server planning

Discussion in 'General Server' started by mek42, May 1, 2014.

  1. mek42

    mek42 Member

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    I'm planning to assemble a server / workstation in 2 - 3 months (finally have a buyer for our old house!). Right now I am assessing my needs and reading about how to accomplish them. I was originally looking at used Sun equipment, but as a hobbyist photographer I want to be able to run a virtual Windows 7 session for Adobe products while transitioning to open source tools. I want my system housed in a full tower rather than a nU server case, but it looks like the Sun workstations (specifically Ultra 40 M2) do not support third generation Opteron CPUs which have better hardware virtualization support.

    First needs / desires assessment:

    1) affordability - I'll be looking at 3 - 5 year old equipment. My start-up budget is about $1,000 - I might start with the video card I have and upgrade to a proper SLI setup later. Part of long-term affordability is that I want enough system resources so that I do not feel the need to upgrade for several years.


    2) reliability - Part of the reason I'm assembling the new machine is to replace my current desktop which is built from used consumer grade equipment and is dumping power periodically. There is probably an easy fix, but I also have other goals.

    3) virtualization - As mentioned, I would like access to a Windows system, but I do not believe Windows to be incredibly reliable for the day to day OS. While researching Sun equipment I was nonplussed by their current licensing scheme. I have used mostly OpenSUSE in the past and will use some flavor of Linux as the host / dom0 OS. I may want to play the odd Windows game, but my gaming tends not to graphically ridiculous. As an example, Skyrim is probably the most graphically intensive game I am interested in at the moment. Dwarf Fortress is always good for amusement and requires far fewer graphical resources (but this is a bad example as a native Linux version, albeit not as recent as Windows for accessory programs, exists.)

    4) cloud - I am an industrial hygienist by profession and when I am conducting full shift sampling (air and/or noise) for clients I have a certain amount of down time. I would like to invest in a tablet from which to work on reports while in the field. I am aware of the Google Docs app, but have concerns regarding confidentiality of client information on someone else's cloud. If I accomplish OS virtualization, I should be able to accomplish a virtual desktop and simply provide my own cloud service. I need to read more about this type of virtualization and about whether there even exists an X terminal / thin client app for Android from which I can access my personal cloud server on my tablet.

    5) learning - When I was in grad school I maintained a personal 3 node dual CPU Opteron cluster used for computational chemistry. I'd like to refresh my admin skills as well as learn some parallel programming skills. Eventually, I want to be able to teach my daughter programming and basic admin skills (she is now 2 1/2).
  2. mek42

    mek42 Member

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    Next: What am I thinking of assembling?

    I have in mind a quad CPU Opteron setup that has SAS and SATA RAID as well as supporting SLI, though the video cards may be a later investment. The motherboards I am considering have 8 DIMMs per CPU, so I will have plenty of room for big memory, though I plan on starting with 2 @ 4 Gb DIMMs per CPU. I'm looking at 4 SAS drives, 15K, 146 GB striped and mirrored for OS and application partitions with two 1 TB SATA drives mirrored for data. Eventually I'll add two Quadro cards.

    What I need to learn / plan before buying parts

    I have already been reading about virtualization. I want to choose a hypervisor before ordering parts, as the hypervisor choice may drive other decisions. I'm trying to accomplish two major things with virtualization - run a Windows guest with pass through PCI-e video and, ideally, sound. Maybe I will be able to install a sound card to pass through as well.

    The other major task I want to accomplish via virtualization is to provide my own cloud services for document editing to an Android tablet. As yet I do not even know for certain if this is possible. This task may well be a limiting factor in deciding which hypervisor to use.

    I also need to plan out a partitioning plan. This will most likely involve learning LVM, which to date I am rather ignorant of. I should also research filesystems and distributions so that I only need to go through installation once.

    Why am I posting this here?


    This is going to be an ambitious project for me and if there are things that I do not know I should be thinking about and learning during the planning stage, I'd love to hear them. I'm also open for suggestions, advice and opinions on ways to accomplish my goals.

    Thanks!
  3. arochester

    arochester Well-Known Member

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    Is it really a "Server" that you want? Normally, but not always, servers are "blind" in that they have no permanent screen or GUI. Do you have other computers on the network that will act as "Clients"?

    Or is is really just a replacement for your Desktop Computer that you want?

    What type of server do you want and why?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_(computing)#Types_of_servers
  4. mek42

    mek42 Member

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    Both - it will be a server / workstation. When I am home, I will use the machine as a desktop and when I am away from home I would like to serve a virtual desktop to an Android device as well as serving a desktop to my laptop. Right now the major desire for serving a desktop to my laptop is to not need to deal with separate Lightroom databases for desktop and laptop. Maybe I could accomplish this by simply serving the Lightroom database file to the laptop, not needing to serve the whole desktop guest OS.

    If I move to Darktable, I'd want to to accomplish the same thing of sharing the Darktable database between both computers.

    I am thankful for your question, as I realize I'll need to decide whether to run dom0 as my Linux desktop or if I should use a domU space for the Linux desktop and reserve dom0 for only minimum serving activities. If the latter, perhaps dom0 and the Linux domU space may be different distributions.

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