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Revision 30 as of 2006-06-27 13:58:12

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Hardware

1. New System Hardware

During the HCoop IRC meeting on June 24, 2006, the group decided that it would based it's new system architecture on the following pieces of hardware:

Also, it was mentioned that we should research hardware support contracts from any vendor that will be selling us equipment.

Additionally, group decided that the server that HCoop currently owns, Abulafia, will be brought to he.net for shell service. This will follow a necessary re-load of the OS software at a time to be determined later.

This page will serve as a forum for collaborative research on the pieces of hardware that we need.

1.1. Servers

We will be purchasing two servers, which will be configured and sent to he.net for colocation.

1.1.1. Desired Features

These servers should be as redundant as possible. At this point, we cannot afford to have less than one point of failure in many areas, so we should look for the following features in our new servers:

1.1.1.1. Differences Between the Servers

The admin-only server will hopefully be serving an AFS file system, which means that fancier kinds of RAID are justified there. The all-members server can get away with cheaper (and maybe even faster) solutions for local disk access.

JustinLeitgeb thinks that perhaps RAID 1 would work on the all-members server, and either RAID 5 or RAID 10 on the admin server. It should be RAID 10 if we can afford it, or RAID 5 if we're shorter on cash. :)

There may be other factors influencing different configuration choices between the servers.

Perhaps we can get away with SATA RAID 1 on the web server -- hopefully this machine won't be IO-bound, especially if we add enough RAM later. Also, it might benefit us to get a couple of rather lightweight web servers behind a load balancer before really maxing them out, in order to have fewer single points of failure (of course, at this point we would probably also want to have two load-balancers using "heartbeats" so that they couldn't cause a prolonged system failure).

1.1.2. Proposed Vendors and Models

[http://www.dell.com Dell] Models:

Note that when I checked Dell dropped something like $1200 off of the price of each server over $4000, so we should expect some significant discounts. Whichever company we plan on going with, we may be able to negotiate lower prices by emphasizing that we may buy more in the future, etc.

[http://www.monarchcomputer.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=M&Category_Code=allracks Monarch Computer] Models:

[http://www.penguincomputing.com Penguin Computing] Models:

With the Penguin models, we seem to have to go to the 2U, Altus 2200 in order to get a redundant power supply.

1.2. Ethernet Switch

1.2.1. Desired Features

1.2.2. Additional Information

He.net sent us the following when asked about switch configurations at their site:

We've got customers using everything from ElCheapoSwitch(tm) to Cisco-grade equipment. The main difference between the two is how much traffic they can deal with, the number of packets they can deal with, and how they can be accesses/monitored. If you're looking at pushing primarily web traffic (<50Mb/s) and do not require any of the more advanced functionality of a managed switch, you could likely just go with a good unmanaged switch. If you were doing higher traffic levels, streaming, or other such traffic which consist of a zillion little packets, especially if it's between your servers, you would be better served by something a bit higher grade.

And from another support rep at he.net (their responsiveness has been impressive so far!):

Depends on their needs. If they want to run MRTG, then they need a managed switch. If they just need a switch, a netgear or linksys or d-link will accomplish the job.

Cost differences are greater managed versus non-managed. Non-managed can be 50-$100, whereas managed can start at about $250 and go into the $thousands depending on model and capabilities.

1.2.3. Proposed Models and Vendors

1.2.3.1. Vendors

[http://newegg.com/ Newegg] has been recommended to several of us.

1.2.3.2. Models

1.2.3.2.1. NETGEAR GS108 10/100/1000Mbps

[http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16833122111 Netgear GS108 Switch ]: Highly-rated Netgear switch that is not rack-mountable

Price: ($56.99)

MichaelOlson thinks that we should go with the Netgear switch. It has been rated as a very reliable product, and is very affordable.

I don't like this switch for the following reasons:

  1. It is not rack-mountable, meaning that it could raise issues for cooling in the rack, and be more susceptible to shock that could reduce reliability of the switch, or jar patch cables out of the ports.
  2. It is not managed, so we can't track important information about performance and possible NIC failures via SNMP.

Basically, I think that if we're going to pay all of this money for equipment and hosting, we shouldn't put an interconnect with insufficient features in the middle of our architecture. But, I'm not a networking expert, so I would welcome any opinions contrary to this! JustinLeitgeb

1.2.3.2.2. Level One GSW-1655 10/100/1000Mbps

I've never heard of this brand (Level 1?) so I don't trust it. Any reviews? JustinLeitgeb

1.2.3.2.3. Dell PowerConnect 2716

This is an 8-port gig switch that is web-manageable and lists for $82. I think that we could make it work, especially if I were able to write some scripts to get important data for monitoring in Nagios or rrdtool. I put the [http://www.hcoop.net/~leitgebj/pwcnt_27xx_specs.pdf specification sheet] on our web site. This switch is rack-mountable.

1.2.3.2.4. 3Com® SuperStack® 3 Switch 3812

[http://www.3com.com/products/en_US/detail.jsp?tab=features&pathtype=purchase&sku=3C17401 3Com® SuperStack® 3 Switch 3812] seems to have most of the features that we need, with a bit of room to grow. Prices range from $1000 to $1500 on [http://froogle.google.com Froogle], in my experience [http://www.cdw.com CDW] is a reliable vendor. Perhaps we should make a jump and get the 24 port, which would support our use of an entire rack in the future, if the price difference is small?

1.3. Serial Port

1.3.1. Desired Features

Is this device really necessary? For an extra $1000 - $2000, and utilization of 1U, I am not convinced that this is worth the expense. It seems that in the rare event that our machine is inaccessible from ssh we can use remote hands with he.net and put our resources elsewhere. If someone does think that this is necessary, please put a link to specific models that would be helpful, and a list of reasons why they will come in handy that would justify the additional cost and space in our rack. JustinLeitgeb

1.3.2. Proposed Models and Vendors

[http://www.cyclades.com/ Cyclades] was mentioned as one vendor of serial port devices which are linux-friendly.