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Old 02-10-2009, 05:42 AM
Scott Gifford
 
Default Hardware recommendation for collocation

Hello,

I'm considering purchasing a server to run Debian in a collocation
facility. In the past I've either leased collocated servers, or just
used whatever hardware was handy, but I haven't always been happy with
that approach. I'm sure others have done this, and was hoping to get
their advice and experience on what hardware works best with Debian.

Obviously I need something that is well-supported by Debian. Ideally
I would like something with hardware drive mirroring (RAID 1), with
good suppot from within the OS (so I can run a commandline tool to
manage the RAID and run a cronjob to tell me if anything has gone
wrong. Hot-swap drives would be very handy, too, again as long as
they work well under Linux and Debian.

Also, I've seen that many newer servers offer some kind of "lights-out
management", a special console available over the network which allows
manipulating the server before it's booted, including choosing
alternate boot media, picking which kernel to boot, and toggling the
power. Has anybody worked with these? Do they work well with Debian,
and with a Debian client? Are they worthwhile?

Price is a factor of course, and cheaper is better as long as its
reliable. Under $1k would be ideal, but that may not be possible with
the features I'm looking for.

Beyond that not much matters; any fairly modern server will be fast
enough.

Many of these features are built into motherboards, and it's hard to
tell whether they will work under Linux from just the documentation.
I'm hoping in particular for servers that people are already using and
have good luck with, so the hardware is already known to work.

Thanks for any thoughts!

----Scott.


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Old 02-10-2009, 02:50 PM
"Douglas A. Tutty"
 
Default Hardware recommendation for collocation

I'll intersperse comments on what I have sitting on my desk in front of
me:

On Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 01:42:57AM -0500, Scott Gifford wrote:
> Obviously I need something that is well-supported by Debian. Ideally
> I would like something with hardware drive mirroring (RAID 1), with
> good suppot from within the OS (so I can run a commandline tool to
> manage the RAID and run a cronjob to tell me if anything has gone
> wrong. Hot-swap drives would be very handy, too, again as long as
> they work well under Linux and Debian.

HP NetRaid card uses the MegaRaid driver. I haven't found a command
line tool to manage the array (they exist for SCO unix, Solaris, HP-UX,
but they're closed-source), however the driver puts the status of the
array in /proc/megaraid/hba[x]/. I'm at the beginning of the process of
engineering a monitor program that will alert me to a problem with the
array. The card itself has an audible alarm.

> Also, I've seen that many newer servers offer some kind of "lights-out
> management", a special console available over the network which allows
> manipulating the server before it's booted, including choosing
> alternate boot media, picking which kernel to boot, and toggling the
> power. Has anybody worked with these? Do they work well with Debian,
> and with a Debian client? Are they worthwhile?

My HP NetServer LPr PII/450 has a serial management port that allows me
to access to the power, logs, console redirection, and serial port
passthrough. Its designed to be connected to a modem so that the
management processor can page an operator with a code for what is wrong.
HP makes an add-on card that does the same type of thing over the
network.

> Price is a factor of course, and cheaper is better as long as its
> reliable. Under $1k would be ideal, but that may not be possible with
> the features I'm looking for.

I got the last four I could find: dual PII/450, 1 GB ram, two 72 GB 10K
SCSI hot-swap drives, with the NetRaid card, e100 ethernet. $70 CDN
eBay.


> Beyond that not much matters; any fairly modern server will be fast
> enough.

Perhaps you need to indicate what problems you had (other than lack of
RAID controll or hot-swap) when you used whatever you could find.

> Many of these features are built into motherboards, and it's hard to
> tell whether they will work under Linux from just the documentation.
> I'm hoping in particular for servers that people are already using and
> have good luck with, so the hardware is already known to work.

If you can get your hands on a server before you buy, you could boot
a debian-based live-CD (e.g. grml, Knoppix) and see what is supported.
Even the debian netinst.iso or usb stick hd-media will let you boot and
view the dmesg.

Good luck.

Doug.


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Old 02-10-2009, 06:40 PM
Scott Gifford
 
Default Hardware recommendation for collocation

"Douglas A. Tutty" <dtutty@vianet.ca> writes:

> I'll intersperse comments on what I have sitting on my desk in front of
> me:
>
> On Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 01:42:57AM -0500, Scott Gifford wrote:

[...]

>> Beyond that not much matters; any fairly modern server will be fast
>> enough.
>
> Perhaps you need to indicate what problems you had (other than lack of
> RAID controll or hot-swap) when you used whatever you could find.

Really those are the big ones. At various times, I have ended up
with:

* Network or RAID cards that required special drivers (and so are a
hassle to deal with during install or upgrade)

* RAID cards that could not be managed remotely (an error beep is
not very useful when the server is in somebody else's data center)

* Hot-swap systems that did not work with Linux (it would not see a
new drive until it was rebooted--not a very hot swap!)

That's about it. My experience is that everything else generally
works smoothly.

I was hoping to avoid similar problems with any kind of remote
lights-out management; I'd hate to find out after the fact that the
management platform is not well-supported under debian.

>> Many of these features are built into motherboards, and it's hard to
>> tell whether they will work under Linux from just the documentation.
>> I'm hoping in particular for servers that people are already using and
>> have good luck with, so the hardware is already known to work.
>
> If you can get your hands on a server before you buy, you could boot
> a debian-based live-CD (e.g. grml, Knoppix) and see what is supported.
> Even the debian netinst.iso or usb stick hd-media will let you boot and
> view the dmesg.

Yeah, that's true. Maybe I need to just make some educated guesses at
vendors with good return policies and see what I find. :-)

Thanks!

----Scott.


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