Return to Level1Techs.com

New server build, help required please

Dear Level1techs forum,

I’m appealing to what I know to be a knowledgeable and experienced user base.

We are a small accountancy firm and store critical data in a database which is accessed by a few users. This is currently on an aged server which we want to upgrade from scratch.

Our idea is to build one using the following parts:

silverstone cs380
semi modular gold rated psu
asrock rack x470d4u, ryzen 3700x, 32GB ECC UDIMM (16GB x2, Kingston)
Highpoint RocketRaid 2720 SAS controller card
2 x Samsung SAS SSD PM1643

As redundancy is our primary concern for the data, we want to run the drives in RAID 1 off the controller.

We are new to using enterprise components for a build, so our question is:

  1. Does this seem like an appropriate configuration?
  2. Would these drives be hot swappable on the backplane of the silverstone case and would they work as a SAS drive or in ‘?SATA compatible mode?’
  3. How should you connect the controller to the backplane to get the drives to work correctly in SAS mode? I’m confused with the miniSAS to SATA cables and also the sideband cable as I have no experience with these.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance.

Don’t build, don’t build! Running a business has enough stresses without having a home brewed server hanging over your head.

Look at the HPE Microserver. They’re tiny, pretty powerful, and come with a three year on-site service contract.

6 Likes

This is probably the best answer. You are getting into professional level demands. You need professional level support

You’ve gotten some good advice, but I can’t resist kibitzing a little. Bear in mind that this is not my area of expertise.

  1. If you add the “helpdesk” tag to your message, you may attract the attention of experts in this area.

  2. Backups - your highest priority to have a reliable backup procedure in place; hopefully that is already the case.

  3. Whether these components will serve you well depends a great deal on the “vision” or objectives for the system. The same goes for buying a pre-built system. You may need to share a little more to get good advice, and to develop a plan if you haven’t already. What OS and major software will the system run? How many queries per hour, and with what maximum response time? What network bit rate? What factor is expected to be the bottleneck on performance? Will the system run 24/7? Run headless or with a monitor & keyboard? Is scheduled or unscheduled downtime a problem? What uptime are you aiming for? What temperature & humidity during operation? Uninterruptable power supply? How quiet (or noisy) should the system be? How will a new system be tested before committing to it? How will data and operations be transitioned to the new system? That is just scratching the surface, and suggests why you need more expert advice than you can get from strangers on the Internet.

  1. Silverstone CS380. What is your response to the reviews of this case on Amazon? (Or elsewhere.) To me, it sounds pretty flawed but not terrible. It holds 8 drives, but you are only using 2 (which should help avoid drive overheating). Is hot-swap really a vital feature for your operation? Why this case instead of one of the many others?

  2. Semi-modular Gold rated PSU. This is too vague to evaluate. The physical size, wattage, manufacturer, warranty, and reviews of the particular model will be important to selecting a unit. Power supplies are important, and should not just be an “oh, one of those” afterthought.

  3. ASRock Rack X470D4U. Did you see the review at the ServeTheHome website? It doesn’t list any big negatives, but fleshes out the picture and contrasts it with a similar board. This board seems to be less than a year old. I am conservative, and would like a board with a longer track record and a great reputation (I don’t know this board’s reputation.) Why this particular motherboard?
    https://www.servethehome.com/asrock-rack-x470d4u-amd-ryzen-server-motherboards

  4. Ryzen 3700X. I’m going to catch flak for doubting this choice. It is an impressive chip in general, but rather new. And to date there have been a series of (minor) issues. Anyway, does your workload need exactly this much power - not more or less? I invite you to aim for the lowest-power CPU that comfortably meets the foreseeable need, and something with a track record of stability (which to me suggests Intel, but keep an open mind). The other reviews on ServeTheHome may help you develop ideas.

  5. Ask a database expert about the amount of RAM. Would more be a simple way of improving performance?

  6. I don’t know anything about SAS drives and controllers.

Someone on the project should be able to present a case for recommending the system as a whole, and each major component. Perhaps that is known and just seemed too long for a message. (And kudos for presenting the reasons for using hardware controller RAID 1.)

I wish you success in this activity.

Have to agree with this.

The HPE MicroServers are fantastic little servers. Link to Newegg because the HPE-site throws me an error.


For backup, you could still look into DIYing a server. A case to look at for that purpose would be the Supermicro CSE-721TQ-250B

2 Likes

I always smile when my BA’s capture client requirements like “a database” and “a few users”.

Others have said it and I’ll echo that you may want to look at a managed solution from Dell, hp or Lenovo before you invest in the build. However before you even consider buy Vs build, some questions to ask the business users and exec:

  1. Are they happy with the current software? If there are critical features it is missing now or in the near term (regulatory updates etc), would an option be to look at a holistic upgrade to a new solution that may come with hardware or even a Cloud platform.

  2. Assuming the answer is “don’t touch it, that database must never be changed” then consider whether you should get someone else to at least host the server for you, and access remotely over secure VPN. They will do all the hard work of keeping the blinkenlights a’blinkin.

  3. If they do insist on local hosting, then ask the question, if I lose access to this database for a day, week, month, would the business be crippled? If the answer is:

A) A day: Invest in a pair of servers and practice role swaps. Consider virtualization in a 2 node cluster so that the second server can take over seamlessly and you have capacity for other VMs that can run test instances or data warehouses. (This is likely beyond your requirements but at least ask the users before assuming they don’t want somewhere to run their big data queries)

B) A week, then enterprise hardware with 24 hour onsite replacement is a good solution. Depending on your market Dell or HP may be good options and not that expensive.

C) A month, then proceed with the build above. My only modification to your solution would be to drop the rocket raid card and just go for a HBA with software redundancy. Unless you are using more than a pair you won’t see any uplift in performance from an onboard controller. Ideally raid 10 (4 drives) or raid 6 for better drive level redundancy. You don’t mention your OS choice. If you have the option consider ZFS.

Final point assuming you continue with local build. Have you considered future growth of your business and who will maintain this infrastructure if you or your technical colleagues move on or become focussed on your firm’s pivot to AI Blockchain App development? The answer to this question is usually the one that drives most small businesses to move to PaaS or SaaS solutions and I see fewer and fewer clients, especially regulated ones like accountancy, going down the DIY route.

Sorry for the long answer. All opinions above are my own, written in general terms and should not be considered professional advice from my firm.

Have you considered a FreeNas machine from IXsystems? Pretty affordable, with hot swap, and support options.
They run Intel, but for sure worth a look

https://www.ixsystems.com/freenas-mini/

1 Like

I’d grab enterprise hardware off of eBay, buy new drives and use that. Do not build it yourself from scratch, not saying that it wouldn’t work, just think it’s better to use hardware that’s tested and approved for what you want to do.

1 Like

As you are an accounting firm that is looking at server upgrades and utilizing offsite backups, I would recommend looking at an IT company for assistance.

They will know your market, optimal solutions for you and ensure a smooth upgrade.

As enormouschunks says, ask an it firm, but do yourself a favour and ask several different. In your case you might not need bleeding edge hardware, getting something that’s a generation or two old, could save you a considerable amount of money.