Work Server Advice

EvilAlchemist

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 11, 2008
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2,730
Getting ready to buy a new server for my work. 15 concurrent users using SQL database software. Have about 200GB of data currently in the database, with growth rate of 0.5 GB per month.

PowerEdge R540 Server

2x Intel Xeon Silver 4215 (2.5G, 8C/16T)
8x 8GB RDIMM
4x 960GB SSD SAS MU in RAID 10
PERC H730P RAID Controller, 2GB
Boss card with raid 1 - 240gb M.2

Overkill or correct configuration?
Want to get this right the first time as it's a small city and can't afford to redo this once purchased.
 

Concentric

[H]ard|Gawd
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Oct 15, 2007
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1,026
Presumably there is an existing server for the same system of 15 users - can you tell us what that looks like to compare?
What's the current user experience, is there an issue you need to address or they are happy and you just need to replace due to age?
Difficult to judge when we don't know much about how the application behaves, types of queries that are run, etc.
If you have any more to spend perhaps bump it up to 12 sticks of RAM - those CPUs have 6 memory channels each and SQL Server will eat it up.
 

sinisterDei

[H]ard|Gawd
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Dec 1, 2004
Messages
1,534
This isn't bad, though most of the hardware options are not what I would choose exactly. Make sure you get the iDRAC Enterprise as well.

With that said, my biggest question is "What is Dell charging for this server". I just went to Dell.com and attempted to put this server together and made it to at least $8130 with the basic warranty (3yr/NBD) and no OS licensing.

In contrast, we tend to buy whitebox (Supermicro) gear from an authorized systems integrator. They also come with 3 year warranties, and in my personal experience they come out to around half as much $ per server versus buying from Dell. You're not going for a 'big' server here, so the discount might not be quite as huge, but it's still there.

Were *I* quoting this server, I would likely get a 1-socket 16-core Epyc 7302P CPU rather than a dual-socket system that you're only putting 8C/16T CPUs into. You pay a bit of a technology tax, both in terms of performance and in terms of money, to have a 2-socket system and at the core density you are talking about there is *zero* reason to get a 2-socket server. Back-of-the-napkin math for my SI putting together an equivalent server would probably be in the $5000 range or so.

If you want to talk specifics I would be glad to discuss! Also, I'm a *huge* fan of running beneath a hypervisor, even if you only plan on running a single VM. In the future, if you ever need an additional server instance it's a lot easier if a hypervisor is already in place. In addition to that, if you ever have to recover the server to dissimilar hardware it is *super* easy to restore over to another ESXi installation, regardless of whether that system is running the same hardware or not. In your case, it would likely save you money as well, since ESXi is perfectly happy to boot off a $15 thumbdrive instead of a $600 "BOSS card".
 

EvilAlchemist

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 11, 2008
Messages
2,730
Presumably there is an existing server for the same system of 15 users - can you tell us what that looks like to compare?
What's the current user experience, is there an issue you need to address or they are happy and you just need to replace due to age?
Difficult to judge when we don't know much about how the application behaves, types of queries that are run, etc.
If you have any more to spend perhaps bump it up to 12 sticks of RAM - those CPUs have 6 memory channels each and SQL Server will eat it up.
Currently, it's a Server 12 r2 with 2 7200k drives in raid 1 with a 2nd raid for the OS.

Not opposed to adding more ram. I have to look again but I think we have 32gb now and it usually is at 60% usage when the database is running.

The drives are a huge performance drag being that slow when a lot of people are active at once. CPU does not spike that much but I think that is due to always waiting on the drives.
 
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EvilAlchemist

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 11, 2008
Messages
2,730
This isn't bad, though most of the hardware options are not what I would choose exactly. Make sure you get the iDRAC Enterprise as well.

With that said, my biggest question is "What is Dell charging for this server". I just went to Dell.com and attempted to put this server together and made it to at least $8130 with the basic warranty (3yr/NBD) and no OS licensing.

In contrast, we tend to buy whitebox (Supermicro) gear from an authorized systems integrator. They also come with 3 year warranties, and in my personal experience they come out to around half as much $ per server versus buying from Dell. You're not going for a 'big' server here, so the discount might not be quite as huge, but it's still there.

Were *I* quoting this server, I would likely get a 1-socket 16-core Epyc 7302P CPU rather than a dual-socket system that you're only putting 8C/16T CPUs into. You pay a bit of a technology tax, both in terms of performance and in terms of money, to have a 2-socket system and at the core density you are talking about there is *zero* reason to get a 2-socket server. Back-of-the-napkin math for my SI putting together an equivalent server would probably be in the $5000 range or so.

If you want to talk specifics I would be glad to discuss! Also, I'm a *huge* fan of running beneath a hypervisor, even if you only plan on running a single VM. In the future, if you ever need an additional server instance it's a lot easier if a hypervisor is already in place. In addition to that, if you ever have to recover the server to dissimilar hardware it is *super* easy to restore over to another ESXi installation, regardless of whether that system is running the same hardware or not. In your case, it would likely save you money as well, since ESXi is perfectly happy to boot off a $15 thumbdrive instead of a $600 "BOSS card".

With the above config, server 19, 15 user cals, 5 remote desktop cals, sql + 15 cals, about $12,500 total price.

City has no other servers at the moment , but maybe in future if need comes up. I have one VM running on an old server 2008 instance cause of some very old software for the police dept. Does not get accessed but once a year if a 90s report is needed.
 

sinisterDei

[H]ard|Gawd
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Dec 1, 2004
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I would look into non-Dell options. My company abandoned buying from Dell + the 4hr onsite warranty and instead started buying the whiteboxes at half the cost, and then also just making sure we keep a spare SSD and power supply around for immediate replacement. That lets us immediately swap out a part if something fails, and then we can RMA the dead parts at our leisure while the system is 100% online. At the extreme end, if the servers are actually half the cost we just literally buy two, and configure them as an active/passive backup scenario where we replicate the running VM from one host to the other nightly. So if the primary system fails, we can just *poof* turn on the backup one and we're almost entirely back online, all the while spending the same amount of money as just a single Dell.
 

slavie

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
Messages
181
I would ask what is your objective here? Are there budget constraints, or are you building a system to last a long time and are overbuilding the specs as such?
Compared to the current system, this will be a massive upgrade on the hdd>ssd switch alone, so a lot of processing power may not be necessary.
"15 users" is not a telling metric. Do you have 15 users that are logged in and run a query or two per minute on average, or are multiple users churning through huge tables and the server has to process multiple queries simultaneously? Big difference.
If you could look at the CPU utilization of the current server, you should get a good idea of how much CPU is needed. As mentioned, I bet you're heavily bottlenecked by 7200k drives at the moment.
 

EvilAlchemist

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Objective is to make this new server last for at least 5 years, maybe 7 at longest. Budget is a factor but cam afford current build so far.
On the users, it's a query of a customer account every 2 min (average) and in-puting payment information plus time clocks punches starting next month.

I have the system logging usage over the next 24 hours so I can give better answers on utilization of current system.
I did check ram today and holding at 14gb usage just in SQL.
 

slavie

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
Messages
181
In that case, why not drop the 2nd CPU and instead go for 1x Intel® Xeon® Gold 6226 12c/24t? About same price, but higher base (2.7 vs 2.5) and boost (3.7 vs 3.5) frequency, higher memory speed (2933 vs 2400), 4 cores total fewer. Though since you're getting 3200MHz RAM, I'm not sure if it'll run at the lower CPU supported speeds or at the RAM speed.
Also, instead of 8x8gb, you can do 6x16GB with single CPU for about same money. More RAM, and utilizing all 6 memory channels. Though quite frankly if your current usage is only 16GB, even 3x16GB will be more than plenty.
Depends on required room for future expansion. If you plan to add more VM's to this server, maybe stick with more cores. If this will only service that single SQL server, really don't need that much RAM or CPU.
Just a couple of thoughts, hope this helps!
 

robijito123

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Joined
Feb 2, 2021
Messages
227
We recently looked at the Poweredge R7515's with Amd Epyc https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/sho...AzXdgjV_yBitmfH8MBAaAqw_EALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
You can get a bunch more cpu for the price with AMD. For example a Epyc 7302p 16c32t vs Xeon Gold 6226: https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/AMD-EPYC-7302P-vs-Intel-Xeon-Gold-6226/3610vs3682
You also get quad channel ram vs 3 channel for xeon and I would go on cpu vs 2 for interconnect issues, also going nvme with pcie 4.0 can give you a huge potential iops jump.

Generally with MSSQL if you can load the db into RAM you get a huge boost. Example if you have a 24gb db, set the server to 24gb and it will load most or all into ram. Leave some for the OS as well ;). Per recommendations if you separate your DB flat file, db transaction logs and the os to different storage you get a huge boost. I would also suggest a gpu for accelerating h264 for your users as it will make a pretty significant jump in perceived performance for your end users (however I woud prob not do 3k for a tesla card). It might be a good idea to profile your users and the apps they use to get a base line of what they use in ram to add that on top of the above.
 

EvilAlchemist

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Also, instead of 8x8gb, you can do 6x16GB with single CPU for about same money. More RAM, and utilizing all 6 memory channels.
That is an excellent suggestion. I did not even look up the channel numbers. Thanks

robijito123 said:
Generally with MSSQL if you can load the db into RAM you get a huge boost. Example if you have a 24gb db, set the server to 24gb and it will load most or all into ram.
It will have a minimum of 48, per slavie suggestion, but i can go above 64gb as in the original quote.

Update: So after looking at the current server, the hard drives are holding the system back. There is huge IO spikes when everyone is logged in. So anything will help once we get away from these 7200 drives.

Thanks for everyone's feedback so far, keep it coming. It has been very insightful in this process.
 
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MrGuvernment

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Aug 3, 2004
Messages
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More cores does not always equal better performance. if your SQL queries are poorly written and not divided up well, you could have a 100 cores but it may only use a few, in which case faster cores would be better. Have you done any analytics on the CPU usage and queries performance?
 
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