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and has been writing about business technology for leading US and UK publications for almost 20 years. 1 . England. © 2009. 2 2 4 4 9 The Evolution of the Server Working Out Your Server Requirments The Availability Question 9 Choosing the Right Server.contents] [ Choosing the Right Server Paul Rubens is an IT consultant based in Marlow. Jupitermedia Corp. An Internet.com Networking eBook.
For example. a server computer may run an e-mail server application and a Web server application.com Networking eBook. so a server computer running an e-mail server application will be Servers are the unsung heroes of the corporate computing environment. In this case. the server (computer) could be said to be running two servers (the e-mail and Web server applications). working behind the scenes to help get the maximum benefit from the personal computers that people use every day. With a personal computer there was no longer a need to share processing power: users could install and run whatever programs they needed on the machine on their desk. which were fed into the machine to be processed. working behind the scenes to help get the maximum benefit from the personal computers that people use every day. “ ” 2 Choosing the Right Server. What is a Server? The term "server" is a confusing one. a server computer running a single server application is often known by the name of the application. Jupitermedia Corp. but they no longer work in isolation. provide services such as sending and receiving e-mail.[ Choosing the Right Server ] The Evolution of the Server By Paul Rubens I n the early days of corporate data processing. Today. Programs and data were stored on special cards. and file storage. But personal computers don't do all the work: they need help. In a typical office scenario these computers are connected to each by a local area network (LAN) that runs throughout the building. which as the name suggests. That's why in most organizations they are now connected to computers called servers. because it is used to mean two quite distinct things: • A software application that provides a specific set of services to other computers • A computer that provides services to other computers Jupiterimages The computing landscape began to change radically in the early 1980s with the introduction of the personal computer – the desktop device we are familiar with today. Just to confuse things further. Servers are the unsung heroes of the corporate computing environment. computers were large. An Internet. expensive machines that were housed in their own dedicated computer rooms and operated by teams of white-coated technicians. . personal computers have become ubiquitous in the workplace. © 2009. Later on these machines could be operated from "dumb terminals": Teletype machines or keyboard-andscreen devices that allowed users to share the processing power of the mainframe computer.
When a server breaks down. and the business as a whole may not be able to function. . it needs plenty of disk space to accommodate everyone's needs. it is possible to use a "spare" personal computer as a server. A network also allows one computer user to print out documents on a printer connected to different computer on the network. Far from increasing productivity then. Because of all of the above. so that productivity can go up. Additionally." Choosing the Right Server ] For the purposes of this eBook. and duplication of work can be avoided. To do this. and more random access memory (RAM). Why Are Servers Necessary? If you just have a single personal computer in your organization. it's common to connect them over a network. it's usually desirable to have a long and comprehensive warranty and service agreement. in other words. If many users are trying to retrieve or store documents from the same computer they may find they have to wait an inconvenient amount of time. you still may not need a server. it's not uncommon for a server to have four or more. In general. They are also usually built to be fault tolerant – many are supplied with an extra power supply that can take over if the primary one fails. This can include a lockable case for physical security. © 2009. many people in the organization may be unable to do their work. the term "server" will be used to refer to server hardware – the physical computer that is acting as a server. even if you have two or three computers working independently. That's because networking allows computer users to share files and information easily. This is a server. • Security. An Internet. • Large storage capacity. A document stored on one computer can be accessed and worked on from another. but 3 Choosing the Right Server. servers are often equipped with microprocessors that are more powerful than normal desktop computer processors. a network can slow everything down. and to minimize the need for rebooting the system. can increase the productivity of the people using it. • Reliability.[ called "the e-mail server. it makes sense to relieve the burden of any individual user's machine by having a dedicated computer that is capable of providing file storage and print services – or any other services that may be required – to all the users in the organization quickly and reliably. I Why is a Server Different from a Personal Computer? In a small business with just a few users.com Networking eBook. At a certain point. While a desktop computer will typically have just one disk drive. If a server is to act as a central storage repository. it should be no surprise that servers generally cost more than desktop machines. A technology called RAID is also usually employed to ensure that data is not lost even if a hard drive fails completely. Anyone actually trying to carry out his or her own work on that computer is also likely to find it too slow to be practical. Whenever one computer user accesses a document stored on another computer it causes that computer to slow down. and it's usually wise to stay away from lowcost servers from unknown vendors: the extra cost of buying a good quality server from a well-known manufacturer is likely to be insignificant compared to the cost to your organization if a server fails and prevents you from carrying out your business. Servers are usually built using highquality components that tend to be more expensive than normal ones. not down. for example – and have "hot swappable" parts that can be removed and replaced without having to turn the server off. as well as a server operating system that has been hardened to minimize the chances of intrusion by malicious hackers. and the purpose of having a server is defeated if doesn't have the power to provide these services quickly. then you probably don't need a server. A network. In fact. a server needs to have the following attributes: • Speed. A server is expected to provide services to many client computers at once. Jupitermedia Corp. and allow people to share resources such as a printer. the special requirements of a server mean this is usually not practical. But once you have two or more computers. Server operating system software is also designed for maximum stability to minimize the chances of crashing. actually reducing productivity. But there are downsides to this type of networking.
. An Internet. Typically. and in the foreseeable future.[ Choosing the Right Server ] Working Out Your Server Requirments T here are a number of requirements you need to explore before purchasing your server. e-mail is typically received and forward by a third party – usually an Internet service provider (ISP). it's vital to decide exactly what you want your server to do – both now. and storage. and in the foreseeable future. form factor. Jupiterimages Other Roles • Web Server: making Web pages available over the Internet • Intranet Server: publishing information for internal use within an organization • Database Server: holding corporate information from one or more corporate applications • Application Server: running applications that are Before buying a server. Jupitermedia Corp. IBM Lotus Domino. processor. in the case of laptops. disconnected from the network and removed. Before buying a server. E-Mail Server In small organizations. File Server A file and print server provides a place for users to store files. operating system. They include: server role. which may or may not be shared with other users. or Open-Xchange – on a dedicated e-mail server. it's vital to decide exactly what you want your server to do – both now. One advantage of using a file server rather than storing files on individual users' PCs is that it is much easier to back-up a single file server than it is to back up the files on many different personal computers. Here are some typical roles that a server can fulfil: Print Server Significant savings can be made by allowing many users to share a printer connected to a print server instead of providing each user with his or her own printer.com Networking eBook. Medium and large organizations frequently run their own e-mail system – often Microsoft Exchange. the roles of file server and print server are combined into a single file-and-print server. © 2009. The data on a single file server is also much easier to protect against theft or intrusion than multiple machines throughout the organization. Backing up a server can easily be automated and scheduled for a convenient time (such as the middle of the night) while backing up individual computers can be complicated if they have been switched off or. “ ” 4 Choosing the Right Server.
75 inches deep. A server rack can therefore house 42 1U servers. © 2009.[ Form Factor Chooser Single server required Total number of servers in organization Limited floor space Choosing the Right Server ] Blade Not suitable 40+ Tower Suitable About 10 max Rack Mounted Not suitable 10+ Not suitable for more than small number Suitable Suitable accessed by users with special client software running on their personal computers. micro tower. Blade servers are extremely thin. mini tower. A blade enclosure may have a 10U form factor but could contain 16 blades. Rack mounting can also significantly simply power and network cabling requirements. there are a variety of tower form factors. so a server may have a 1U. Servers and other equipment are made with a depth or thickness of multiples of 1. Jupitermedia Corp. and 1. or simply via a Web browser such as Internet Explorer. the smallest form factor a rackmounted server can have. or combinations of rack-mountable devices with a combined height that does not exceed 42U.75 inches. . Rack-Mounted Server Bigger organizations that require larger numbers of servers tend to choose a more compact and easy-tomanage rack mountable form factor.although it is likely to be slightly taller. tain power supplies and efficient cooling systems to dissipate the heat that such a large concentration of computing resources can produce. The blade enclosure itself often contains components such as network adapters and power supplies that are shared by all the blades in the enclosure. 21 2U servers. which can be rack mounted. or simply 1U. The standard rack-mounted form factor is 19 inches wide. Rack-mounted servers are housed in a standard server rack that is 42U high. this is. A server with a tower form factor is a self-contained unit that looks much like a standard desktop PC -. a server operating system is designed for: • Stability • Reliability • Security • Ability to offer services to multiple client machines simultaneously Choosing the Right Server. In fact. In general. in theory. The advantage of the rack-mounted server form factor is that large numbers of servers can be accommodated in a small area of floor space. called blades. which is determined by the case or housing into which all the components are fitted. Server racks usually con5 Operating System While desktop computers use an end-user operating system such as Microsoft Windows XP or Vista. allowing the blades to be made as small as possible. mid tower. 2U. allowing it to accommodate as many as 10 disk drives. An Internet. or even 6U form factor. Blade Since the standard rack-mounted server form factor is 1U. and are unlikely to need more.com Networking eBook. Form Factor Form factor is the term given to the overall size and shape of the server. then a tower form factor is probably the best choice. which in descending order of height include: Full tower. which are fitted into a blade enclosure. which is known as one unit. servers run operating systems that are tailored to the special needs of servers. In practice there are even smaller servers. stripped down servers. or SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. These include: Tower If you are only intending to buy a very small number of servers.
. the main considerations that determine the choice of server operating system are: • Skill sets of your staff. if you want to run the popular open-source Web server Apache. Intel Xeon Server Processors Intel offers three lines of Xeon processors: • 3000 sequence Dual or Quad core Operating System Chooser Windows Predominantly a Windows environment. and would normally only be run in an organization which uses Apple Macintosh desktop computers. you will need a Windows server operating system – either Windows Server 2003 or Server 2008. you will need to run a Linux operating system such as SUSE Linux Enterprise Server or Ubuntu Server Edition. Processors Linux and Windows-based servers usually run on processors made by either Intel or AMD. the file servers can run: • Windows Server • Any flavor of Linux server operating system. such as running your server as a file server. If no one in your organization is familiar with Linux then it is not a practical choice • Total cost of ownership. For less specific applications. In general. but in practice it is more common to use a more powerful processor specifically designed for use in a server. small organization Suitable – Windows Small Business Server 2003 or Windows Small Business Server 2008 Suitable – Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008 Not suitable Linux Suitable if staff have Linux skills Mac OS X Server Not suitable Other Not suitable Predominantly a Windows environment.of the total cost of ownership of a server operating system. © 2009. Linux software is freely available while Windows software involves both server and client access license fees. license fees are only a component – together with support -. It is possible to run a server using a standard Intel or AMD desktop processor.) • In very large organizations it may be preferable to run Unix operating systems such as Sun Microsystems's Solaris or HP's HP-UX. medium or large sized organization Predominantly Mac OS X environment Running a particular server based application 6 Suitable if IT staff have Linux skills Not suitable Suitable if IT staff have UNIX skills Possibly suitable if IT staff have Linux skills Depends on application Suitable Depends on application Depends on application Depends on application Choosing the Right Server.[ Choosing the Right Server ] Your choice of operating system may be largely determined by the use to which you intend to put the server. if you intend to use the server as a mail server running Microsoft Exchange.com Networking eBook. the choice of operating system is much wider. For example. Similarly. Jupitermedia Corp. • Compatibility with any applications you wish the server to run. However. An Internet. Even if the majority of desktop computers in your organization are running Windows operating systems. • Mac OS X Server operating system (this can only run on Apple Macintosh hardware.
The most common type of hard drives are: • Serial ATA (SATA) drives • Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) drives SATA drives tend to be cheaper than SCSI drives. or externally. and data that they need. it offers the very high-end Itanium 2 9000 sequence AMD Opteron Server Processors AMD offers thee lines of Opteron processors • 1000 range • 2000 range . and these can physically be located inside the server case. The capacity of a RAID array is always less than the sum of the capacities of the disks that make up the array.[ Processor Chooser Intel Small business Choosing the Right Server ] Other AMD Opteron 1000 range Xeon 3000 sequence Dual or Quad core Xeon 5000 sequence Dual or Quad core Medium sized business / standard business applications Large business / high performance data or transaction intensive applications Mission-critical high end computing Opteron 2000 range Xeon 7000 sequence Dual or Quad core Opteron 8000 range UltraSparc T1 Itanium 2 9000 sequence UltraSparc T1 / T2 • 5000 sequence Dual or Quad core • 7000 sequence Dual or Quad core In addition. connected to the server by a cable or network connection.up to two per server • 8000 range – up to eight per server Other Processors Linux. RAID works by copying the contents of the disks in an array to one or more others in the array. including: • RAID 1: mirrors the contents of one disk onto another (and sometimes more than one other). When one disk fails and is replaced. it follows that the server's storage system must be reliable. For this reason it is very common for a server's hard disks to be configured using RAID technology to introduce redundancy. © 2009. one or more disks can fail and be replaced (often without the need to shut the server or storage device down) without any data being lost. the contents of the failed disk can be rebuilt onto the new disk from the content stored on the other disks. This normally takes the form of one or more hard disks. . continued Choosing the Right Server. and Sun's Solaris Unix-based operating system can also be run using Sun Microsystems's UltraSPARC processors. An Internet.com Networking eBook. When disks are configured in a RAID array. Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks (RAID) Storage All servers need a storage subsystem to hold the operating system. applications. S ince one of the key attributes of a server discussed earlier is reliability. Jupitermedia Corp. or RAID. or levels. but 7 There are a number of types.
The capacity of the array is equal to the capacity of one disk. and there is some evidence that disks with very high areal densities are less reliable than those with lower densities when used in an intensive server environment. • Network Attached Storage (NAS): a device containing one more hard drives. They tend to be expensive and the preserve of large companies. allowing a server to provide services to clients much more efficiently in a busy environment.[ Choosing the Right Server ] SCSI drives are much faster. © 2009. so two 500GB disks configured using RAID 1 result in an array with a capacity of 500GB. connected to the server. giving a storage capacity of between 2 and 6 TB without RAID. the bits per square inch) of the disk's storage platters.com Networking eBook.e. Larger capacities are often achieved by increasing the areal density (i. An Internet. and distributes and copies the data across the disks in such a way that no data is lost if a single disk fails. . External Hard Drives Many servers use storage disks that are physically located outside the server case. Jupitermedia Corp. • RAID 6: this is similar to RAID 5.multiple DAS devices required Y -multiple NAS devices required Y – multiple NAS devices required Y 8 Choosing the Right Server. RAID 5 uses three or more disks in an array. Servers may sometimes house six or more hard drives. When assessing your likely storage requirements consider: • How much data you have now • How much new data you are likely to create every month Storage Chooser Internal disks Single server Multiple servers Storage requirement <6TB Storage requirement 10TB to 100TB Storage requirements >100TB Y Y Y DAS Y NAS Y Y Y Y SAN Y . Given this. The server may have exclusive use of the NAS. Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks (RAID) No data is lost as long as at least one disk is functioning. • RAID 5: the most common RAID level. I • Storage Area Network (SAN): a storage area network is actually a complex system which connects an array of disks (or other storage devices) to a server in a way that makes the storage look (to the server) as if it is attached directly. or the NAS may be used by one or more other servers or client computers. Hard drives are commonly available in capacities ranging from about 80GB up to 750GB or more. is it wise to specify a larger number of lower capacity disks (350 to 500GB) than a few very high capacity disks (750GB+) Internal Hard Drives The simplest storage option is to use hard drives fitted inside the server.. but can tolerate up to two disks failing without any data being lost. Devices that provide external storage include: • Direct Attached Storage (DAS): a device that contains one or more hard drives. connected to the same LAN as the server.
Companies such as HP offer fault tolerant memory subsystems with spare memory modules. a day. An Internet. The components are "hot-swappable" so they can be replaced while the server is running. A hardened standalone server: this is a server that is fitted with extra parts such as an extra power supply and RAID storage. it may be worth paying a premium for a high-availability server system. mirrored memory or hot-pluggable RAID memory. Usually one server. • A server cluster: this involves two or more servers that are linked together and to a shared storage device.com Networking eBook. If the standby machine sees that the other has failed. even when components fail. and if one or more is unavailable (i. © 2009. is put into operation. . it takes over the duties that the failed machine was previously performing. while the other waits as a standby machine. These include: • A hardened standalone server: this is a server that is fitted with extra parts such as an extra power supply and RAID storage. “ ” 9 Choosing the Right Server. or a week? • How much time can you afford for a server to be unavailable? • How much time and money would it take to fix any problems caused by losing data if a server failed unexpectedly? Depending on your answers. • A fault tolerant server: fault-tolerant servers are designed from the ground up to work continuously. but will take over the duties of the other should it fail. and software monitoring alerts administrators when components are beginning to fail so they can be swapped out as quickly as possible. so that any or all of their vital parts can fail withJupiterimages out causing the server to stop operating. or cluster node. They do this by duplicating almost all of their components. Asking the following questions may help you get an idea of the importance of server availability: • How costly would it be for your business if a server were unavailable for an hour. is not working) it can be anything from inconvenient to disastrous. making it more reliable than a normal desktop machine. making it more reliable than a normal desktop machine.e.. Jupitermedia Corp.[ Choosing the Right Server ] The Availability Question S ervers usually play an important role in a business. Sometimes both nodes in a cluster can work at the same time.
To counter this problem both Hyper-V and VMware offer a system suitable for larger organizations that can transfer the states of all the virtual servers to a backup physical host and resume their operations very rapidly. for example. Dell. but Almost never only for very short periods Usually not more than a few minutes Should never happen except during a catastrophe Software needs no modification Recovery time after a server failure Hours or even days Technical measures Software needs no modification Some applications may need modifying to become cluster aware. you may be able to cut your costs significantly through server virtualization – running two or more virtual servers on a single physical server computer. © 2009. An Internet. and a Microsoft Windows server running Microsoft Exchange. and others will effectively be bundling Hyper-V when they supply servers running Microsoft Windows Server 2008 to their customers. HP.com Networking eBook. running many virtual servers on a single physical host server makes them all vulnerable should the physical host break down. . IT staff need to manage cluster Two or more servers. and some vendors including HP and IBM are also offering the option of embedding VMware's ESX Server 3i virtualization product on their servers – on USB storage or a flash memory card that can be inserted to start the virtualized environment. it is possible to use a single server to host multiple virtual servers running different operating systems – a Linux virtual server running Apache Web server software. On the other hand. I 10 Choosing the Right Server. Jupitermedia Corp. I f you think you need more than one server. could be in a rack Space required Single server Single server Server Virtualization The benefits of server virtualization are: • Lower hardware costs: virtualization obviates the need to purchase one or more physical servers • Lower maintenance costs: fewer severs means less components to go wrong • Lower power consumption: running a single physical server near to its full capacity is more energy efficient than running multiple servers at lower capacity • Less floorspace required • Higher stability: running separate applications on their own virtual servers instead of on the same server reduces the likelihood that changes to one application can adversely impact another Using virtualization software available from companies including Microsoft (its Hyper-V virtualization system is bundled with most versions of its new Windows Server 2008 operating system) and VMware.[ Comparison Chart Cost Frequency of downtime Choosing the Right Server ] Fault tolerant server Relatively high cost Standalone server Very low cost Quite frequent Failover cluster Low to moderate cost Relatively frequent.
Management Software 11 Choosing the Right Server. Jupitermedia Corp. and reduce downtime and management costs. © 2009.[ Server Buyer’s Checklist Server Role Choosing the Right Server ] Options File and print server Mail Server Email server Web Intranet server Database server Application server Other server Tower Rack mounted Blade Windows Server 2003 or 2008 Windows Small Business Server 2003 or 2008 Linux Server Mac OS X Server UNIX / other Intel Xeon AMD Opteron SPARC / other SCSI or SATA disks+ DAS NAS SAN Redundant components Cluster system Fault tolerant system Many options available 1 year.) Management software enables server administrators to monitor all servers from a single management console. An Internet. 5 year 1 hour response. spot and fix potential problems. so too does the time and skills needed to manage them. ensure servers are fully patched and virus-free.com Networking eBook. etc Form Factor Operating System Processor Storage High availability features Management software Service / warranty As the number of servers in your organization grows. same day. That's why many companies offer server management software to help automate and simplify the management process. These products include HP's Insight Control and Microsoft's System Center family of management products (and System Center Essentials software for smaller companies. Keeping a single server running efficiently and ensuring that the latest operating system and application patches have been applied is a very different matter to managing a large number of servers. 3 year. .