Recommendations or comments for a x3350 server build?

By Neon Samurai ·
I am spec?ing three servers and am a little shocked at how hard it is to talk to anyone at IBM who can answer some simple questions. This isn?t a rant about IBM; just the reason for why I come to ask here. Has anyone experience with the x3350 servers? Have you recommendations or comments on the hardware setup?

The primary recommendation I?m getting is ?buy a Dell ?pizza box?? but the x3350 is the chosen box so it?s just to figure out the specific options. The system will be used as a webserver with a twin hosting the database. The software side will be supported in-house so this is just about the hardware. My ideal general specs:

- rack mounted

- redundant storage; 4 hot swap hard drives in RAID5 tolerating loss of one or two at the same time

- redundant power; two hot swap power supplies with hot swap cooling fans

- 4 gig ram 800?s

- 1 dual core xeon

The variable is in the storage as the rest is strait forward.

Option A ? SATA RAID0
Option B ? SATA RAID1
Option C ? SAS RAID0
Option D ? SAS RAID1
Option E ? SAS RAID1e

The chassis has four 2.5? slots so that?s the limit I have to work within.

- My understanding is that RAID0 simply combines multiple disks into a single space rather than providing the ability for one failed drive in the array to be reconstructed. I need to be able to pull a drive, put a clean one in and have the lost drive?s data restored but this seems like a RAID1/RAID5 thing. Is this correct and is this also a feature of RAID1e?

- Will the x3350 provide hotswaping with SATA? The webform does not seem to list hot swap drives with the SATA option selected.

- I?ve seen two drives stripped then mirrored to a third as a backup but that means loosing two drives destroys the install where including a fourth drive also mirrored seems like overkill. Given four slots and possibility of primary and secondary raid arrays, is there a better way to setup the drives?

Any tips or comments are welcome though I?m now reaching out do to needing answers in a shorter time than IBM seems to be able to accommodate.

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All Answers

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Well instead of dealing with Sales Staff you could speak to a Tech

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to Recommendations or commen ...

At IBM to see what is actually available as apposed to what is currently in Stock.

Now for your questions yes you are correct RAID 10 is Stripped and is for a Performance improvement not for Redundancy.

For Hot Swap SATA I don't think that these exist as they are different from Normal SATA Drives it's not just a matter of bunging in a Drive hoping for the best you need to use drives made to do things like this.

Depending on what you want to achieve the way that a RAID is initially configured depends on what is required. if Redundancy is Imperative then using the 4 drive option is the best way to go but if performance is required then Striping is the best way to go. Unfortunately you can not have both as they are the opposite of each other.

Instead of considering HDD Configuration for the actual Hardware have you considered NAS for your Data Files and only keep the OS and associated software on the server? The likely hood of loosing 2 drives at the same time is remote but it can happen so how important is Downtime?

Also have you considered holding cloned Drives so that they can be swapped and you be up and running in the time of a reboot for a OS Drive collapse and the time of a change of Hot Swap Drives in the case of a Data Raid Failure?


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I'd love to get through to a tech

by Neon Samurai In reply to Well instead of dealing w ...

I'm pretty amazed at how hard it is to simply talk to
someone about clarifying the "build your own" options
from the website. Who knew throwing money at a
company could be so hard.

Anyhow, the primary concern is up time. The two servers
will go into a rack farm so they are not easily accessed.
They need to remain on and functioning. If a drive dies,
the rack hosting company staffer needs to be able to slap
a new drive in and leave the server ticking along with no
visible hickup from the outside. Speed is less of a concern
since the bottleneck is going to be the network
connections not the drive bus.

One of the tests before we move the servers to the
hosting location will be to pull a drive, slap a fresh one in
and confirm that the server keeps on running happily. I
have other fun tests I get to abuse the machines with in
testing but pulling a drive to simulate a failure is one of
the big hardware ones.

I find it odd that IBM doesn't offer raid5 for the SAS drives
but such seems to be the case. Having four mirrored
drives in the array would provide redundancy at the who-
hah but seems more like a waste of resources through
overkill. Having two mirrored drives in the array seems
like gambling for a double failure. Three mirrored drives
seems to be the middle ground so far but at the price of
SAS drives, it still feels like paying triple the price for one
drive rather than one image plus redundancy.

Your cloned drive idea is going into my plan. I was
actually wondering how to hold an emergency drive image
and with mirroring, it should image itself naturally but
sticking it in the machine from time to time for a "sync".
Maybe the system order sheet needs four mirrored drives
with one being pulled as the emergency image but I'd
have to confirm that this doesn't leave an empty slot open
in the front of the cassis.

I basically have a budget window to upgrade from the
existing single server web/database setup too a much
more ideal setup with no idea when the next opening in
the budget for servers will come along. Management's
primary objective for the project is security in the
penetration hardened, internal staff accidental damages
and disaster recovery senses of the word. I can mitigate
most of it through the software side with more flexibility
but once the hardware goes it, it will have to be there a

I've built tower systems since I could walk but not had opportunity to RAID any of them. It's also my first rack
install but once I'm past the hardware selection, the rest is
familiar software.

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Well what can I say IBM is IBM funny place to work

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to I'd love to get through t ...

And I believe even harder to deal with but as it's been a very long time since I worked for that crowd I can understand the Accountants taking over the place and making life difficult. Hell it wasn't that easy when we where keeping the Main Frames up and running but now God only knows what the Management is doing.

Unfortunately I don't play with this little stuff so I'm not overly up to speed with what they are currently offering. The only stuff of theirs like this that I currently am working with is a few old Netfinity 5000 that I took home with me when a ISP was replacing all of their hardware so I'm way out of touch with the smaller stuff.

I've just had a look see at the 3350 and it's a cute little play toy though according to the PDF File IBM do offer a RAID 5 Option but it's included with the optional ServeRAID MR1021 card whatever that is. Well (I actually have a fair idea just no idea on the cost

The x3350 is upgradeable to full RAID-10/5/6 support, using the optional ServeRAID-MR10i card.

I think I can understand where you are running into problems this appears to be very much a base line product and if the people at IBM are anything like what they where when I worked there they are just not interested as there isn't anywhere enough Commission for them with these.

The bit about the RAID 5 is on page 2 third Paragraph down from the top and starts with Integrated RAID-0/1

Judging by the same document I would also opt for the redundant PS as you want the Uptime to be maxed out as much as possible. I just don't trust IBM to be overly fast with parts when they are required though.

Just a thought though as this will be using 2.5 Inch SAS Drives have you considered SSD Drives? The Write Speed will not be an issue and they could be more reliable in a position like this as a Simple RAID 1 running SATA instead of SAS Drives. Knowing what IBM charge for things it may be cheaper to use Standard 2.5 Inch Solid State Drives as a RAID 1 with a couple of Spares in hand. The savings may even pay for the Redundant PS as well.

Just a thought there and probably not any help.


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I'm really starting to wonder if I can get an extension on the project

by Neon Samurai In reply to Well what can I say IBM i ...

.. go back and review the Dell rack boxes again.

My only concern with SSD would be write limits. Platters will take much longer to hit the right limit on a website or database with constant writes going on. Are SSD write limits that much better? It's not a direct comparison but if the life expectancy of my flashdrives is any indication .. (they get a lot of traffic)

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Well again I'm no expert here

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to I'm really starting to wo ...

As I don't test these products to destruction these days at least. But for a appliance where they are used to read from and not used to write to a lot they should perform faster and more reliably than a Mechanical HDD.

The only real current problem with them is the actual Write Speed which is still considerably slower than it is on a Mechanical HDD. Maybe I'm mistaken here but I would have thought that as you will have no direct Control Over these units that they would be used to actually Store Data for Distribution and not used so much for actually saving data to.

I suppose it all depends on what these units are being used for and as I came from a Security Background where we never let data out of our control I was thinking along those lines but that may not be the case here. Sorry but I've been out all day and not near anyplace where I could log on with my NB so it's just been one of those days. If you would like to Peer Mail me it may be faster . It would be a lot more secure as it wouldn't be listed on a Public Forum.

But if this is of any help with the upper end Ruggerized NB's being sold these days they all come fitted with SSD Drives. Maybe for this market they are best as a Mechanical HDD does suffer damage from being moved around where a SSD Drive can not. I was really just thinking if these units where being used as a Dispersal Node that SSD Drives could be an alternative that is worthwhile for this application and maybe be a help with the need to stay within Budget.


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Cheers, you've been a big help

by Neon Samurai In reply to Well again I'm no expert ...

Not all of it applying to my current project either which is even better in my way of thinking.

I'm expanding the hardware selection to compare Dell offerings also. A few options from only one vendor does not make a selection from due dilligence after all. In constrast, Dell's website has been much easier to navigate and understand in general. The base units have a very good level of detail in the feature list and the customize forms leave me with less questions.

They both have rack chassis. They both have redundant hot swap power, cooling and drives. IBM has four slots where Dell ofer's two slots in the models we're comparing. Currently, the variable will be how well both companies respond and what experiences various IT folk I know have in interacting with both.

I can see how these sizes rank in about the range of a gameboy after working with the true big iron beasts.

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Well the differences in both companies are mainly

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Cheers, you've been a big ...

Dell doesn't have different devisions to deal with specialized Product. IBM on the otter hand has lots of different departments with a small product range so the staff there when you can get them to talk to you should know their product well. Unlike at a place like Dell where when you ring them the person who you get to talk to was selling a Celeron Home System to a Basic End User on the last call. So they will not know the product as well.

Out of those 2 offerings I would have to say that IBM offers the better product but has a worse First Point Contact Service. They really are a strange company but have Excellent Products which will work better well in my experience at least and I'm certainly no lover of IBM as a company at least. Their Hardware with the exception of the DeskStar HDD's I just can not fault it's way too good for what it is.

Also don't forget the old saying No One Ever Got Fired for Buying IBM it's still true and while they are far more expensive they are also a far Superior product I wouldn't be expecting a Dell Server to be running in 10 years but would be very surprised if a IBM one wasn't.

Of course IBM has a habit of spinning off various Devisions like their HDD Side and they sell these off to the competition like their HDD's where sold to Hitachi, their Printers Devision was sold to Lexmark and their NB's where more recently sold to Lenovo. Not sure that IBM has restarted their HDD Devision again but their printer side they most defiantly have and I can see that their NB Side will be restarted in a few years too as the Lenovo's are just not in the same boat as the old IBM Think Pads. They are just Nice but are nowhere near the Brilliant product that IBM was making.


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Cheers Hal

by Neon Samurai In reply to Cheers, you've been a big ...

I'm taking some time to let the romantic blush with both companies fade. Also, with two companies to compare, I now have more of a valid due diligence approach. I'll have to see what both representatives respond with then compare service, SLA options and hardware. IBM, four drives in the chassis means I can do three drives mirrored for redundancy. Dell means two drives in the chassis only but may present faster parts and service turn around times.

I'm not sure on the outcome yet until I'm able to compare final parts lists and services. I appreciate the counter point opinion though. If the decision was notebooks and Panasonic Toughbooks where out of it, I'd just go Lenovo and be on to the software stage of the project.

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Looks like I made a Boo Bo

by OH Smeg Moderator In reply to Cheers, you've been a big ...

Congratulations Neon Samurai You win the prize that Sonja has offered to get me well my alter ego Hal 9000 off the 666 Thumbs.


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one must help when they can.

by Neon Samurai In reply to Cheers, you've been a big ...

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