Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

Advice on Dell Server Purchase + ESXi

I am wanting to virtualize some of my servers running on old hardware. I'd like to get a Dell server with ESXi embedded, and an iScsi SAN. My Dell rep has suggested a Poweredge 2950 III with dual quadcore Xeon 5460's, and 32gb ram. She wanted to put a RAID 5 array in the server, but I've heard that a SAN is a better choice for VM's. Any sugestions there?

This host would be running approximately 3 windows XP machines (very low utilization), 1 Netware 6.5 server with Library Database software, 1 Netware 6.5 server running Zenworks (how will pushing/pulling computer images effect things?), Groupwise messenger, ifolder, and iprint. I'd also hope that I'd have room to grow with this host for future servers.

My concern is the library software server and the Zenworks server. The Library server is currently running on an old no-name server with a single xeon 2.4 ghz cpu and 4gb ram. CPU usage is minimal, and it is showing 3gb free ram most of the time.

The Zenworks Server has similar specs but dual processors. It is a Gateway 975. It is idle 99% of the time, unless we image a machine from/to it.

I assume I need to have at least 4 physical network ports on the host, so that a bottleneck doesn't happen. Would it be wise to assign one network port to each "more intensive" VM, and let other smaller VM's just share a port?

Please give any suggestions, hints, etc. I'm learning! Thanks! Smiley Happy

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28 Replies
mcowger
Immortal
Immortal

1) Local storage can be fine if you dont want HA or VMotion. if you do, an array is required.

2) Sounds like all your apps shoudl be fine.

3) No need to dedicate 1 port per VM - i doubt that any of them will saturate a 1GBit.






--Matt

VCP, vExpert, Unix Geek

--Matt VCDX #52 blog.cowger.us
Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

That brings up another question - the connection would be 100mbit, not 1gb. I know I'd need to get a gigabit module for my switch (HP Procurve 5308XL) if I were going to use iSCSI. However if I go with the internal array, I probably won't get that. I do not have gigabit to the desktop, only between major switches.

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mcowger
Immortal
Immortal

Your server should have gigabit. You shouldn't think of this box as a desktop running extra machines.

If you CANT do gigabit, then 100MBit works, but then, evermore so the plan of dedicating 1 port per VM is a bad idea. Better to aggregate them into a 4 port trunk and get more BW for any given use.






--Matt

VCP, vExpert, Unix Geek

--Matt VCDX #52 blog.cowger.us
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Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

You are right, I need to give my servers some lovin' and get that gigabit module for the switch. Another $1500 Smiley Sad

About the hard drives: If I decide to go with an internal array, is RAID level 5 ok? I read somewhere that 10 is better.

My dell rep suggested putting in 3 of these hard drives: 1tb 7.2k rpm in a RAID 5

Would it be better to get smaller capacity, yet faster RPM drives like 450gb 15k rpm or 600gb 10k rpm? All drives are SAS of course.

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mcowger
Immortal
Immortal

Depends on your needs Smiley Happy

RAID5 can be fine if you aren't running itensive DBs.

From the listof apps you mention, RAID5 with 10K drives would be fine.






--Matt

VCP, vExpert, Unix Geek

--Matt VCDX #52 blog.cowger.us
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ivp2k9
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

1 physical ethernet device (esp. a low-speed one) per VM is clearly an overkill. Not sure, but perhaps it is better to try out vlan trunks over a single GE/XE if you do need dedicated "interfaces" (say, with "regulatable" speed). Besides, 1500$ (what was said to be a price of GE module in a switch) would get you a fairly decent switch with a number of GE ports, 802.1q support and even L3 features (PWC-6224). 2950 (2U) or 1950 (1U) with 4xGE from what you have written should suffice for everything -- both ISCSI and connectivity.

In terms of built-in RAID vs external RAID -- internal one of 4x10k RPM or esp. 4x15k RPM SAS drives is likely to work faster than any "budget" enclosure (think MD1000) or ISCSI box (like AX150i). However, volumes of these storages simply do not compare. Budget, storage speed and capacity are your deciding points here.

You may also consider 2 lower-end servers for higher availability. In such a case, external storage (be it a simple enclosure like MD1000 or an iSCSI box like AX150i) is much-much a better option. (Servers could then come with basic 80GB SATA hdds or even boot off iSCSI).

Good luck virtualizin' Smiley Happy

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Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

I'm more concerned with performance and future expansion than I am with capacity. However, high availability is very nice, and it is scary putting a lot of eggs into one basket. I don't have the budget for high availability, especially the HA and Vmotion features found in the expensive versions of Infrastructure.

What I invision is getting rid of old server hardware and workstation class "servers" by virtualizing them. Then in the future, when needed, getting another ESXi host and using some of those HA/Vmotion features.

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FusionHosting
Contributor
Contributor

SAN's are the better route to go, but that's a large investment, $20k-$40,000.00 just for the SAN unit. I've setup and run EMC's CX series, but am currently running EqualLogic which I prefer. Just size your drives on it so you have around half as high speed SAS for your VM's, and the rest as high capacity for storage or less demanding applications, snapshots, etc. That may be way too much infrastructure for you to start out with if you're just looking at starting with a single server?

I'm not sure why your rep would be trying to sell you the old Poweredge 2950, you should be asking for the latest R610 with the Nehalem CPU's. Cost shouldn't be more than a few hundred more and huge gains in performance plus virtualization benefits built in the chip. The R610 has four built-in gigabit network ports, compared to the 2950's 2 built-in ports as well. If you want more, it's only a couple hundred bucks for a Intel 2 Port NIC.

Once you get ESX all setup you can check your network traffic from the VMWare Infrastructure client and see if you actually have any VM's that are truely 'intensive' requiring their own physical port or dedicated virtual switch. Personally I'd rather dedicated a 2nd spare port as a failover for a vSwitch. Really, once it's all running you're be very surprised how little resources most server VM's use.

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ivp2k9
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

Well, as far as "availability" thing is concerned, two boxes still get you further than 1 even with the more basic "vmwarez" such as Server or ESXi. Of course, completely managed infrastructure and migration of VMs from one box to another at a mouseclick, automatic host server protection and other features are nice, yet even without them, you are much better off moving your VM "by hands" (as with scp / rsync) to another box or boxen and having a capability to quickly restore VM in case of a server failure --- as compared to having 1 superserver which may bust some day.

Internal RAID of 4 hard drives 10/15k RPM each does run faster (4 drives connected to some PERC board via SATA/SAS, PERC board is on multilane PCI-E which is a lot faster than GE or 2GFC -- bet even more total bandwidth than TenGE) than a basic "storage" thing like AX150i (you said you were considering a Dell, so I will only mention dell stuff in here), which you can get slightly under 10k $ fully loaded. However, virtualization and iSCSI are viral (worse, addictive like drugs) -- once you get them up and running, it is very hard to go back -- so in a long term, any "storage" type solution (as opposed to internal RAIDs) is a better one. If you ever go with "getting another ESXi" -- you will find the "storage" investment was a smart one.

Simply put, N = {precisely 1} uberbox is better off with internal RAID. If you ever plan N>1, think of some storage solution -- dell offers plenty of them.

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Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

A SAN is going to be out of the question at this point. I've got a very small budget to work with (about $10,000), and thought virtualization would help maximize the use of that money.

I am definitely going to talk to my rep about the R610, thank you FusionHosting!

ivp2k9 - I understand your point about getting two servers, but have some reservations. Using the free version of ESXi, is there a way to implement what you are talking about? I would have to have copies of each VM in order to fire them up on the other server in case one server went down. And to have copies, I would need some sort of very fast external storage with large capacity. My understanding is that if I have a Netware server with a 50gb volume, when I back up the VM, I will have to back up 50gb worth of data, even if I've only used a small portion of that 50gb. If that is the case, backing up those VM's in entirety would be very inefficient, maybe impossible to have daily backups. Thoughts?

Thanks so much for all the great replies!!

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s1xth
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

I would look at the R710, not the R610. Dell is selling these BELOW the price of a laoded 2950 III right now. I got one and I couldnt believe how well they are pricing them for just coming out. I would strongly recommend you look this direction, espically to get the latest new Xeon's that are going to change the virtualization game.

If you are concerned with Raid performance get 8 2.5" 300GB 10ks and throw them in Raid 10. I have two servers configured this way, one is a heavy SQL box and the other is a test box.

For your question regarding backups, take a look into Acronis. Image the server daily to an external share (obviously). If your host ever goes down, fire up Vmware Converter and load the Acronis image into converter, point to your recovery host and click restore. Depending on your environment you can restore that VM in 15-20 mins. (i have done this and it works well) Its a good solution if you dont have a huge budget (like me).

http://www.virtualizationimpact.com http://www.handsonvirtualization.com Twitter: @jfranconi
Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

About this Acronis software - which version are you talking about? True Image Echo Enterprise?

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ivp2k9
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

A SAN is going to be out of the question at this point. I've got a very small budget to work with (about $10,000), and thought virtualization would help maximize the use of that money.

ivp2k9 - I understand your point about getting two servers, but have some reservations. Using the free version of ESXi, is there a way to implement what you are talking about? I would have to have copies of each VM in order to fire them up on the other server in case one server went down. And to have copies, I would need some sort of very fast external storage with large capacity. My understanding is that if I have a Netware server with a 50gb volume, when I back up the VM, I will have to back up 50gb worth of data, even if I've only used a small portion of that 50gb. If that is the case, backing up those VM's in entirety would be very inefficient, maybe impossible to have daily backups. Thoughts?

10k should well get you two dualchip-dual-core (or even dualchip-qcore) servers and something like MD1000 packed with HDDs (you can actually buy HDDs yourself, Dell priceses are sometimes crazy) and some money left over. @10k to spend, you should probably consider yourself eligeble for ~ 15 (or maybe more)% off what is on the public site.

I'm using self-made something like what I've described with VMWareServer2 (cron rsynced VMs, backups, etc -- with only one box handling actual VM at a time and no automatic switchover -- but "just in case" I can get a VM back up from a different box really fast) -- but I am not entirely sure "what's in" (you need cron, shell & rsync at the very least) the 32M "busybox" of ESXi -- I have never really used ESXi or even ssh-ed into it, much less writing scripts or adding programs for it. My VM folders are also small ( < 16GB), as I use (if needed) "extra external storage" from VMs, not VMWare "disks" (again, with MD1000 storage and 2 servers you will probably HAVE to use vmware disks in the VMs, unless you have some 3d device to serve NFS/CIFS/iSCSI/whatever -- a simple deivce like MD1000 is really more of an external HDD). I also do not actually keep daily VM backups even though they are relatively small -- for my current VMware setup (more of research-noncritical-duty kind rarther than smth really crucial) the notion of being able to get "yesterday's" VM state should-a-host-server-or-VM-go-really-bad is sufficient.

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Razorhog
Contributor
Contributor

Ok, I'm confused as to how an iSCSI SAN would work. Can someone explain it? From what I understand, I could get a server with ESXi embedded. No hard drive would really be needed in the server. ESXi would look to the SAN for Datastores, and use it for VMs?

In that scenario, how would you keep VMware folders small by using that so-called "extra external storage"?

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runclear
Expert
Expert

so yes, ESXi would be loaded on the USB mem key etc..

It

If you go with external storage, ie: ISCSI etc, you will "scan" your hba's once its all setup, and then "format" the iscsi volume as VMFS, this is where you will store your VM's. This will show up as a "datastore" in the Vi Client.....

-------------------- What the f* is the cloud?!
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mbeld
Contributor
Contributor

Yes, which Acronis software are you talking about to use for this?

Are you talking about running Acronis on each of the VM's? Then if they crash, just run the converter to reload the backup as a VM again?

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s1xth
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

Yes. Acronis True Image Echo. Agent on each VM. If the VM crashes/host crashes, restore the tib file using converter to a new host server.

http://www.virtualizationimpact.com http://www.handsonvirtualization.com Twitter: @jfranconi
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mbeld
Contributor
Contributor

And have it save the image to a network drive? Or, how do you go about that? If I plug an external into the ESXi host, I'm not sure how it shows up under VM's.

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s1xth
VMware Employee
VMware Employee

Image to network share. I have a san for all my VM images.

Sent from my Nokia E71

http://www.virtualizationimpact.com http://www.handsonvirtualization.com Twitter: @jfranconi
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