Experience indicated that brand new single-processor servers currently available (i.e. dual-core 3GHz Pentium) are overqualified and overpriced for simple network server software. This knowledge directed us to search the used computer market for single-core 2.8-3.0 GHz machines. We looked for machines with small form factors, Gigabit Ethernet ports, low power consumption and bargain prices. We found that off-lease machines such as the IBM 8184 small form factor desktops were well suited for our server requirements. We procured a total of 20 of these machines and upgraded the RAM and hard disks as required by expected usage. We also found that they can be conveniently stacked 12 high in wire racks sold by IKEA, with a footprint about ¼ the size of a standard 19” rack. Used machines were cleaned and tested with provided Windows XP licenses to ensure the hardware was functioning, and the BIOS of each machine was updated according to manufacturer’s procedures.
Backup servers can be fashioned from a machine with an attached large capacity RAID array. We used a dual processor Intel Xeon Irwindale2.8GHz server equipped with an internal RAID array of sixteen 750Gb SATA drives, providing just over 9Tb of storage space. A separate Network Attached Storage (NAS) server with five 1Tb SATA hard drives was added to this system via the Network File System (NFS) protocol, giving a total of 13Tb of useable space. Spare 750 Gb and 1Tb hard drives were procured at the same time to ensure that a drive in on hand in case one fails and the RAID array needs a replacement to rebuild its data partition.
For the data warehouse, bids were received from vendors according to the NUS procurement policies. The final configuration utilized two servers, both Dell PowerEdge 1950-III with 2 Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5440 processors, 16Gb of Ram, two 80Gb SATA hard drives for the operating system, and an attached SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) RAID array comprising a Dell PowerVault MD 1000 equipped with nine 400Gb SAS hard drives, for a total of approximately 3.5Tb of high-speed disk. This installation also required procurement of licenses for RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.1 and its installation in order to activate the Dell RAID management software.
A 16 port KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch allowed us to attach the servers to a single console and switch between them. Gigabit network switching equipment was also procured for the test VLAN configuration.