Infrastructure Upgrade!

I’ve been running an AD domain here for a number of years (it’s my job OK?!) on a couple of DCs.  I have a bunch of other stuff set up too – including MOM, SQL, WSUS, ISA.  For a long time I also had Exchange – that went last year when the Windows Live team released the Outlook Connector and Window Live Domains (but that’s another story…)

Anyway, the time has come to move Server 2008 out of it’s VM dev hideaway and into production – trouble is the hardware I have is so old and cranky that I have doubts about its likely longevity.  I’m also fresh out of space – what seemed an unfeasibly large (PATA) 120GB a couple of years ago is now full of the kids videos and photos.  Something else too – I run my servers 24/7 and things have changed over the last few years; these days, every time I look at all the flashing lights I feel guilty about the continuous power drain.

Time to upgrade.  Only problem is – upgrade to what?

Real-world server class hardware is a complete non-starter (power, cost).  Desktops with fast processors and graphics cards are similarly power-hungry and just over-spec.  But low-end, low-power systems don’t fit the bill either – often the system boards have a restricted memory capability and off-the-shelf systems aren’t customisable to my requirements.

I considered going down the virtualisation route – buying a single, large, fast machine and running everything in VMs – but that just doesn’t feel right (yet).  Maybe two large, fast machines would be OK – but that starts to look expensive.

So… self-build it is!

Here are my list of requirements:

  • Low-cost.  Mindful of Scott Hanselman’s WAF (Wife-Acceptance-Factor) as well as real-world requirements like the kids’ skiing holidays (ouch), the config needs to be, err, realistically priced
  • Low-power.  It doesn’t hurt to think a bit green.  On the other hand, I’m not thinking of building solar-powered machines as described here
  • Fast enough.  But that doesn’t mean fast by today’s standards.  I’m going to be running AD & DFS-R for a small number of users – so fairly leisurely really
  • 64-bit.  Isn’t everyone? 

I’ve just started looking around – I think I’m going to need 4 machines total.  So far I’m looking at AMD Athlon 64, 4GB, 1TB SATA.  If you have any helpful thoughts please post  comments.


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