forge

The Monster Server Project: Reflections

I’ve posted about my work on my monster server a few times over the last 6 months. The initial post shared the setup and basic configuration. The follow up post just filled you in that I was able to change drive jumpers on my SATA drives. This post is a bit different because it’s a reflection on how things have come together and what my thoughts are on the whole situation.

First, I have to say it’s been a fun project because I miss the infrastructure work that I used to do more of. Most of the stuff that I’m working with isn’t stuff that even medium size businesses are getting to work with. so I got a ton of very practical experience. On the other hand, I’ve realized that the costs of the project are really out of sync with the value returned. Because of my decision to use VMWare Infrastructure/ESX I had fairly limited options on external storage and cabinets. That meant doing iSCSI and as cool as it is, it’s probably not something that I would have done if I had a direct attached storage option. Frankly iSCSI just adds cost to the system that the direct attached storage solution doesn’t have. It may seem obvious that direct attached storage should be cheaper and getting more direct attached storage in a server requires more vertical height or an external drive cabinet — but I didn’t initially realize how much storage I was going to want/need. In fairness, the overall height of the solution is about the same between the RS8IP and what I would have needed to do with an external drive cabinet.

Perhaps the biggest surprise with iSCSI was the fact that it meant that I had to deal with finding a high performance GigE switch. As I , I’m still looking for a low-cost, high performance GigE switch with dual power supplies. (If you know of one please contact me.) The Linksys switch I’m using right now is dropping packets even in lightly loaded situations. Sure I can try to call them and get a replacement — however, I’m not exactly keen on calling technical support for company. I’ve had a hard time locating a dual power supply GigE switch — and I really want one since my friends at BlueLock have dual power sources available — and since I’ve got disk traffic running across it I really want the packets to make it to the other end of the wire.

I still like the project and the end result — however, I’ll love it more once I get a GigE switch that doesn’t drop packets.