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  • Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

    Hello!

    I'm about to replace our aging ML150G6, its a lovely server, but alas sbs 2003 is not sufficient anymore. The main gripe of mine is that it only supports a maximum of 4GB of RAM. Back in the day, this was probably enough, but for our needs (Small database hosting, BES Express Server, Exchange etc) its not enough. I upgraded the server with a new RAID card and a 4 disk SATA RE3 RAID 0+1 (or was it 1+0?) because performance was horrific before. This improved matters but the server is still sluggish esp with database access and general file sharing etc. The server 'pauses' occasionally which means that it gives the impression that the computers in the office are 'locking up'. I have decided that the easiest way to go, is to buy a totally new server with SBS 2011, and NOT migrate, but do a clean install and setup everything from scratch. From what I've been reading about others migrations from 03-11, it sounds like its fraught with problems. Much like upgrading something like XP to 7, it would probably be ok, but then I'd get some very strange problem somewhere down the line.

    This new server that I'm speccing up, I want to go slightly OTT and spec it to last 5< years along with expansion of the company. I've decided that the most important things I need to concentrate on are RAM (easy!) and I/O speed.

    I've started with my plan trying to make things high spec, but not spending silly amounts of money at the same time.

    As a starting point I think the ML350 G6 is a good server box to start with, it comes with a E5606 quad processor (more than sufficient for the workload) and 4GB of RAM as standard. Seeing as RAM is quite cheap at the moment, I am going to add another 16GB to this to bring it up to 20GB (probably overkill but more=better). In regards to the storage subsystem, I've given this a lot of thought. My estimation of the current state of storage is this. SAS 15K drives seem to be used most in servers, unfortunately these are stupidly expensive, and I can't justify spending 250+ on individual drives, and wanting to get 4 of these to run in RAID 5. I've decided that the hybrid approach is probably much better. By this I mean getting 4 SATA enterprise drives , in RAID 5 (probably WD RE4 -solid drives!) and getting a very nice RAID card, and using 2xSSDs in a RAID1 as an accelerator. For this job, Iíve decided that the MegaRAID SAS 9260-8i (~£400) would be a good choice with the Cachecade Pro 2.0 addon (~£200). For the choice of SSD, I think that something based on the SF-2281 would be good, and almost decided on a Vertex 3 or equivalent (120GB) running in RAID1 because the reliability of SSDs isnít perfect (to say the least). I then found out about the Intel SSD 520, which is the same controller chip, but more expensive and comes with a long intel warrenty as well as their supposedly awesome reliability. These are almost twice the cost of the vertex (80 vs 145) but IMHO, worth the extra money. Especially seeing as Intel have managed to fix the Ďblue screení problem that seems to haunt all the consumer drivers and warranty and reliability is a major concern. I am going to enable read and write caching, because otherwise the performance increase would only be comparatively minimal.

    Iíve tried to approach this problem from every angle before I order this beast, to make sure I havenít missed anything or overlooked something major. Are there any practical concerns I havenít covered, or anything I could do differently or better?

    Any feedback is much appreciated!

    Chris

  • #2
    Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

    Oh yeah, would also like to run ESXi on the server so I can easily remote manage it, reboot it, control it without ever having to go to the server itself, will this cause a problem? I think I will probably only run the one instance on there.

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    • #3
      Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

      Have you thought about having more than one server?
      You could then lighten the load on the SBS.
      cheers
      Andy

      Please read this before you post:


      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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      • #4
        Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

        Regarding migrations, I've done more than a dozen migrations from 2003 and I've found the process to be much more reliable going to 2011 than to going to 2008 was. Follow the guide from Microsoft exactly and you won't go far wrong, particuarly where updates and pre-requisites on the source server are concerned. Fix any issues in the SBS BPA on the source server as well.
        BSc, MCSA: Server 2008, MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, MCTS
        sigpic
        Cruachan's Blog

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        • #5
          Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

          I've thought about going down the two server route. It would be a really good idea, seeing as we will have a spare server once I've built and put in to production the new one. The only issue with this, is it really needed? My original plan was to buy the SBS 2011 Premium addon to get the extra 2008R2 licence, but then I realised you need to buy extra CALs and it just gets in to the realms of silly money. Since I looked in to the licencing I now understand that I would only need to purchase a 08R2 licence with CALs for that, only for devices that would be accessing the server. I did consider putting the company drive on there, but that would miss out on the SSD accelleration, the only other things I could host on there is BES express server, as this is quite a drain on resources and maybe some SQL instances. I think I will try out the new server as it is with everything running on it, and if it has some slowdown or unreasonable drain, I will then splash out on the other licence. I'm thinking I might just turn the old server in to a virtualised NAS + other services (non windows!) machine. I can always add windows later on if needed.

          In regards to migrating 03-11 I'd rather do it as a clean install as when I originally setup the server, I wasn't very experienced at server admin, and the best way of doing things. Since then I've had lots of practice on both 03 and 11 and I'm confident I can do a better job architecting everything than I did in the first place. It will mean I'll have to rejoin all machines to the new domain, and do manual data migration (which will be a major PITA) but once its done, its done and everything will be nice and tidy and clean. It also means that I can run the old server up until the point I actually need to move everything over, so minimal downtime for those involved.

          Has anyone actually had any experience with CacheCade or similar?

          Thanks again

          Chris

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          • #6
            Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

            I'd recommend against the clean install, a properly planned migration (server and data, exluding LOB apps) can be done in three business days and really all that comes across from the old server is AD Data. Unless your schema has been extended by old apps I don't see the need. Even GPOs are almost entirely removed and recreated once the new server is in place. So long as your current server has all the service packs and passes the upgrade adviser checks, you'll save a lot of time doing a migration. Downtime during migration is pretty much only one reboot once you run the migration wizard on the source server and prepare the domain for the new server.
            BSc, MCSA: Server 2008, MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, MCTS
            sigpic
            Cruachan's Blog

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            • #7
              Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

              One thing you don't mentionis the number of workstations. If you go the clean install route, you will lose EVERY profile on EVERY Workstation and all that entails. Figure on 1-2 hours per workstation, if you are lucky ( though you should be able to do some of them in parallel) and see if it is still worthwhile. Download and run the BPA on the old server and see what issues need fixed. Also remember you can re-organise your data and file structure whether you migrate or start over. Unless there are major issues with AD or Exchange showing up in the BPA, I vote with Cruachan on this one - migrate.
              Finally, if you buy the Premium add-on, you only have to buy Premium CALS for those that will actually be using SQL - not everybody, so you might save some "silly money" that way.
              TIA

              Steven Teiger [SBS-MVP(2003-2009)]
              http://www.wintra.co.il/
              sigpic
              Iím honoured to have been selected for the SMB 150 list for 2013. This is the third time in succession (no logo available for 2011) that I have been honoured with this award.

              We donít stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.

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              • #8
                Re: Speccing of new server for SBS 2011

                I went down the set up from scratch route when we went from Server 2000 to SBS 2008 in 09.

                We have 40 workstations and yes we had to set up new profiles etc for each user but with two of us working round doing multiple machines at the same time we got it done in no time. We did this on a Saturday and was done easy by 3PM with an 8AM start.

                Plus we never had ANY problems afterwards. I too read a number of experiences in migrating and they weren't good.

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