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Robust Server Hardware for Virtualisation in Remote Location

Posted on 2016-10-04
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Last Modified: 2016-10-06
We have a number of remote locations with slow satellite links where we want to install an ESXi Server running Windows Read Only Domain Controller, a WSUS Server and an Antivirus Server.
The idea is to reduce the authentication and bulk update traffic from the HQ to these remote sites.

The locations have poor power and bad air-conditioning (if any), can be dusty, and is all-round just an awful environment for a Server.

We have been looking at various devices, such as an Intel NUC, to run as the ESXi server.
No moving parts, reasonably powerful CPU (i5), 16GB RAM and Solid State Drive  (Samsung SSD 850 EVO 500GB) and low power requirements.
They are also small, so they fit in the small comms rack sized space that we have to put the device in.

However, we are getting an unreasonable rate of failure on the SSD's, 4 of 8 drives have failed in less than 12 months.

So we are looking for a potential alternative to the Intel NUCs as a robust server for ESXi.
This could be an entirely new type of device or perhaps better hard drive in the Intel NUC and recommendations Out of Band management etc.

If possible we would like:

1. Robust!
2. Low power requirements
3. Small footprint
4. Out of Band Management (like an iLO or DRAC)
(not necessarily full remote control, but the ability to turn the device on or off remotely would be good)
5. Can handle heat and dust

Any thoughts or suggestions?
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Question by:HBS-Mach
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8 Comments
 
LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:John Tsioumpris
ID: 41829240
Small size means heat...the more room you have the more adequate air cooling you are providing....
Personally if this is the case i would by just a server...nothing special more likely a refurbished one with good amount of fans...I don't know what budget you have but from my own experience  Dells R610 have a great price and are quite beastly...
 Also about remote management because some times it means money just install more than 1 applications to control your system (e.g. RD,VNCserver).
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LVL 125

Assisted Solution

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 500 total points
ID: 41829345
Intel NUC is NOT on the VMware HCL.

Check the VMware Hardware Compatability Lists HCL here

The VMware Hardware Compatibility List is the detailed lists showing actual vendor devices that are either physically tested or are similar to the devices tested by VMware or VMware partners. Items on the list are tested with VMware products and are known to operate correctly.Devices which are not on the list may function, but will not be supported by VMware.

http://www.vmware.com/go/hcl

But a HP ProLiant Micro Server Gen8 is!

Also small form factor, and very low power. We use Gen8s for ESXi, and so do many other small businesses.
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by:John Tsioumpris
John Tsioumpris earned 500 total points
ID: 41829437
HP Microserver is a great product ( i wish i could afford to buy one...it would solve a lot of my problems) but given the fact is small is more for home/lab use...
You need something to withstand just about everything so investing on cure little servers i am not sure its the way to go.....unless there other reasons like space,noise,budget.
A fully fledged server has (should buy with this option) redundant swappable PSUs,hot swappable HDDs,thermal design to withstand with a LOT of heat(hearing the fans spinning at 8000 RPMs because the Air condition failed can be a hearing experience....it was over a weekend in this situation)
This is just my opinion...if the site is remote and you want to ensure that it would function with a failed PSU,failed HDD and temperatures above 50C i am not sure that small form factor solutions are the way to go.
EDIT: i didn't noticed the low power-footprint....if this is the case then please ignore my comment...also i'd like to add the Dell Poweredge T20 seems like a nice small server
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Accepted Solution

by:
andyalder earned 1000 total points
ID: 41829451
>we are getting an unreasonable rate of failure on the SSD's...

Hardly unreasonable considering you're running ESX on consumer SSDs. If you use enterprise SSDs such as http://www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/product/enterprise/pm863.html you'll get far less failures. They have the same chips as your EVOs but the over-provisioning allows garbage collection to be performed more efficiently since you don't get TRIM with ESXi. You would be safer with the SM863 but at least the PM863 is reasonably cheap.
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Expert Comment

by:John Tsioumpris
ID: 41829464
A small side note about footprint....if footprint is the case then you can always mount a rack server on the wall(!)...it is bit unusual but it works and the height of 1U server is just  1.75 inches (44.45 mm) ...
And for the power consumption check this post
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Author Comment

by:HBS-Mach
ID: 41830860
Hi all,
Thanks for the comments.
@Andrew, yes, the Intel NUC is not on the HCL. It does work ok though. Esxi 5.1 needed to inject a NIC driver, but ESXi 6 just worked straight from the ISO.

@John, power and space is a concern for the server, so a traditional pizza box server wont work for us. Also noise is a factor as the comms racks these go into are in peoples offices (usually right over their heads when they are sitting at their desk)

I will look at the Hp Micro Servers (we already use a couple of these and they are bulletproof) as well as the Dell T20.

The R50 from http://aleutia.com/  looks like a possibility as well.
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LVL 125
ID: 41830948
non-HCL equipment is always a risk, that's a risk that you need to assess!

ESXi 5.1 is end of life and not supported.

It depends if you require support from VMware, or are you using the FREE version ?
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Author Comment

by:HBS-Mach
ID: 41832734
@Andrew
Yes, it is the free version, so support isnt an issue.
@AndyAlder
Yes, i think thats the answer I will go with, which is to use a more enterprise SSD
@John
HP Microservers are also an option.
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