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Gerbil XP
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Location: Romeoville, IL

Need rackmount system help.

Sun May 12, 2002 8:45 pm

I'm putting together a new rack which will contain a small network of systems which will run a mission critical aspect of the business I work for. These systems will be running a range of apps such as SQL Server, Terminal Server, varous streaming compression engines, db processing apps, web apps, etc.

My bosses have always spec'ed Dell equipment in the past and we've got a number of Dell racks and servers in place. This time, it's important that this system remain in place with a minimum of upgrades for a number of years and run very quickly. Since Dell and most of the other major OEM's are still producing only PIII XEON servers, my bosses have told me find a different vendor for the servers and componentry.

They, and I, want the fastest processors with gobs of RAM, big drive arrays, top quality construction, etc.

I'm probably going to purchase barebones 1U, 2U and 4U servers and or components (cases, motherboards, power supplies, hard drives, RAID controllers, KVM switches, cables, etc.).

There are a lot of vendors and components to choose from.

I'm considering various dual processor motherboards from the likes of Tyan, Gigabyte, Iwill, Abit, Supermicro, etc. I'm considering cases, racks and cabinetry from AIC, Appro, CCSI, Chenbro, ElanVital, evServ, Racksaver, SiliconRax and CI Design. I'm considering the IP based KVM's from Raritan and Avocent (Cybex).

I'd like to find one reasonably priced vendor that puts together excellent quality rackmount system that doesn't have 50 to 100% margins.

Do any of you have suggestions for vendors or components you trust for these types of systems?
Gerbil XP
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Posts: 366
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2002 4:01 pm
Location: Romeoville, IL

Tue May 14, 2002 10:50 pm

It looks like I'm going to be going with 2.4 GHz P4 XEON servers. I'm planning to purchase Supermicro brand Intel E7500 based barebones rack servers, Fujitsu MAN and MAM drives and various other components.

I talked it over with my boss at lunch today and he re-iterated he wanted the fastest money can buy (in an x86 server) with the best, most reliable components.

Does anyone have any extremely high-quality alternatives to the Supermicro barebones?

I'm specifically looking for feedback someone with experience purchasing, using, installing and/or configuring such systems. I've spoken with a lot of people in IRC who say things like "TYAN D00LEEZ R0X!!!!111" or "i hurd asus maks a pretty good bord." :-?
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Tue May 14, 2002 11:40 pm

I'm a bit out of my league on server stuff, but did you ask Dell about the PowerEdge 6650 server? Quad Xeon(P4) CPUs ought to provide a good deal of processing oomph.

Here's a thread that might help:

In theory, Supermicro makes a 4-way motherboard based on the Serverworks Grand Champion HE chipset that you might use as the basis for building your own.
Gerbil XP
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Posts: 366
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2002 4:01 pm
Location: Romeoville, IL

Wed May 15, 2002 10:06 pm

Thanks man. I did initially look at the Dells and showed my boss what they had to offer (no 2 GHz range XEONS :(). I also showed him their up-and-coming servers that you had in the above link.

We spec'ed out a few servers based on our requirements (one has to have 1/2 a terabyte of drive space--media servers), the rest are fairly mainstream duals and the cheapest we could get them down to was just under $5,000 with single 36G drives and 1G SDRAM. I did the same thing at Compaq's and IBM's website. I also called around to other vendors (like Appro--who Anandtech went to for their new web/forum/database server rack--wow, talk about salespeople in need of rudimentary technical training; AMS--nice but half-ass components; etc). I popped all the vendors configurations into a 5 page spreadsheet along w/major component prices (processors, HD's, RAM, RAID controllers, cases, KVM's, racks, etc.) and put it on his desk today.

He reads PC World and PC Magazine and he knows the basics of clock speeds, drive capacity, RAM types, etc. Given that Dell, Compaq and IBM's current top-end 1.4 GHz dually boxes cost about double what we can build a top-quality server loaded with the fastest processors (2.4 GHz XEONS go for about $650 each--yow!), maxxed single-box RAID setups and gobs of RAM, it was a rather easy decision for him. Their (Dell, Compaq, IBM, etc.) latest and greatest will surely be priced well beyond what we'd be willing to spend given what we know about component prices.

I mostly agree with him. I probably would go 2.0 GHz to save a couple grand for all the servers and would go with a few 2U cases, but hey, it doesn't bother me much that he wants to drop the extra change. I can build the boxes, it'll just take time and screwing around with 8 different vendors for parts and a full day or two (hours here and there as parts come in) throwing it all together, bolting racks down (he wants open frame racks instead of cabinets--fun), pulling cable, popping blood-blisters, etc.

In the end, we should have some damn nice servers.

I've yet to place the first order though. I'm just waiting for the go ahead.
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Thu May 16, 2002 9:05 am

In a word: Compaq

I've used servers from Dell, HP, Compaq, even Gateway( ALR servers I believe) and I built a few clones.

Compaq rules the roost.

They have timely software updates. Their SSD software makes life sooo much easier. When updates come out load the software and it will tell you what system components have outdated driver and upgrade them for you if you so choose. The BEST management software. Insight Manager ownz. If it reports an imminent hardware failure, that's good enough for Compaq to replace the part (before it actually fails). Also Compaq has a part number on everything. I have had a fan fail. Opened the server, got the part number, new part the next day.

And the best thing for those that want even higher level of service. For a small fee (last I new it was a few hundred bucks a year per server) they will stock one of every major component in your server at a warehouse location in your metro area. Usually near the major airport. Then guarantee having the part in your hands when it fails in under 4 hours. Had this happen once. New MB in our hands in 45 minutes.

If I have my choice I would not even touch a Dell. I cannot stand their crap!

If high availability and quality parts and service are what you need. Compaq is it.
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Thu May 16, 2002 9:57 am

Quad Prestonias sound gooood. :wink:

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