Ramblings From The Litter Tray of Life

Archive for June, 2011

HP Proliant MicroServer

Posted by graycat on 20 June 2011

HP have not long ago released a new tiny Proliant server named the HP Proliant MicroServer. This machine is about the same size as a basketball and has a dual core processor wit up to 8Gb of RAM. It also has a hdd bay for up to 4 disks and provides RAID 0 or 1 natively however you can add a controller card to get full RAID5 etc if required. Other than the size one of the most astonishing things about this machine is the price – base unit (1Gb RAM + 1 x 250Gb HDD) is less than £200 …….. And there’s a £100 cash back offer going on at the moment!

I originally got one of these in to see if it would be able to work as a test server for either myself of one of my team. Short answer – yes, kinda.

The box itself is really easy to work on and I maxed out the RAM and HDDs pretty easily though I did have to install a CD drive as it doesn’t come with one as standard. the hardware is really easy to work on as you would expect with a HP Proliant server. As I intended to use this to test virtual machines, I installed a 4Gb USB stick I had spare directly onto the motherboard (very neat BTW) and had a 10k RPM hdd installed in slot #1 to host the vmdk files.

Installing VMware ESXi 4.1 was easy as pie – download and burn to CD, boot from CD and select where you wish to install the program (ie: the USB stick) …. then just leave it to get on with it. it really is as simple as that.

With ESXi installed, the 10k drive in slot 1 I added two 250Gb HDDs into two free slots and added them into ESXi. This was as simple as ever as you would expect from VMware as it is the same base product I’m using in our clusters.

Creating a few test machines and generally building networks was simple and snappy but towards the top end the server did start to struggle. The bottleneck is definitely the small CPU bout unless you’re planning to run 6+ virtual guests then you should be ok. Probably even more if you’re careful with hardware subscription.

If you’re looking for a cheap but solid rig to test a few different virtual guests then this will definitely suffice. You can even keep the costs down by buying non-HP parts (RAM, HDDs etc) if you’re not worried about hardware support.

I would even rate this server so far as to say that if you need a small server for a tiny office of only a few people then this would definitely suffice. Windows Server 2008 would definitely run well with the 8Gb or RAM and with four drive bays you can get a very useful amount of space. I would be tempted to go further and install ESXi on the hardware and then add a few separate Windows Server installs to separate out the roles however i’m still working on the details of this plan.

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New Test Lab

Posted by graycat on 20 June 2011

The time has come for me to upgrade my previous testing kit and create a dedicate area diverse of the production network. Presently I’m using virtual machines on one of our VMware clusters are the sites to test WinXP, Win7 and various software packages or settings on Server 03/08. Whilst this is great for that it is part of the production network and in some cases the domain too which is starting to make me uncomfortable so time for a new setup.

I want to test slightly more than the existing Windows kit going forward and need to get involved with VMware clusters including HA, DRS, DPM and their underlying configuration.

Traditionally you would have to have a lot of expensive physical kit to create this and whilst I’m not destitute that would be outside if my budget. That was until I ran across a VMWorld Best in Show winner – the vTARDIS. [link: vinf.net]

Basically the vTARDIS is a HP ML110 (I think!) running ESXi which then has many further virtualised ESXi hosts clustered on it with even further virtual guests running off of those! Now he’s not quite avoiding the laws of physics by running this all on a low powered HP server as you’ll see from his website however he is using some very intelligent over subscription of resources along with a few more tricks. I’m not going to go into them here as it’s his baby, not mine.

After seeing this and a few other articles on virtualising ESXi I’ve decided that that’s the route for me. Along the way I’ve also evaluated another bit of kit for one of my other admins who’s requirements aren’t as high as mine. All of which will be posting about as I progress.

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