Server Build: for SQL now, and to replace SBS 2011 next year

Posted on 2016-07-18
Last Modified: 2016-11-22
I had this question after viewing Hyper-V for small business, SAS or SSD?.

I'm getting ready to build out the hardware for our next server and would like some input on hardware choices and configuration. I'm planning a Hyper-V setup, and I've read several helpful guides by Lee and Philip.

Usage & background info:
I need to spin up a SQL box asap for our database application. Ideally, I can buy a box and add memory/hdds in a year when we move from SBS2011+premium addon (separate box) to Hyper-V+4 (DC/Exchange/LoB data/SQL). So, in choosing the hardware, I'd like to get enough CPU and a RAID controller to support that. I'll break down the use cases for the immediate and the future.

IMMEDIATE SQL need: It's going to be set up to replicate with a cloud-based server. Having a copy of the DB on the LAN just makes it so much faster. It's a church management suite....probably 8-10GB in size and growing by a couple gigs a year. There q43 10-20 concurrent users, all working through an endpoint client (kiosk check-in app or database front-end app). Right now, the replication is running on SQL Express 2005 (or 2008?), and we'd like to move to SQL 2012/2014.
    - Initial thoughts: lots of memory and SSD-based storage

FUTURE use: We have about 30 users, 20 full-time. 4-5 printers, no faxing through the network (a stand-alone unit to handle the occasional fax). We have about 40 Windows devices in AD, so WSUS gets used. Trying to consolidate all OS to either Win 7 or Win 10. Plan is to be homogenous Win 10 by the end of next year. We have a couple Macs, but they just access SMB shares or Exchange thru autodiscover and install their own printer drivers. We use redirected folders to ensure availability and recovery of user data.

We don't use Sharepoint other than RWW (is that even sharepoint?) which is used moderately by 2-3 people. I (sysadmin) remote into user machines daily, both on and offsite. I don't think that taxes the server much.
Exchange is a big deal. Everyone uses it, many of us sync with our phones, tablets, home computers, etc, however all but 4 users have 2GB mailbox limits that they aren't exceeding. 4 of us use 5-10 GB.

Other SQL stuff would be WSUS and SEPM. I think both are using the built-in databases they shipped with, but can run on SQL. Might not make sense to do that.

LoB data: Compared to our other uses, I think our #1 storage hog is data. We do a lot of content creation, and we store/share it through network storage. Current network shares+redirected folders are about 700GB of data.
  -  Initial thoughts: conventional HDD are probably fine for LoB data. How many CPUs/cores do we need to handle these VMs based on our usage?

Hardware: I'm most comfortable with Dell servers as that is what all our other servers are, so using OpenManage, DRAC, PERC, etc are things I already do. I'm looking at R330 or R430. Both can give me 8 2.5" hot-swap bays. I'm looking at the following builds:

Option 1: Dell PE R330 w/8 2.5" hot-swap bays for future expansion. 4 dimm slots
1x Xeon 1240v5 (3.5GHZ) 4C/8T

Option 2: Dell PE R430 w/8 2.5" hot-swap bays, 8 dimm slots (2 per CPU socket)
1x Xeon 2623v4 2.6Ghz 4C/8T (but room to add another CPU in the future)

Both Options:
PERC 730 (optimized for SSD)
1x 480 SSD (SM863) (since we are just doing a local replication, I'm not too concerned about DR. we can failover to the cloud if needed. We'd add RAID 1/10 next year when we add VMs for DC/Exchange, etc)
32 GB RAM (2133Mhz) (double to 64GB next year)
dual hot-swap PSU
iDRAC basic (don’t do much out-of-band)
1G Broadcom NIC (we have a 10G uplink on our switch, but I can’t spring for that this year…how feasible is it to switch NICs down the road?)
PCIe riser card for future expansion (SAN?)

My biggest concern can 4 cores @ 3.5 Ghz enough to handle our future use? Or am I better off with 8 @ 2.6Ghz in the long run?

I know going with a solo SSD is not recommended, but since it’s just a replicated copy and I’m planning to add additional drives within a year, it should do the job.

Any other suggestions? Is any additional info needed? I had thought our next implementation would be a cluster with 2x servers and a SAN, but then this issue with SQL came up and I have to buy a server ahead of our budget. As am looking at recommended builds based on our usages,  I'm wondering if a cluster is the right tool for the job or is this approach of building out a server will do the job just as well.

Question by:jrockman13
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LVL 38

Assisted Solution

by:Philip Elder
Philip Elder earned 500 total points
ID: 41719574
Budget? Go with the R330 with 64GB ECC, 1GB RAID with non-volatile cache, and 8x 900GB 10K SAS. Add iDRAC Enterprise into the mix, dual power supplies and make sure to run with Intel i350-T2 or i350-T4 NICs for your virtual switch(es) and you're good to go.

Drop the SSD notion. There's no real benefit in a small setup like this.

Author Comment

ID: 41719666
My budget is as close to $2000 as possible but I realize it's going to be at least a couple hundred more. Il get access to 2-3k more next year which is when I will add more RAM/spindles.

Author Comment

ID: 41719667
I can always add more RAM. I can't (easily) upgrade the CPU or add another on (if it's a 1-socket server).
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LVL 38

Accepted Solution

Philip Elder earned 500 total points
ID: 41719764
Go Intel Server Systems. Cost is a lot less and the platform performs really well. We've been building on this platform for decades now.

R1208SPOSHOR, E3-1230v5, 64GB Crucial ECC, Intel RAID I/O Module with 1GB flash backed cache, 8x 900GB Seagate 10K SAS, Intel RMM, Intel i350-T4.

Betcha it comes close to your budget. :)

Author Comment

ID: 41719830
Well, that didn't go error on the configurator page. Also, they don't have the 900GB Seagates in the tool either (guessing it's a supply issue).
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Philip Elder
ID: 41719856
1: R1208SPOSHOR Product Page
2: Intel Server Configurator Tool
3: THOL Builder
4: Filter by: R1208SPO Click Select
5: Click the Excel Export button near the top right
6: Save to your local disk
7: Open with Excel
8: Save As and choose XLSX

We do the above to get a hard copy. We save as: 2016-07-19 R1208SPO THOL.XLSX

The Seagate ST1200MM0007 or ST1200MM0017 are on the list. You would be safe with the ST900MM00xx as well. We've not had any compatibility issues with Seagate SAS spindles on any of our standalone platform builds.

I have an EE article on Hyper-V as well: Some Hyper-V Hardware and Software Best Practices. I'm sure there would be some info in there to help out.

Author Comment

ID: 41719867
So using the THOL, I assume I would go and source the parts from vendors and build myself? I've build a number of systems, but never a rack-mount server. I'd be game to try.

I read through your Hyper-V BP guide twice before posting a thread. I thought given my specific use case of needing to build in stages (enough for SQL now, adding DC/Exchange/LoB data later) warranted a question.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Philip Elder
ID: 41721663
I suggest ASI Canada/USA for your source. They are a great supplier for us up here in Canada.

We always build with a three to five year picture in mind. We assess current and previous year's I.T. usage and growth to gather an understanding of how a business uses its infrastructure.

A server or cluster may seem like it's configured a bit bigger than today's needs but we've been caught before by the "this is how our business has grown in the last three or four years" only to find out that the current year, unbeknownst to us and post deployment, they were on track for a 300% business increase year-over-year. :D

Author Closing Comment

ID: 41726750
Thanks Philip for your recommendations. I tracked down a local Intel Server Systems reseller and talked with him, but ended up incorporating your advice on Dell rack server due to more familiarity and some limitations the local reseller had with part availability.
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Philip Elder
ID: 41728171
Excellent to hear.

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