Test Server Requirements

Posted on 2014-04-12
Last Modified: 2014-04-14
I plan to buy or build a test server using the following guidelines.  What are you suggestions for an entire server or separate motherboard, processor, ram and case?
1.      This will be house in a residential basement. Fan noise should be very low like a desktop
2.      I would like to install VM ESXi
3.      Server 2008 r2 Std VM
4.      Server 2012 Std VM
5.      Exchange 2013 for 5 mailboxes
6.      Win7 VM
7.      Win Xp VM
8.      Possible Windows 2012 or 2008 R2 server license if it’s a complete server.
9.      Final hardware cost under $1000

Please keep in mind this is a test platform to learn and experiment with.
Question by:Tony Giangreco
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LVL 35

Accepted Solution

Dan Craciun earned 84 total points
ID: 39996349
9.      Final hardware cost under $1000

Go on ebay/the local site of your choice and get a used Dell/HP server, 3 to 5 years old. A dual core with 8GB of RAM and 146 GB SAS should be enough.

LVL 10

Assisted Solution

Korbus earned 84 total points
ID: 39996357
oh a non-production server? JOY:  no need for RAID arrays, nor ECC RAM, which will seriously reduce your costs.

Looks like you can go with a gamer workstation, minus the powerful graphics.
Building it myself I would:
load up on lots of fair quality RAM (16GB-32GB),
and don't skimp on a good harddrive(s) with lots of space. (since you don't need redundancy you could use RAID0, for performance: many MB's have this built-in nowadays.
Since you will be running virtual machines, I suggest you get a multi-core processor, like an i7.  I like intel.
Regarding the case, in the basement, looks don't matter, airflow does: make sure your case can handle a crazy number of fans.  I like coolmaster.
The motherboard, personally I like EVGA, but whatever brand you get, just make sure it fits your above components.

If you don't want to build it yourself,  I'm sure you can get DELL or someone, to create the system to the specs you want.
LVL 96

Assisted Solution

by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 83 total points
ID: 39996409
Agree - go to ebay and purchase a Dell/HP/IBM server that you KNOW will run VMware.

If you would go Hyper-V, you could built easily, but VMWare has a very limited stack of storage drivers and you may have trouble finding a board/controller that works with it.  Major server brands should.
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Assisted Solution

Perarduaadastra earned 166 total points
ID: 39996689
I would add that if low noise is a requirement avoid rackmount devices, especially 1U ones with dual power supplies. Pedestal (or tower, if you prefer) units are a lot quieter and also tend to be cheaper second-hand as they cost less new than their rackmount equivalents.

This also means you don't have to buy a used rack to put it in, unless you have other kit such as switches and routers that are rack-mountable.

If you have a rack already or are intending to get one, then an entry-level Dell R300 with a single standard PSU (not hot-swappable) is probably bearable in terms of noise; at the moment I have one running about six feet from my elbow and it's not really obtrusive. I did have a similar server but with redundant PSUs running for a short time at a similar distance from me, and that was extremely obtrusive...

I would further suggest that if you're going to run four VMs, and two of them are going to be servers, a quad-core CPU and 16GB of RAM might be a better baseline spec.
You can also save money on disks by opting for SATA server drives (don't be tempted by cheaper desktop ones) that cost less and offer more capacity than SAS disks, albeit with somewhat lower performance; however, for lab/educational purposes the performance hit is unlikely to be significant. I've a couple of servers deployed that use WD's Red NAS 1TB and 2TB drives as primary storage, and they work just fine.
LVL 55

Assisted Solution

andyalder earned 83 total points
ID: 39997049
Brand new, 16GB RAM. , (about $540)

It's as quiet as a mouse, (22 dBA), you may want to pay a bit more for a second disk. HP only supply with 4GB sticks but they work with 8GB ones but it's advisable to get it pre-populated as not all 8GB sticks work in them. If you use ESXi there's an internal USB slot to install it on.

Towards the end of you can compare the volume since the guy shuts the door.

HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 is also available (newer so costs a bit more but HP do certify that one with 16GB RAM). Probably similar machines available from other manufacturers.
LVL 15

Assisted Solution

Perarduaadastra earned 166 total points
ID: 39997318
Further to the tower/pedestal server approach, about 10 months ago I installed a Dell T320 in a small office where it sits right behind one of the staff, and she can't hear it above the usual small office background noise. I concede that the basement mentioned is likely to be quieter than even this small office, but the point is that this server is barely audible, and being a Dell has big-brand support for virtualisation.
LVL 25

Author Closing Comment

by:Tony Giangreco
ID: 40000513
Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look around and pick one up.

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