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Old 05-16-2011, 02:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
Crazy
 
New Computer Hardware Recommendation?

Hello,

How is everyone?

So I'm in the middle of designing a new server. It's pretty beefy and will be working hard as a Linux terminal server.

So far I've got:
- Intel i7-970 Processor (6-core with HT for 12-threads of yummy-ness)
- 24 GB RAM
- 30 GB SSD PCI-Express drive (for OS)
- 2 x 500 GB SATA III drives in RAID 1 for data

I'm just stuck on the issue of motherboards and network cards. I need the machine to have 2 gigabit NICs. However, finding a motherboard that has dual gigabit that isn't using either Realtek or Marvell NIC controllers is proving to be extremely difficult. Both are reported to have sub-par performance as compared to Intel NICs and if anything, this machine needs superb network performance.

So if I want Intel NICs I'm stuck with one motherboard made by Intel (BOXDX58SO2):
Newegg.com - Intel BOXDX58SO2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

which is a good board of course.

My question is, would it be worthwhile to instead get a different motherboard without the dual on-board NICs, and instead just add the two Intel gigabit cards? Is there a significant performance advantage for on-board vs. card NIC?

Or, does anyone know of another motherboard that would work instead of the Intel one?

Thank you!
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Old 05-16-2011, 03:11 PM   #2 (permalink)
Young Crumudgeon
 
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Location: Canada
What's your budget? And what are you doing with this box? "Terminal server" defines how you interact with the machine, not what it does. Will it be running services? Loghost? Email? Apache? SQL?

To answer your question, as far as I'm aware embedded devices share the PCI(e) bus, so there's no significant difference. Choice of chipset is going to have a much bigger impact than onboard vs add-on. Depending on the application(s) other factors may end up being a bigger indicator of performance. If you expect to have a lot of users, I'd focus on maxing disk I/O rates long before worrying about the network cards.

But seriously, fuck that shit. Just order a Dell Poweredge and be done with it. They're quite reasonably priced for what you get, but if you're strapped you can get a used one a year or two out for a good price and still have it be quite powerful.

Also, I would not use a solid state drive in any application where reliability is a concern, especially without redundancy in place. If you're expecting a lot of activity the drive will wear out quick and you'll end up with a fancy paperweight for your desk.
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Old 05-17-2011, 04:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian View Post
What's your budget? And what are you doing with this box? "Terminal server" defines how you interact with the machine, not what it does. Will it be running services? Loghost? Email? Apache? SQL?
Budget is $1000 and it will be running LTSP, so basically the Linux equivalent to Windows Terminal Server. Full Gnome desktop to all 30+ connected users.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian View Post
To answer your question, as far as I'm aware embedded devices share the PCI(e) bus, so there's no significant difference. Choice of chipset is going to have a much bigger impact than onboard vs add-on. Depending on the application(s) other factors may end up being a bigger indicator of performance. If you expect to have a lot of users, I'd focus on maxing disk I/O rates long before worrying about the network cards.
Given that I'm already aiming for an i7-capable motherboard, all the chipsets are identical so there is no decision to make from that end. Unless I am misunderstanding you and you are instead referring to the NIC chipset? I also have read that in fact not all embedded devices use the PCI-e bus but some are using other pathways but I cannot find anything other than vague references.

With respect to to disk I/O -- it's already been maxed out by using SSD for the OS and SATA III RAID for data. I don't see how it can get much faster on that front.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian View Post
But seriously, fuck that shit. Just order a Dell Poweredge and be done with it. They're quite reasonably priced for what you get, but if you're strapped you can get a used one a year or two out for a good price and still have it be quite powerful.
Not possible. I just tried to configure a Poweredge to provide similar performance and it cost above $4000. And that's for a new machine. A machine a year or two older won't nearly provide enough performance for LTSP when you've got 30 thin clients attached. If it does, it won't cost $1000 which is what the machine I'm proposing will cost right now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian View Post
Also, I would not use a solid state drive in any application where reliability is a concern, especially without redundancy in place. If you're expecting a lot of activity the drive will wear out quick and you'll end up with a fancy paperweight for your desk.
SSD for the OS only should be no problem as /tmp and other scratch directories will not exist on it. /home is on the SATA iii drives so theoretically much of the SSD will be read-only and will last a LONG time. And of course backups will exist and a second, older machine will be a synchronized failover machine.

Thanks for your input!
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
Young Crumudgeon
 
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Location: Canada
If you can figure out a way to build a machine around a $600 processor for $1000 or less, then we're done here. I have no useful advice for you.
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Sunny South Florida
The first thing you need to do is ditch that processor.
A 2nd gen i7 (code named Sandy Bridge and differentiated by a 4 digit model number as opposed to 3) would be cheaper, faster, cooler, and draw less power.
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Old 05-17-2011, 02:11 PM   #6 (permalink)
zomgomgomgomgomgomg
 
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Location: Fauxenix, Azerona
What sort of bargain-basement ram are you shoehorning into that budget? The cheapest 4gb DDR3 I see is $70 a pair, and the names I've heard of are $100, so that's:

$210-300 in RAM
$600 in processor
$260 in mobo (cheapest mobo on newegg with six ram slots, LGA1366, and dual gigabit--there are only 4 that aren't refurbs)
$85 SSD
$80 pair of cheapo 500gb drives

That's $1235-1500 with just the components you listed. You haven't mentioned power supply, case, cables, etc. It also seems like you're seriously skimping on the data drives vs the rest of the build.

I assume this is for edubuntu or similar, why so much ram?
Quote:
Processor: Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad as recommended minimum. Simpler CPUs will work, but at a performance penalty.
Memory: 512MB for the server itself, and between 256MB and 768MB of RAM per client, depending on the demands of the users. Typically, you would want at least 4GB RAM for 20 LTSP users, and ideally at least 8GB. Note that you can also use local applications (called local apps) to shed some memory usage to the thin clients.
Disk: 10GB Depending on options. It's recommended that you keep the /home partition on fast disks for optimal performance, refer to the post-install section in this document for more information on setting up a home partition on RAID.
Network: LTSP can be very demanding on local network resources. It is recommended that you have at least 1 gigabit connection to the server for every 15 thin clients, and at least 100mbit connections to the thin clients from your switches.
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Old 05-30-2011, 05:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
Crazy
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hotmnkyluv View Post
The first thing you need to do is ditch that processor.
A 2nd gen i7 (code named Sandy Bridge and differentiated by a 4 digit model number as opposed to 3) would be cheaper, faster, cooler, and draw less power.
Hello,

Sorry I was away and didn't see your message.

From what I have seen, the second generation i7 chips (the Sandy Bridge) only come with 4 cores and have 8 MB L3 cache. The older i7 has 6 cores and 12 MB L3 cache so it's performance is far better. You are correct of course that it would run cooler and draw less power, but it's ability would be a bottleneck in comparison.

---------- Post added at 09:47 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:40 AM ----------

Hello,

Quote:
Originally Posted by telekinetic View Post
What sort of bargain-basement ram are you shoehorning into that budget? The cheapest 4gb DDR3 I see is $70 a pair, and the names I've heard of are $100, so that's:

You are probably correct that the RAM is going to be a place where they will save cost. I usually memtest the new rig prior to deployment so I think as long as the memory meets the motherboard/CPU specifications it should work right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by telekinetic View Post
$210-300 in RAM
$600 in processor
$260 in mobo (cheapest mobo on newegg with six ram slots, LGA1366, and dual gigabit--there are only 4 that aren't refurbs)
$85 SSD
$80 pair of cheapo 500gb drives

That's $1235-1500 with just the components you listed. You haven't mentioned power supply, case, cables, etc. It also seems like you're seriously skimping on the data drives vs the rest of the build.
To get the pricing I send the model numbers / specific requests to the shop I deal with and they send back the pricing. However you have raised some questions so I will ask for a specific breakdown of the components.

With regards to refurbished items I don't mind them at all as long as there is a good warranty and I run my own stress-test/burn in.


Quote:
Originally Posted by telekinetic View Post
I assume this is for edubuntu or similar, why so much ram?
You are correct -- it's for Edubuntu but for the LTSP version. One massive server and then 60 thin clients connecting to it. The LTSP server runs on it each login instance and streams back the video/audio to the thin clients and receives from them the keyboard/mouse inputs. So it's doing the work of 60 computers. Granted it's not that straightforward (since the server can share RAM space for identical programs, etc.) but you need a very beefy machine to run LTSP.

I appreciate your feedback.
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