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* Posts by Peter 61

1 post • joined 16 Nov 2009

Software apps and the server room

Peter 61

Servers and Management

Looking from the budget-constrained SME front, a major issue is that most of the management tools available are not financially viable options. Example: 4 sites, 50 users, 3 IT staff, $100,000/year budget.

Virtualization can help with physical space, thermal, and power management concerns, but still presents certain challenges of its own. We run 4x dual quad-core CPU virtual servers for Head Office, and 3x dual dual-core CPU servers per site (total 16 servers, 32 CPUs). Virtual servers run VMware ESXi 4 using hardware RAID of DAS (7,200RPM near-line for system/templates, 10,000RPM near-line for active VMs), and with their dual-onboard NICs Teamed for throughput and failover. These servers combined host approximately 65 resource intensive (50 for users, 15 for servers) and 10 low usage VMs in Head Office, and approximately 8 resource intensive (primarily production-oriented) and 3 low usage VMs per site. The design is to have a “hot spare” virtualization server within each network segment in order to take over from a failing/failed server. The major challenge therein being the cost of high availability features such as VMware vMotion (which to be used requires shared NAS/SAN storage).

First, evaluating the cost of implementing a redundant shared storage architecture based on the requirements cited above. While we could probably do what we need with a series of 8-bay iSCSI boxes per site, you are still likely looking at about $65,000-75,000 just for the initial investment in the iSCSI boxes alone (without any disks, and based on 8-12 for Head Office plus 4 per site). While this may seem a lot at first glance, when you look at the resource requirements cited above, and add redundancy as part of the shared storage infrastructure requirements, it really starts to add up. This does not begin to start considering how many disks of what capacity/speed are required per site for the given VMs they are serving up.

Second, evaluating the cost of properly license VMware vSphere Advanced (lowest level with vMotion included). Doing this with just 1 year of “Gold Support” for the cited servers would run over $100,000 (>1 years budget).

From a non-virtualization standpoint, there are the costs of systems management tools for the datacenter. This ranges from hardware like IP KVM switches and OOB management cards with IP KVM capabilities (some of which offer the ability to boot from remote media) to software such as Microsoft System Center (and all of its various additional modules) and VMware’s vSphere as mentioned above, amongst numerous other proprietary software suites.

An IP KVM switch starts at $1,000+, while OOB management cards tend to be a few hundred dollars each. Then you get into the realm of software management tools, where you have to pay both the multi-thousand dollar initial costs for the base software, and then the additional per managed device license costs on top of that.

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