File server- best way to configure?

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File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Tue Feb 04, 2014 12:41 pm

I have been asked to replace a Windows 2003 small business server with Windows 2012 R2. I’ve been seeing various configurations advice and just wanted some input on the best way to put this together. Since it has the ability to backup workstations, I was thinking of a separate drive for that. Also I’ve seen some advice to have a separate boot drive to keep separate from where the programs are running. I like the idea of raid 5, but how do I do that and have a separate boot drive. The main application besides file sharing is a SQL database program that 25 people are running. What about SSD’s? The SQL application people seem to think the biggest bottle neck is the network connection. Would teaming be worthwhile? I’d like it to be quick, secure, and reliable and do not have an unlimited budget. Any input would be much appreciated.
bigjohn888jb
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Tue Feb 04, 2014 12:53 pm

What do you currently have for hardware, HDDs, Processor(s), Memory, etc?
What roles will this server serve, fileserver, domain controller, sql server, etc?
chrissodey
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:10 pm

Yeah, something with SBS2003 is probably so old that the coax you're using for networking definitely IS holding you back! :D

I helped a local office pick out some hardware for a similar migration. Maybe 10 computers. Here's the hardware (some cutting and pasting):

Dell Poweredge T110 II
Windows server 2012 factory installed , 2 socket, 2 vms
16 gig (2x8) memory duel ranked 1600mhz
Intel® Xeon® E3-1230v2 3.30 GHz, 8M Cache, Turbo, Quad Core/8T
primary hard drive HD multi select
H200 RAID
(2) 1TB 7.2K RPM SATA 3Gbps 3.5in Cabled Hard Drive
single gigabit on board network adapter
and an additional 5cal user lic (total 10)
3 Year ProSupport and NBD On-site Service

The cost wasn't too bad. Pop on another grand for SQL Server 2012 and some CALs and you're golden.

As far as what's the bottleneck, you'd want to actually look at what's running and what resources are being used when it's "slow". You can even look at the network card to see if it's being saturated. That stuff's probably old enough, are you running gigabit switches? Or old fast ethernet hubs?

I would recommend a RAID 1 for the boot and if you want to dump stuff for storage, maybe another RAID 1 of 3 or 4 TB drives. SSDs will probably help but if you're doing it right, you'll have enough RAM that SQL will load everything to memory and not hit the disk too much. Do they use that server for email, too? Will you need a separate machine for Exchange or what?
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:21 pm

It is running gigabyte switches. It is not running Exchange. I never thought of having two separate raids. I’m assuming you would need two raid controller cards then? It does not seem slow to “file serve”, but the SQL application just seems sluggish. I figured increasing the ram (sbs2003 could only go to 4GB) would help, but I wondered if teaming a pair of nics would also help (I don’t want to speed up one process to find the slowness has moved to another aspect.
bigjohn888jb
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:35 pm

bigjohn888jb wrote:...I wondered if teaming a pair of nics would also help (I don’t want to speed up one process to find the slowness has moved to another aspect.


Unless you bond both ends of the connection you will only have 1 gigabit to any given destination. If they have multiple people saturating a gigabit connection to the server then you would see an advantage. Likely the old server is only running at 100mbit. Upgrading to gigabit should be enough to give them a tangible performance increase. Teaming the NIC's is still a good idea for redundancy sake, especially if their network is only 1 subnet. But to any given workstation you will likely see no difference between a bonded NIC's or not.
LaChupacabra
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:03 pm

bigjohn888jb wrote:It is running gigabyte switches. It is not running Exchange. I never thought of having two separate raids. I’m assuming you would need two raid controller cards then? It does not seem slow to “file serve”, but the SQL application just seems sluggish. I figured increasing the ram (sbs2003 could only go to 4GB) would help, but I wondered if teaming a pair of nics would also help (I don’t want to speed up one process to find the slowness has moved to another aspect.


You generally can have different RAID volumes on a single array [of disks]. You can also seperate disks into different arrays and assign them different drive letters (or mount points). This is the best to do for DBs, one volume for DBs, one for logs. Depending on the database usage (heavy writes) this can be useful. But for small implementations it is generally not necessary.

If you have two NICs, one thing you can do without bonding is separate your traffic. SQL (port 1433) can be assigned to use a particular IP. You could assign one NIC (and IP) for SQL and the other NIC (and IP) for "everything else".

In order to discover what is really going on (and what you need), I would recommend using perfmon (Performance Monitor) to capture some statistics on CPU, memory, disk, and network usage. This way you can see what the bottlenecks are, and design around them.

I would think, though, the replacing this server (which is probably 6+ years old) with something newer would have a profound impact on performance, even in a relatively default configuration.

For a configuration recommendation, it really depends on the hardware and budget.

I would recommend RAID-1 for the OS
I would recommend RAID-5 or 6 for the file server portion
Depending on the SQL DB size I would recommend RAID-5 or 6 if it is a "large" DB (doesn't fit on single disk in your planned array)
If the SQL DB size is "small" I would recommend RAID-1 with SSDs
If the SQL DB is heavily transacted, SSDs are definitely the way to go (if affordable). If you cannot use SSDs because it is a "large" DB, I recommend doing one volume for the DB (RAID 5 or 6) and one volume for transaction logs (SSDs in RAID-1 or larger drives in RAID 1+0).
I would recommend RAID-5 for workstation backup, if you are going to use it. If there are not using this now, though, I tend to recommend against it. This type of store can grow quickly and it's better to have users store important things on a file server that is backed up instead of relying on you to backup their workstations.
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:18 pm

bigjohn888jb wrote:I never thought of having two separate raids. I’m assuming you would need two raid controller cards then?


mattshwink wrote:You generally can have different RAID volumes on a single array [of disks]. You can also seperate disks into different arrays and assign them different drive letters (or mount points). This is the best to do for DBs, one volume for DBs, one for logs. Depending on the database usage (heavy writes) this can be useful. But for small implementations it is generally not necessary.


What he said. One controller can typically have many RAID containers of different types. You'd want to check the RAID controller to be sure. There are best practices he mentioned but for our business, around 50 people, don't need to bother with that and it's decent load. One SQL server has an 8 drive SSD RAID 1+0 with consumer SSDs and the other has an 8 drive RAID 1+0 with mechanical SAS drives. My performance testing with that and RAID 5 and RAID 6 led me to lose capacity as a tradeoff for maximum performance on the disk system.

mattshwink wrote:In order to discover what is really going on (and what you need), I would recommend using perfmon (Performance Monitor) to capture some statistics on CPU, memory, disk, and network usage. This way you can see what the bottlenecks are, and design around them.


Wholeheartedly agree. Though...

mattshwink wrote:I would think, though, the replacing this server (which is probably 6+ years old) with something newer would have a profound impact on performance, even in a relatively default configuration.


...this is probably where you'll see your gains no matter what. When you're swapping out something that far back and switching SQL Server versions from, what, 2000 or 2005 to 2012?, it can be hard to know what the bottlenecks will be in the new configuration. We had to do some stuff to get our SQL dbs working when we migrated from 2005 to 2012 so that's something to keep in mind.

If the workstations are left on and backups are done after hours, I don't see why you can't just dump that on the same volume as the SQL data, if the SQL data isn't all that large. It won't impact performance during business hours and it's one less thing to worry about.
Scrotos
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Re: File server- best way to configure?

Postposted on Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:18 pm

Also, I'm assuming throughout this whole thing that you're talking about a desktop server, not a rack-mount. Obviously if there's a dedicated server room and noise isn't an issue, that can change the recommendations.
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