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Paul Nielsen

Planning Database Servers

I’m about to purcahse servers for my software start-up (providing specialized SaaS CRM – i.e. we’re hosting other organization’s data) and since this is a good bit a change from my pocket, I’d like to survey this group. I’m purposefully wording the questions to obfuscate my opinion.

  1. Any preferences on DELL rack servers? Servers to avoid? Any experience with the DELL R610?
  2. Do you use SATA, SAS 7.2K RPM, SAS 10K RPM, or SAS 15K RPM drives?
  3. If you’re using the new superfast SSD drive would you still RAID the drives?
  4. Assuming all stored procedures and a normalized database with a nice new Quad core Xeon X5500 and pleanty of RAM, about how many concurrent users would you guess it would support?
  5. Do you use NICs with TOE on your database servers?
  6. Do you use redundant power supplies on your database servers?
  7. What method of failover server do you prefer, log shipping or database mirroring?  (assume that Clustering is out of the question)

many thanks in advance...

Published Tuesday, October 13, 2009 3:25 PM by Paul Nielsen



Michael K. Campbell said:

2. Really depends upon your workload. In your case, SaaS for CRM you're likely going to need RAID-10 SAN for most of your needs - but you might also want to consider RAID-0 Intel SSDs for your tempdbs as well - that would likely do wonders for your end users (though you'll periodically want to 'reset' those SSDs to account for gradual performance degradation due to writes)

3. Yup. Just make sure your RAID controller won't get saturated by whatever you're putting on it via either SSD or any other RAID.

4. That really depends upon a ton of variables.

5. Depends upon network traffic. Most likely you won't need it. But if you're using iSCSI... or any other HEAVY traffic back and forth between your servers, then you'll want to look into it. Otherwise... I kind of doubt your end-users will be able to saturate your NICs well enough to really have to worry about TOE as it's primarily for internal networks.

6. I have in the past. It's a single point of failure that you can easily address these days. It HAS saved my bacon in one or two instances.

7. If you're doing SaaS just make sure your SLAs permit you to NOT incur much down time. Otherwise, I'd highly recommend clustering - even if you end up using significantly lower-powered hardware on the passive node. Otherwise, I'm partial to log shipping as I've spent a few too many cases tracking down strange/goofy performance bottlenecks that keep mirroring from keeping up with really large workloads... Remember too that when building SQL Server Clusters, you only have to pay the SQL Server License for the sockets on the biggest (potentially) ACTIVE cluster. i.e., if you get a 4 CPU box (with 4 cores per CPU) you'd 'only' have to pay $100k for 4xEnterprise Licenses of SQL Server because you don't need to license the passive nodes in the cluster. (Though, you DO have to license the OS on those boxes - and pay for their hardware, obviously.)

October 14, 2009 12:30 AM

Calin Oprea said:

2. SAS 15K rpm. is the choice. Apart from that, HP hardware, so I cannot advice regarding DELL.

3. Yes

4. My experience as a DBA told me this: 2 X QUAD, 8 GB of RAM and a poorly configured disk subsystem (meaning 2 X RAID 5, 3 disks each, 2 databases) could cope with around 400 users (one DB was writing logs, while the other was being read, mostly). The trouble started when maintenance was to take place:-) (I did index defrags weekly, full backups weekly, plus daily diffs, to mention a few).

7. I had a cluster; apart from that, the thing with mirroring is rather simple: depends on what you log: index rebuilds I know to be a nightmare. I also remember seeing a discussion like this on one of the forums (was is SQL Server Central?) and for a heavily loaded server, only one DB could be mirrored, while on a light one, around 25 DBs were mirrored. So pick your choice:-).

October 14, 2009 3:58 AM

Jonathan said:

1. R900 and the occasional R710

2. SAS 15K

3. Yes

6. Yes

October 14, 2009 5:13 PM

rjbook said:

This is just my personal opinion (based on experience) but I would say Dell makes great desktop machines but has been lacking in the high end server market. My company used to buy Compaq Proliant Servers (way back when) and then switched to Dell Servers because they were much cheaper. And that is what they were, much cheaper, we had many hardware and firmware issues that affected our database servers and to make a long story short we switched back to HP servers a few years ago and have been very satisfied (no more pages at 2AM because server has crashed). Again this is past history and perhaps Dell has improved their machines recently but since you were soliciting opinions I wanted to share mine.

October 16, 2009 1:00 PM
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About Paul Nielsen

Paul Nielsen believes SQL is the romance language of data. As such he’s a hands-on database developer, Microsoft SQL Server MVP, trainer, and author of SQL Server Bible series (Wiley). As a data architect, he developed the concepts of Smart Database Design and Nordic – an open source O/R dbms for SQL Server. He lives in Colorado Springs.

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