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Infrastructure Ripple Effect – The Story of Servers, Racks, and Power

A few months ago I decided that I needed a new server. (It was actually several months ago but a few months ago I gave in and decided to buy it.) My server infrastructure was outdated. I did pickup a new server to put at the collocation center a year and a half ago. However, that server isn’t local to me and I still need something that is local for file storage, DNS, DHCP, etc.

I also needed to have a Hyper V host machine for some work I’m doing with Microsoft on the 10232A “Designing Applications and Solutions for Microsoft SharePoint 2010” class. (i.e. Professional SharePoint Development course). My Lenovo T61p laptop doesn’t work as a HyperV host – or at least hasn’t worked until recently. Ultimately the fact that HyperV disables Suspend and Hybernate means it’s not a good fit for the laptop.

So I decided to buy a Dell R710 rackmount server. I added some processors, memory, disks, etc. so that it can be a complete virtualization platform here in my office. I did get the remote access card so I could check on the server while I’m not here. Anyway, that seemed like it was all good, I mean I had other servers in my rack already … that was until it arrived.

I had conveniently forgotten that I had a telecommunications rack which is only 24 inches deep and servers (at least the professional servers) expect a 30″ deep rack. Setting the server into my old rack was semi-comical as it was sticking out both the front and back of the rack. So… I picked up a new rack. An IBM NetBay 25U rack that works pretty well in the space I have. The rack is way oversized for the 2U of server and the 1U of switch gear. However, 25U was the right size at the right price.

When I ordered the server I picked up dual power supplies to minimize points of failure. Of course, if you have two power supplies you might as well have two different electrical circuits – so I paid the handyman to install a second 20 amp circuit into my server/storage room. (I even had him put it on the opposite leg of the power just in case we had a single leg power failure.) That lead to a desire to have two UPSs… and they might as well be rackmount since I’ve got all of the extra space in the rack. I’ve had good experience with APC UPSs both personally and professionally so I settled on the SUA2200RM2U – 2200VA or a full 20Amp capacity.

This lead me to try to install the APC PowerChute software on the Dell which by now was running HyperV and several virtual machines. What I discovered is that the Power Chute software didn’t support Hyper-V. A bit of research lead me to seeing Ben’s post about support or UPSs in Windows. That’s fine but I really wanted automated testing and better support than is available out of Windows.

Of course, the PowerChute Network Shutdown supports Hyper V. So I buy the network cards for the UPSs and install them. After some real fun trying to get them configured because you have to use the APC serial cable – and you have to disconnect the USB connection before the serial port will work. I finally get them configured and discover that despite what an APC agent told me the PowerChute Network Shutdown software (free) doesn’t support HyperV. Instead, there’s a specific HyperV version that does support Windows HyperV hosts – but of course it costs another $99. (At this point I’m not too concerned about the cost but it is frustrating that it isn’t included with the network cards and that an agent had told me it wasn’t necessary.)

I still don’t have it all configured exactly as I want it. However, at least the fundamentals are in place. I’ve probably got one more purchase to make. My Linksys switch SGE2000 can have a secondary power supply (an RPS1000) attached to it. The RPS1000 would allow me to have one power supply plugged into the first UPS and the second one into the secondary power supply. Thus the switch would keep running even if the first UPS had a problem. I wouldn’t do this except that now that I have the UPSs on network cards the switch becomes a point of failure in a power outage situation.

I am reminded that any change creates a ton of little ripples.