Ideas for my newly acquired server

Hi there forum!

I'm new here and in need of ideas for my upcoming server build. What better place to look, right?

I recently bought a HP Proliant ml350 G6 and a ProSafe GS748T for 80$ that i intended to use for training as I am trying to "climb the foodchain" at the office. I work as a print/IT -technician and could really use some more experience in the server and networking side of IT.

At first I was just going to install {insert random server OS here} on it and hammer away. Turned out: not very productive.
I realized later that this HP G6 has dual xeon 5504's and 48GB of memory and an extra dual port Gb NIC on it and feel like I can take over the world with this thing! The problem is I don't know were to start.

At work Windows is basically the only thing running but I'd like to lean some Linux as well.

What would you forum members do with it that would help me increase my overall understanding of Enterprise IT environments? (All suggestions appreciated!)

You should make your own e-mail server.

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On a server with those specs, don't waste it all on a single OS :P install Proxmox, oVirt, or ESXi, and then you can try ALL THE THINGS. Windows, Linux, BSD, you name it.

Personally I'd use Proxmox, but it's your server

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Yes, I saw Wendell's video on Proxmox and it looks really interesting! And i do want to try ALL THE THINGS!

Any suggestions on a good e-mail server dist? Exchange seems to be the way to go here in Sweden but is there any other popular versions that would be good to take a look at?

Suppose you could install pfsense in Proxmox to play with, or would that be complicated on a VM?

I realize now that there probably is no such thing as a e-mail server dist... But hey, you probably know what I'm looking for here :)

i was wondering about this. how does esxi handle raid? does it share it for all the VMs? i assume there are tons of how to videos for esxi.

I don't know about ESXi (never used it) but Proxmox handles VM disks like so:

On installation, you set up Linux's root filesystem. This can be done with a hardware RAID controller, or I believe it can now be done via software RAID to (Linux's MD). But thats not any fun, what I would do is use ZFS (you can use ZFS as your root filesystem). Then, when you make a VM, it stores the VM "HDD" in a virtual hard drive file on your filesystem. (Unless you use OpenVZ, but for all intents and purposes here that does the same thing too). It makes it pointless to run a VM with RAID, because if your host system has good disk redundancy (like with ZFS), everything in the VMs does too, even in VMs like Windows Server that don't support ZFS.

i only ask because i have a 5 disk 7.27TB raid 4 on a Perc H700. i'm just wanting to confirm it will be shared with all the VMs which can have their VHDs expanded as needed.

can proxmox Handel windows server guests?

Yeah, it should work with that. As long as you don't need to keep any existing data...and I would still recommend setting up ZFS software RAID instead of using a RAID controller, watch Wendell's videos explaining why...

Proxmox will support any OS that can run on a normal PC through KVM (full VM) virtualization. The only kind of virtualization that won't support Windows (or BSD, or any other OS) guests is OpenVZ, and that's able to be used alongside KVM. I run most of my Linux machines in OpenVZ containers because they're faster than a full VM, and I run a couple Windows Server 2008 VMs in KVM VMs, all on an FX-6300 with 24GB of RAM. It works great, I couldn't be happier with it! Proxmox is super stable too, I haven't reinstalled the OS since around mid-2012, just some upgrades which can be done easily following the Proxmox wiki.

Feel free to PM me if you want help with something.

If you are trying to move up the ladder in your current work environment and they are a windows shop...... then install the demo version of Server 2012 R2 Learn how to set that up as a domain controller, dns server, and dhcp server. Then configure Hyper-V. Use those lovely 48GB of ram you have and install the demo copy of Server 2012 a couple more times. Set one up as a terminal server. If you want to get into linux grab a few Raspberry Pi 2s and set those up to act as thin clients that connect to the terminal server. Look into freerdp. Then you say, "Hey boss I figured out a way to supply new workstations for less than $50" Then install MS Exchange, and on and on and on. Add some linux virtual machines on there as well. Learn how to setup a LAMP server, and the inns and outs of configuring IIS.

Like I said, if you intend to stay in a company that is a windows shop, learn the server side of windows. You're not going to show a company (that runs on windows) linux and make them want to switch. But..... that Raspberry Pi trick running freerdp will work, since you don't have to pay $350 for a windows thin client, and the end user gets a windows desktop even though they are really using linux.

Good luck with that server bro, a world of learning opportunities awaits!

so i F ed up.

too bad that video didn't come out before i bought the raid card a few weeks ago. (ouch) one one side it did just pull up 350mbs when filling it with random files. i winder if i can just back up the raid to a SAN or i wonder if i can replace it with a SAN. or maybe i just need to throw it away. apparently i have a lot to learn.

i run game servers so i need a hyper vizor that can support windows,.

EDIT: in THEORY can't i just replace the drive periodically before they fail?

I wouldn't just throw away a RAID card, my primary Virtualisation server uses a PERC 6i (with 4 146GB SAS drives in RAID5) as it simply provides fast local storage. However the whole system does backup over the network (2x dedicated 1Gb links) to my FreeNAS machine every 6 hours. There is no problem in still using RAID in my opinion as long as you have an active backup in case things go tits up!

In theory you can just replace drives, however doing so puts extra load on the other drives as you rebuild data. (or suffer downtime as you manually copy the existing disk if it has not failed yet) which could ultimately cause more disks to fail.

You could in theory install pfsense, but I tried once and it's far easier just to dig up an old Windows XP machine and use that...Proxmox tends to throw weird errors with it (if you can even get it to install without kernel panicking, dunno whats up with that) I guess because of the virtual NICs.

For an email server you can use just about any Linux distro with PostFix, or any of the other open source mail server programs out there. I think Webmin has a web config module for PostFix, so that may make your life a little easier, but I'm sure there are webGUIs for other ones as well. If you're looking for an Exchange equivalent, I think I remember reading about this thing called Zentyal that's supposed to be a Debian-based replacement for Windows Servers. I tried using it as a domain controller and it failed spectacularly, but I didn't try the mail server so that might be worth a shot. That was several years ago too so it may have improved since then :P

The one thing to bear in mind with a mail server is that you'll need the DNS records for it. If you have a local DNS server you can "fake" them, but that may cause problems with certain things...maybe? I dunno. I've never actually set up a mail server :P I cheat and use BlueHost shared hosting for email. (shame, I know)

Proxmox will support any OS (as long as that OS doesn't throw a fit about hardware, pfSense for example gave me problems about NICs when I tried to install it on Proxmox)

I can personally vouch for Proxmox's ability to virtualize:

Ubuntu 12.04-15.04, both desktop and server (though desktop requires using a KVM VM, not OpenVZ)

Debian 6 and 7

CentOS (I only used that briefly but it seemed to work fine, got a simple web server running for a few weeks just for fun)

Windows Server 2008 R2 (I've used just about every variation, Standard, Server Core, Enterprise, Datacenter, they all work fine)

Windows 7

Windows 10 tech preview lol it ran as well as Windows 10 tech preview can run I suppose

You shouldn't have any problem using Proxmox from what I gather you want to do.

Also, to be clear, I wasn't saying throw away the RAID card, I'm just saying you might consider also (as someone mentioned below) using ZFS or similar for a reliable backup.

like once or 2 twice a year and or cycle the drives that way the amount of hours on them varies so they don't die of old age at the same time but i like the active mack up idea much better.

couldn't i back up to a san or unraid or what ever as well as free nas??

The only condition for running Windows operating systems on Proxmox is that you can not use the HDD disk type of "virtio". Which is only a problem when you want to migrate a virtual machine from one host to another.

That just seems highly un-necessary and a waste of money. Drives are usually most likely to die quite soon after they start going to use.

A good way to eliminate disks that are bad from the factory is to absolutely trash them with read/write tests for a week. If they survive, they will likely live for quite some time.

An issue with larger drives in RAID, is the time taken to copy/rebuild data. For example say you have a 1TB drive that goes bad and it writes at an average of say 100MB/s. Providing that your RAID card can calculate the parity and deliver the data to write at that speed, it would take nearly 3 hours. In the case of RAID 5, if another drive fails in those 3 hours all the data is gone. (hence why I use only 146GB disks)

The idea behind the whole active backup is that I am not copying the whole machine, I am only copying the important VM disk images on the machine. The idea being that if some catastrophic failure occurs I can use the VM disks on another Host rather than trying to get the whole RAID image to work on another device/single drive.

You can backup to whatever you like, the reason it goes to FreeNAS in my case is because I am using ZFS on the disks, which has fault tolerance as well. I don't use unRAID, just because and the size of my load out does not warrant a SAN at this point.

Thats only if you want to do a live migration I believe. I used to have an old dual core as a second node and if I wanted to migrate a Windows Server VM I just had to shut it down and click migrate.

Yea, which is kinda ideal if your running game servers without downtime. (Hence why I made a bach script some time ago to do this)

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