Server Build, Avoton?

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Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:37 pm

I am building my first server for a company with 3 clients who access bookkeeping software off a main computer. I am going to run win7 pro and was wondering what you all thought of the new avoton. Also if you think it is sufficient, is it worth it to go the extra $120 for octocore over quad? It would make a super low power system with a couple of ssds, would pull under 30w perhaps. I was thinking about the Fractal Node 304 with that one fan in the back.

Please let me know if you think I should forgo this processor with the unfortunate atom name. Should I go full on Xeon or an i3?

I particularly like the Asrock set up with the extra remote features.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:54 pm

Depends entirely on what it's going to be serving.

If it's just a conventional SMB file server, any CPU will suffice as it's going to be constrained by network, disk, and RAM (cache) throughput long before the CPU becomes an issue.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:37 pm

Hope you don't take it the wrong way, but seems like you are trying a bit hard to use up an inflated budget due to the relatively expensive amount for their last build. Unless this Sage accounting app is performance sensitive, I think a 3-person small company hardly needs anything exotic, most certainly not a $2K build. Even adding RAID1 redundancy and a UPS I still don't think it should be more than $1500. Assuming this Sage app thing does not hog CPU/RAM too much, I would think a regular 2-core (4 threads) or 4 core processor, with 8-16 gigs of RAM should suffice.

Something like the sweet spot build in the latest system guide, minus the sound card, discrete graphics, bluray drive would not be enough? Even switching to RAID1 SSD is not going to going to touch $1500. What are the exact requirements here?
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:41 pm

If you really want something that is inflated but can add value, get something with a service contract.

I.e. IBM, HP or Dell and an onsite tech can come in if the server signals a component failure. Then they can be back up and running in good time.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:11 pm

I'll echo what people are already saying and add that calling something a "server" just because it serves data is a little disingenuous. It's easy to put together a box that will do the job, but for something to really be considered a server it should have some kind of warranty and a very good set of monitoring tools. Redundant network cards and hard drives also should apply.

So to help, HP has microservers that meet those criteria. They are also reasonably priced. Something like this could be configured to have the basic level of resiliency to failure a server should have and still be well under budget (even if you pay for a full Server 2012 license). The two main failings I can see are lack of redundant powersupplies, and the disks are not hot swappable. The iLO is also probably stripped down, but I'm not familiar enough with these specifically to comment.

Assuming you are talking about Sage 50 even with 2 gigs of ram and a Celeron processor that should give you enough to get the job done (although since it's so cheap it would make sense to go with at least 4). All you need to present is a file share to the client machines and the Sage 50 app runs on their local system.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:01 pm

Flying Fox wrote:Hope you don't take it the wrong way, but seems like you are trying a bit hard to use up an inflated budget due to the relatively expensive amount for their last build. Unless this Sage accounting app is performance sensitive, I think a 3-person small company hardly needs anything exotic, most certainly not a $2K build. Even adding RAID1 redundancy and a UPS I still don't think it should be more than $1500. Assuming this Sage app thing does not hog CPU/RAM too much, I would think a regular 2-core (4 threads) or 4 core processor, with 8-16 gigs of RAM should suffice.

Something like the sweet spot build in the latest system guide, minus the sound card, discrete graphics, bluray drive would not be enough? Even switching to RAID1 SSD is not going to going to touch $1500. What are the exact requirements here?


Ok in the referenced thread I said I expected the box to be at max $2000 but more likely $1500. I come here for knowledge about what kind of cpu horsepower I would need for this scenario as well as any other helpful information as I need to order parts this week. I took the earlier advice from JBI to get an ECC ram enabled motherboard. There are three employees at this company, four during tax seaon. They use Sage 50 which runs off the central "box" (as it shall be known from now on). Drake tax prep software also runs off the central system but does not get used very often outside of feb-apr. Quickbooks 1998 and 2011 store the data files on the central system. I do not know what kind of cpu strain 3 concurrent users puts on the system (maybe none?).

I looked at the ASROCK Avoton because it is $280 for the cpu/mb combo, plenty of sata ports, ecc ram support and excellent remote and reporting features. If I buy a server motherboard it is anywhere from 130 and up. If I go bottom basement I can get a processor for 70. so 200 vs 280 didn't seem like a monstrous leap to me.

Here is what I was basing my budget on:

Avoton 4core + Mb= 280
8gig ecc ram ~ 80
fractal node 304 = 80
win 7 pro = 100
2 240gb ssd ~ 300
2tb drive ~ 100
PSU ~ 70 (i haven't looked at this in detail yet, I would want to get one off of Asrock's approved list)

Total = 1010
Gotta collect at least 70 in tax even if I mark nothing up

I'd like to buy some decent surge protection and am looking into some backup software if it will make my life easier.

Considering that I was going to have to configure this thing and warranty it for 3yrs, I didn't think $1500 was a price to feel bad about.

SO:

Do you guys feel that the 4core Avoton setup is overkill as well?
Do you guys feel that ssds really wont do anything much in this set up? (I can roll some 5year warranty mechanicals instead)
Any thoughts about backup software?
Anything else I'm missing?
I am going to hell for charging $1500?

Thanks for the input, I tried to sell the DELL solution but my customer has nothing but hate in her heart for DELL.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Wed Apr 30, 2014 10:18 pm

As to your questions:

1. No, the 4 core Avoton (I'm assuming a C2550) is not overkill. The recommended spec for Sage Accounting is a 2.4Ghz processor, and that Avoton fits. No mention of needing (or even using) multicore so no need to go for the 8 core variant. If you wanted to try to future proof a little more you might want to go with an i3, but it's probably not necessary.
2. Honestly, I would go with the SSDs. There are two things the SSDs give you: low power and high IOPs (compared to mechanical). In a file server that is going to deal with simultaneous access, IOPs really can start to matter. I also feel that with a server type build you are looking at 5+ years of continuous use. I don't think you will regret it. That being said, two decent mechanicals won't kill you either.
3. It really depends on the requirements for how long could an outage be tolerated. I would suspect an accounting business in tax season would need to be up quickly, with little downtime. Marcium Reflect has gotten a lot of positive feedback from the TR community in the past. I would also look at something like Acronis, which also has the option top backup to the cloud (which I strongly recommend).
4. Missing...make sure you have good AV on the server (and workstations)
5. Nope! As long as you do a quality job, charge what you can get!

Only other thing I would say is don't skimp on is the PSU. This system is going to be on probably 24x7 for years. Of course, as speced, its probably going to pull something like 30 watts. So don't go overboard either :) I have bought a Corsair CX430 and been very happy in the past.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Thu May 01, 2014 4:34 am

Our Sage server (VM) serves 5 people in the accounts department and I run it on a VM with an effective 200MHz single-core processor and 2GB RAM.
It has access to 24 cores and 128GB of RAM in the unreserved pool but I don't think any Sage process has ever needed to dip into it. All the resource spikes are related to other processes like Windows update and other background services.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Thu May 01, 2014 11:28 am

$280 for CPU and motherboard is not bad. I may actually be interested for my own file server (all the Marvell controllers concern me though). AsRock is kind of new to the market. IMO they don't have the reputation of Asus and Supermicro yet, but their combos will be more expensive.

3-person (up to 4) people doing file sharing is not going to require a lot of I/O. They are an accounting firm. I don't see all of them trying to copy/move big files to/from the server at once. So SSD or not I don't think it matters. As for the power savings, it depends on power cost for that office and the extra you pay you may not make up the difference over the lifetime of the "server". This is the place where you can cut costs.

AV on the "server" is not a bad idea. Running the client machines with Standard Users accounts is arguably more important, IMO.

Win7's own backup is not bad, but other solutions are worth looking into. Sorry I don't have much experience there.

I agree with the "charge what you can get" idea up to a point. That's why cutting hardware cost will increase your margin. That is not to say to rob your client because you can get away with it. Depending on your business model, you may not mark up much on the hardware/software and just bill the hours and the planning. Ongoing maintenance and care means repeat business so you may want to consider that too.

Given that we seem to have quite bit of room in the budget, I would go a step further on the surge protection thing and get a UPS. A modest one should do.

Ninja edit: one instance of slow unRAID performance, just a data point to look at.
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Thu May 01, 2014 12:02 pm

Coran Fixx wrote:I'd like to buy some decent surge protection and am looking into some backup software if it will make my life easier.

Considering that I was going to have to configure this thing and warranty it for 3yrs, I didn't think $1500 was a price to feel bad about.

Do you guys feel that the 4core Avoton setup is overkill as well?
Do you guys feel that ssds really wont do anything much in this set up? (I can roll some 5year warranty mechanicals instead)
Any thoughts about backup software?
Anything else I'm missing?
I am going to hell for charging $1500?

Thanks for the input, I tried to sell the DELL solution but my customer has nothing but hate in her heart for DELL.


Get a UPS instead of a surge protector.

$1500 is the minimum I would spend on a computer. Everything below that will be obsolete too soon. This is for a business, so don't skimp too much.

Here's the thing. Processors either need to be fast, or they need to be wide. The 8 core Avoton is wide, and it's the cheapest 8 core server chip you're going to find. Most 8 core server chips are going to be north of $300. You can get a 4 core Xeon E3-1220V3 3.1GHz which will absolutely crush the Avoton for $204. I would be hesitant to drop down to the 4 core without a speed bump or better IPC. Also, keep in mind, Intel neuters their lower offerings, and even though the Avoton is a server chip it doesn't escape the knife. Below are a couple of comparisons.

Atom C2750 vs Opteron 3320 EE
http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/843/AM ... C2750.html

Atom C2750 vs Xeon E3-1220 v3
http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/88/Int ... 20_v3.html

The feature I would be concerned about is the XD bit, which helps prevent some types of attacks.

Space and number of drives really determine if SSDs are a good choice or not. If they can fit everything into less then 240GB and you only have room for two storage drives, then yes SSDs are a good fit. If they need more space then that and there is room for 6 - 8 drives, HDs are a better fit. As a side note, I've been buying SSDs for boot drives for the last couple of years, and I don't think there is a need to be afraid of them.

I'm using Yosemite at work, and Jungle Disk at home. I would probably go with some cloud storage provider since it is a small shop, and there isn't a whole lot of infrastructure to maintain. Jungle Disk, Backblaze, and Spideroak are the three that I regularly look at.

Have you thought about monitoring software?

It's your time and expertise, so charge what you want.

That's too bad about Dell since they are actually the good guys when dealing with servers and business class computers.

Edit: Also check this pedestal server out. It's in the ballpark of what you're looking for. http://www.serversdirect.com/Servers/Pe ... P-1P4D-001
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 10:41 pm

For any curious I ended up ordering:

Xeon e3-1220
AsRock C224 mb
8gb Kingston Ram
Seasonic 520
Intel 530 ssd X2
WD blue 1tb (for backups)
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Mon May 05, 2014 1:03 am

First I'm going to admit to not having read this entire thread. I did see the bits about $1500-2000 and some other recommendations. I'm going to echo what others have already told you. You should have purchased a legitimate server from Dell, HP, IBM, or any other manufacturer that offers a warranty and service contract. Yes, it's a small business, but these are often the ones who can afford the least amount of downtime. A Dell PowerEdge T320 with comparable configuration to what you ordered with a 3 year ProSupport Next-Business Day Warranty (parts arrive next-business day...with a tech if you chose), AND an iDRAC7 Enterprise card runs less than $2000.

The iDRAC Enterprise would allow you to connect remotely to the server and offers complete control. You can see the console all the way through the boot process, initiate an OS reboot, initiate a warm reboot (in the case of a BSOD or the like), or even power the server on from a completely off state.

Of course, this price does NOT include the Operating System license. It really should be running a server OS using centralized logons, etc., etc. This is something that should be built to scale with the business so they're not replacing it every six months just to meet needs. With enough RAM you could do virtualization with Hyper-V for no extra costs (up to 2 VMs on Windows Server Standard, unlimited VMs on Windows Server Datacenter...but Datacenter would be overkill for them).

Anyway...just some thoughts for the next time you get ready to do this. While building a server sounds like a cheaper solution, it's often not over the long haul, especially given the prices you can get customized solutions from the various OEMs these days. Plus you end up on the hook for fixing it when it fails (notice I didn't say "if")...and you end up looking smarter when you can offer a long-term warranty with guaranteed service over the life of the device. :)
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Re: Server Build, Avoton?

Postposted on Mon May 05, 2014 12:36 pm

Yep that Powervault looks pretty nice. Id have to find someone other than DELL for this particular customer.

Opinions have varied and I took the middle road. Overall I can sleep with my choices. I could definitely get burned if the motherboard needs replacing. Something like remotely checking on the server is not going to happen until I quit my day job. Her computer needs are not likely to change in the next couple of years, the only major event I can foresee is her retirement and then who knows what will happen with the business.

I would definitely give that Powervault another look in a different situation.

Thanks for taking the time to post.
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