Server Arrived

Now there's a nice surprise. The doorbell goes and TNT are here telling me I have two boxes from "Welsh Western". Turned out to be the Dell server I ordered on Wednesday, arriving 7 days earlier than they predicted.

On the way up the stairs I passed the plasterer who reacted in the usual way when he asked what it was and I told him it was "computer number 6". We had a brief conversation about the idea of server/clients but he still seemed to think I was mad and probably thinking he should have quoted me more for the job.

I've got it out of the box and had a look inside (very neat), but I am resisting the temptation to plug it in and turn it on. Before I do this I want to decide what to put on it and how to configure it. I'm hoping you guys can help.

As I mentioned before it's going to act as a File Server and PDC/logon server. Nothing more than storage really. Should I use Windows or Linux? I've got a copy of Windows 2000 server and a copy of MS's Action Pack on its way, which includes Windows 2003 Server. Alternatively, I have a copy of SME Server, but I've had serious problems with this that stop it being a very good file server. Or I could get the latest greatest Red Hat version. The file server is Linux at the moment and so the shared drives and files are in ext3 format. This would make it easier to use Linux for the new server. Or would it? I am going to have to copy all files over the network anyway so maybe it doesn't matter.

The other thing I am not sure about is what to do with the pair of 160GB drives. How should I format them? How big a partition should I give the OS and should the other drive be one big partition? I feel a bit out of my depth...


  1. I'm just going into our sever closet today to strip it down, scavenge what I may and pull out two working servers from a pile of parts what once was 6 working servers.

    I'm lucky enough that three of them have RAID controlleers so I'll be setting up two Compaqs with 5 20 gb drives across which one partition will be striped on one of the new servers and two on the other.

    The justification for 2 on the other is to divide between storage and active use for database test enviornments. I'd rather not have one partition for both purposes.

    If you're not using a RAID controller (I don't think you are), Using one of your hard drives for all OS and application data, and the other for your file server storage would keep one from cluttering up the other and, at least with smaller drives as I have at home, make for smoother operation... and that's with a Win 2000 server.

    Within that, I have the OS on one logical partition and all other applications installed to a second partition - the only thing they have in common is the registry - makes rebuilding the OS partition a lot easier. Further partitioning applications and application data to two different partitions also makes your back up task a much smaller chore - just back up the data.

    Can't speak to the linux/windows question though.

  2. I don't know enough about Linux to give any advise there. I'd go with Server 2003 if you have it - its XP like UI wise and it just makes more sense to go with the latest and greatest.

    As to the disks, that server should have integrated Raid0/1 so I would mirror the disks so you have some redundancy.

    A 10Gb NTFS Primary OS/Application partition should do nicely and there are two options for the rest...

    1. You could install all your apps on the primary partition.

    2. Create an application partition to install the apps on.

    I'd personally go with option 1 because a 10Gb primary partition is plenty for most servers to install OS and apps together and the advantages are pretty small (if any), in a Wintel environment.

    ...and the rest obviously for data - you could split this up into various partitions depending on function or just leave as one humongous partition (and use folders/share to split up the function).

    The built in Raid0/1 controllers on pizza box servers are not terribly fast - but this should not matter or be noticable for your needs.

    Have fun!

    • avatar
    • Jake
    • Fri 15 Oct 2004 18:03

    Thanks guys.

    Colin, there's not RAID on the server. How does that effect it?

    PS: Tell Charlotte her canvas is here and ready for delivery.

    • avatar
    • Colin
    • Fri 15 Oct 2004 19:23

    Well you could use software RAID - Microsoft have a good walkthrough here - {Link}

    You just need to weigh up you needs and decide if the redundancy is worth the performance hit from a software solution. Given that the disks are spinning at 10K AND there is just little old you accessing the data, performance is likley to be pretty minimal if noticable to you at all.

    Alternatively, given you haven't started building yet, you could investigate what DELL have in respect to "cheap" RAID that could be added to that server?

    All of the servers (IBM) I've built in the last couple of years have included onboard RAID0/1 so I've not actually ever used software RAID (except for inheriting it on some ancient NT4 boxes - but I plan to replace those before I need to "learn whilst fixing"!), so I can't offer much more advise unfortunately.

    Charlotte is very happy about your last comment - she is due in London around the 17th of November and will doubtless sort something out with you in due course.

    • avatar
    • Colin
    • Fri 15 Oct 2004 19:31

    Ok, HUGE assumption re the disks - I see that they're SATA not SCSI as I thought - so they probably spinning at 7200RPM.

    You should have more options re an add-on RAID controller with SATA.

    • avatar
    • Colin
    • Fri 15 Oct 2004 19:47

    Sorry - one more comment - DON'T resist the urge to get in and start playing...

    Its often a good idea, if you have the time, to build the server to understand how it works, how the Dell drivers and utilities work etc. Then do a final "production" install using that new knowledge so that you end up with a more optimised setup. It may well be that some of the extras are extraneous rubbish that are not required at all and end up giving you better performance.

    I never use the manufacturers install disk either - I use the standard Microsoft install disks and build my ultra reliable lean and mean server from there - not a single bit of extra software gets installed unless it adds some value. IBM provide excellent documentation on building each of their machines this way - Dell might do something similar.

    Just a thought!

    • avatar
    • Ben
    • Sat 16 Oct 2004 04:28

    Personally I'd go for Windows Server 2003. It's just so rediculously easy to set up and manage, plus it fast.

    One big bonus for me is that you can use remote desktop connection from XP or whatever and connect to session 0 (use /console) meaning it's as if you're on the server console. Thus, you can plug it in, run it headless but still connect to the console.

    Addmittly you can do that anyway with Dameware or VNC but Remote Desktop Connection is much faster and more flexible. It's defintely the easiest option.

    And I seriously echo what Colin said - the stuff you get with Compaq servers is far too much like hard work and pretty unnecessary for home environments. Just stick in the cd and go.

    Regarding disks, I always partition them the same physically as logically so it's easy to spread the load over them as you know C is disk 1 and D is disk 2. Easy.

    However, make sure you think about backups. It's such a pain to have to rebuild servers if a disk fails but it's also a pain to have to worry about backup software, etc so you might want to...

    1) Create largw partitions on disk 1 and 2 (eg, 100 gig)

    2) Create smaller partitions too (eg 60 gig)

    3) Buid as usual to the larger partitions

    4) Use Ghost or partition magic or whatever to clone the larger partitions to the smaller partitions (or even to a plain NT copy).

    5) Do that reasonably regularly.

    So, if you Windows disk fails you can simply pull out the disk, stick in a new one, boot off a Ghost or Partition magic cd and clone the install off the other disk. You're back up and running in half an hour, no probs and no lost data.

    It's a bit of an odd way of doing it and I'm sure purists would frown but it works.

    • avatar
    • Michael
    • Sat 16 Oct 2004 13:51

    I'll chime in and offer an alterntive not suggested up to this point. If the primary purpose is for a PDC/File Storage, why not put those spare cycles to work by adding some virtual machines onto the system (VMWare or MS Virtual PC)?

    I usually make one partition, install W2K Server and VMWare on the physical box. After that, I create virtual machines for the application server types that I want to dabble with. I've had 4 virtual machines running on top of a host (physical machine) without any stability issues and can shut them down, suspend them, swap them out and boot-up/restore other virtual machine images.

    The virtual machines can be booted on other VM installs (different hardware) without any changes and yes Domino runs just fine within a VM.

    Dedicating physical boxes for one purpose is old school. Consolidating machines and maximizing hardware resources with VMs is the way to go IMHO. You get the flexibility of installing different O/S's with each VM and you can also model a client's configuration on your own system using the VMs without 'raiding' your other hardware.

    I regulary bring the VMs on the road and have Linux and Win2003 server VMs running on my laptop which is XP Professional. VMs make demos a snap where you have n-tier solutions that typically involve different platforms.

    Ghosting an image is not the same, as the hardware must match from machine to machine.

    And no.... I don't work for VMWare or M$.

    It may be too big a leap right now, but you may want to try it out.


    • avatar
    • Ben
    • Sun 17 Oct 2004 05:57

    Yeah, I'll echo that. VMware is just the best of the best and it makes life rediculously easy. I have a P3 800 with a gig of memory and can run WIN2K3 server as host, a WIN2K3 server under vmware and an XP install for testing.

    If you want to play with Linux or whatever, just install it under VMware, do what you want then shut it down and keep it if you want or delete it if you're done with it.

    I agreee that you should really have a look at it (though it's quite expensive unfortunately). You get Virtual PC with your action pack so that's a good place to start. Really, have a read of what it can do, I couldn't get along without it.

  3. I'll third that. I have a friend who runs Win 98 (yeah, seriously), win 2000, win xp, and two flavors of linux with VM ware and swears by it. I had forgotten about it till Michaels comment but it really is great for putting up a new server on short notice without the need to rebuild an entire box. Shop around for VMware - he got his for a reasonable price on auction... so far as I understand it.

    • avatar
    • (Another) Ben
    • Sun 17 Oct 2004 21:55

    I guess I'll be the black sheep and vote for Linux :-)

    IMO a headless linux box running webmin is pretty much perfect for your needs. Webmin is a web-based interface that lets you administer a linux machine, and has nice GUI interfaces for a whole host of things, including Samba.

    I have a celeron 500 in the closet as my backup server. It runs samnba for my windows boxes and NFS for my linux boxes. Since I set it up a couple of months ago I haven't had to touch it at all - in fact except for my monthly dvd backup I forget that it's there.

    IMHO, for what you want windows is overkill. Then again, you've got a beefy enough server, so if you like a nice familiar interface and don't feel like playing with linux, go for it.


    • avatar
    • Josef
    • Mon 18 Oct 2004 03:34

    I am for Linux here - no nedd to reinstall the system every time the system crashes. As for the RAID - it is possible to make a software RAID on Linux quite easily and it performs well.

    For me Linux + Samba would be the right combination. Plus - you could always add Domino server on the same machine if you think the system's average load is too low...

    But anyway - use your favorite system here. There is nothing worse than experiments on a production server. If you feel like you can set up a Linux server in a cinch, just go ahead! I would and be quite happy not to deal with MS update flood every few days.

    • avatar
    • Jake
    • Mon 18 Oct 2004 07:24

    Thanks guys.

    I've installed Red Hat as a test run, but still haven't decided which I will use.

    I want to use Linux as I feel safer that way. But I've had the serious problems with SMB shares that I mentioned, whereby the whole machine crashed at random intervals. Not good.

    The real problem now is where to house the server. I had a shock when I turned it on. Damn, this thing's noisy. I moved it in to the small room/cupboard downstairs and you could still hear it next door.

  4. Believe it (or not) but I had problems with the combination of Red Hat Linux 7.3/9.0 (2.4.20/2.4.18-3 kernels), Dell PowerEdge 1750, and Domino 6.0.3. I wasted a month trying to get it all working together, but the Domino HTTP would perform very, very sluggishly. Apache and PHP worked as expected.

    So I went over to the dark side with Windows Server 2003. I hate to admit it, but I am very impressed with it. Domino under Windows Server 2003 feels just as fast as Linux.

    Also, I installed Domino Designer on the development server and I can use my PowerBook and Remote Desktop Connection.

    Yup, servers are loud. My admin friend told me that some companies make enclosures that will muffle some of the sound.

    • avatar
    • PP
    • Fri 26 Nov 2004 05:21

    if you have a Dell 1750 unit then try and aquire a second (redundant) power supply for it.

    Plugging them both in slows the fans to a little under 6,000rpm and it becomes as quite as a cat purring!


Your Comments


About This Page

Written by Jake Howlett on Fri 15 Oct 2004

Share This Page

# ( ) '


The most recent comments added:

Skip to the comments or add your own.

You can subscribe to an individual RSS feed of comments on this entry.

Let's Get Social

About This Website

CodeStore is all about web development. Concentrating on Lotus Domino, ASP.NET, Flex, SharePoint and all things internet.

Your host is Jake Howlett who runs his own web development company called Rockall Design and is always on the lookout for new and interesting work to do.

You can find me on Twitter and on Linked In.

Read more about this site »

More Content