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The Hardware

March 24, 2013

As promised, a quick run-down of the hardware I currently have available. This is constantly changing, as I buy new kit when I find it cheap/reasonable, and sell old kit when it seems no longer relevant. Working in the industry gives me an edge of sorts I suppose. I work with many like-minded people who are doing the same thing, a couple of weeks ago, a former colleague texted me to ask if I could use an HP ProCurve switch as he’d accidentally bought too many in an eBay purchase…

The List (in order of meatiness) :

1x Synology DS410 NAS, using 2TB drives

2x HP Microservers, one N36 and one N40

2x HP ML110 G6’s, running SSD’s for the OS

9x HP DL360 G5’s

3x HP DL380 G5’s

1x HP ML350p Gen8

1x Netgear GS724T switch, 24 port

The actual specs of the DL’s does change regularly as I improve the CPU specs and memory total when good deals arise. I do like the idea of the way cloud computing ‘categorizes’ resources, Compute, Storage and Network. It makes it somehow easier to work out what resources you have and to see where you’re lacking.

The stuff that’s missing. A fibre switch, amongst the boxes are around 7-8 single and dual port fibre cards. Some came with the kit, others were bought seperately, but the idea was to purchase some sort of low-end SAN to poke. I have since found that an OpenFiler can be set up to do the same task, so a switch is on the shopping list. Not cheap however.

Missing : Some quality storage. I currently have it in mind to use a DL380 for this task, as already mentioned the OpenFiler idea is a good one, but I’ve had some success using the SMB3.0 feature of Windows Server 2012 on one of the Microservers. Yes, that’s right. A Microserver as VM storage across the network. It suffered as more VM’s were added to the load, but did manage surprisingly well. I suspect ultimately this box will be re-purposed as SC2012 DPM server, as it’s full of capacity but low on grunt. Should be fine as a POC for backup. Will I end up with a SAN? Is that definitely a step too far for a self-financed home lab? Possibly. The advantage SAN’s can provide is huge horsepower, something my estate will generally never see as there are no real users on there. It would be good to gain some working experience with an HDS or EMC, but current thinking states I would never see that money back in terms of salary. Additional concerns are noise and cooling. This is all running in the study under the master bedroom. Popular I may not be. I feel some experimentation might be the answer. See what works best, gaining some real-world experience in the process, in terms of comparison, seeing what’s easier/possible in a given scenario.

Not missing is Compute, and this is not too expensive to improve all the time. Current quick reckoning is that I have 72 cores and 165GB of RAM. I need to reposition some of this across the server estate to make the most of what I have. A DL360 G5 with a single low-spec CPU and 8GB of RAM is simply of waste of electricity (and bloody noisy for no real return). I’m increasingly tempted by a DL580, something singular with plenty of CPU core count and memory capability, not cheap to buy or run, but I suspect a more sensible idea than running a ream of DL360’s. Power management is of course an option.

Network is a bit short now I have all these boxes. It’s an idea in Windows Server 2012 that the number of physical network ports can be reduced, but the more complicated it gets in the real world, you still need ports. I have a lot of offboard cards to go in, in addition to the onboard pairs, and one single 24-port switch is starting to strangle things a bit. I’ve never claimed to be a network expert, I like to keep that side of it simple. You can’t be good at everything. The GS724T was recommended to me by a colleague in the same boat. It’s all GUI-fied, but has some comprehensive options and settings to enable some complex setups. I like it, so I’m tempted by more of the same, albeit on a grander scale.

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