Hardware – Current

Current Server Hardware

As of June 2013 we are now running on a new Server. Long anticipated, it’s finally here. After a somewhat long discussion with Dell, they agreed to sell me a server. “Discussion”, you say? Why yes. Dell CR072811does not sell servers to private people, only to companies (be it commercially or non-profit). And the listed prices from Dell are plainly insane.

CR072810Built on 09.06.2013, the Dell R420 is raw power in compact form. It’s a 1U size, with a slick look to it. Even more fancy: the front panel does read alpha-labs.net now. At a listed price of roughly 9000€ they better include some fancy stuff. And fancy stuff it has.

This thing has “redundancy” written all over it. Not in terms of obsoleteness, but in a matter of failsafe. It has two 1Gb network connections on the back, one being a fail-over. This means that all the traffic will flow over one connection, and if either the network card, the network cable or the switch dies, all traffic is then seamlessly routed over the second network card, attached to a different switch. This means I can fiddle with the network cable, configuration or switch, screw up and yet you still have connection.

But reduncandcy CR122846does not stop there. Take the power supply for example. We have two feeds and two power supplies, both tapped in different power outlets. The one outlet is filtered and averaged power, while the other is connected to an UPS (Diesel and Batteries). As with the network, only one power supply carries the load, while the other is in hot standby. In the event of a power loss or power supply or cable malfunction the other will take over. Heck, I could switch the power cables for fun without having a downtime.


But it’s the inside that counts, right? As we don’t want to stay in the place we had before (thats 4 Cores, 16GB ram) we upped the ante a little. And by ante I mean RAM and by little I mean 128 GB ram with even some slots unoccupied. This server can handle up to 384 GB of ram and we can go up to 192 Gb of ram without the need to replace an existent module. Currently we have 16Gb Ram modules, while the server accepts up to 32Gb ram modules.

This should even satisfy the most demanding application for now. But what about computing power? 4 cores are hard to top. Sorta, so we took it safe and only went up to 32 cores. This is more computational power than all the previous servers combined, and this does not even tackle more than 20%. For example: While the old Server was busy, at ~80% cpu capacity on 4 cores, the new server does not even break at sweat at same load with 1-2% cpu power used — of 16 cores assigned to the VM. That leaves some room for expansion.


As for storage space, I went the safe route again. With 8TB usable capacity on two 4TB harddisks, while using 300Gb, we have some space left. And to be on the safe side I bought an additional two 4TB harddisks and whacked them all together on Dells biggest RAID Controller, the PERC H710p, in a RAID 10. We can loose up to two hard disks and still remain operational. Oh, and the defunct disks can be replaced while the system is running. This server has hot-swap capabilities.

Talking of capabilities, this server was ordered with the biggest Dell remote Access Card, the Dell IDRAC Enterprise with 16GB flash. I can administrate this server from anywhere on the planet, even powering it up while it is truly powered down, access the console from remote… without taking a drive to the datacenter. With all the reduncancy this is a thing from the past. Except maybe swapping a hard disk. Something that you will never notice again.

The 16gb flash on the remote access serves as an iso repository. I can install the base operating system by “inserting” the installation DVD into the virtual DVD drive and boot from this. This is actually something I have done now. Fun.

CR122838 As an Administrator, who loves his job as well as his hobby, this is truly the pinnacle of my personal hobbies. The past 10 years hosting alpha-labs.net were fun, but this is the first time on my “own” hardware that I truly “own”. And the performance boost is simply nuts. Benchmarks read ~450MB read and write operations on the harddisks (inside a vm!) and the CPUs are, with alpha-labs.net running live, below 3%.

I am really looking forward to the things to come. You should too.