree?!

Whether or not we spend $50 or $5,000, I will still need to spend a lot of time optimizing, cleaning and restructuring the database.
Anthony PerkinsCommented:
I have no idea why you posted the quote from Limitations of Developer Edition.  I was never suggesting you use it in Production.  The whole point of this question and if you have any intention of being a serious SQL Developer is to have the right tools at your disposal in order to debug any problem, rather than been handicapped by using the so called "free" edition.

But it is obvious I am not getting my message across, so I think I will move on...
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
Sorry if my comment came across as negative.
I would never intend to offend.

I don't intend to be a serious SQL Developer. The company I work for has a problem with a slow database, most likely down to database design/structure.
I'm not skilled enough to know exactly how to fix that, so I'm on a website full of experts to help me achieve this.

I could be asking the wrong questions, or interpreting the answers incorrectly.
Apologies if this is the case.
Racim BOUDJAKDJIDatabase Architect - Dba - Data ScientistCommented:
<<The company I work for has a problem with a slow database, most likely down to database design/structure.>>
<<I'm not skilled enough to know exactly how to fix that, so I'm on a website full of experts to help me achieve this.>>
If your company can not afford 50 dollars and expect to get all their answers from a place like EE, that simply means that the performance issues are no as important as they are for your business.

If you don't have the skill and solely rely on expert goodwill to tune your system, I am afraid your time and money would be better spent hiring a professional who can do what you can't.  We can and did help you but we can't do your job for you.  So I agree with acperkins that it is time to move on.

Keep in mind that putting your data files on faster media is no guarantee your actual performance issues are disk related.
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
I appreciate the 'master' question is still pointed towards 15k rpm drives, but for a few posts I've been asking about possible software to help me find out how to optimize our database.

I'm not asking anyone to do the work for me. I'm looking for something (not someone) that will look at my table structure, design, and data and tell me where it's all going wrong. I can make some unqualified guesses, but I want it to be done properly.

If there's nothing out there, then so be it, I'll look into getting a pro out, but there has to be.
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
I've requested that this question be deleted for the following reason:

no longer applies.
Points should be rewarded.  This question was answered ... in depth.    Now if the author wants to post another question that is more specific to his data, then he/she is free to do so.  but the original question has been answered.
Questions should be rewarded equally to all authors who responded.  They all addressed the initial question.
INHOUSERESAuthor Commented:
I think I've got everyone. Sorry if someone was missed.

I think our performance issues were down to a poor query/table design.
We're replacing this entire system soon so it's now no longer going to be an issue.
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