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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm looking to build a server for a non-profit organization with approx. 25-30 users. It has to be cost-effective, low-power, low-noise and space-saving. In the worst case, some downtime is acceptable, data loss is not.
The new server will replace our current one (file server, AD, DC, incremental backups) and may well take additional roles in the future, so virtualization seems the way to go. Plus I'd like to use it to learn and test stuff. Hence I decided to dig into servers and virtualization and while there's still much unclear to me, I'm starting to get the basics. I'm now looking for help finding out what I could do better with the approach I've come up so far.

So far my plan is to go with a SYS-5028D-TN4T and a NAS with RAID1 at a different location as a secondary backup solution. I'll probably pick Windows Server 2016 Standard & Hyper-V (I have some experience with Server 2008 and we need AD & DC).

I'm unsure on how to equip the SYS-5028D-TN4T. It looks like I need:
- 32GB DDR4 reg. ECC.
- A small SSD for the Hypervisor.
- A bigger SSD (SATA or NVMe) for the VM's.
- A 2TB SSD or HDD for the files and profiles (not necessarily RAID1, since everything gets backed up daily and I could easily throw in another drive)
- 2x8TB HDD RAID1 for backups (which will also get copied to the NAS daily)

Does this make sense? Or should I put the Hypervisor and the VM's on the same SSD/NVMe? Or use CAS / HCI?
What else could I do better? Thanks in advance for your help!

211 Posts
Which hypervisor are you going with?
If you go with VMware ESXI, you can run the hypervisor off of a USB. (It's extremely light weight.)

When it comes to calculating the requirements for the server, your best course of action is to take a baseline of the current servers you are running. (Look at RAM and CPU usage while under high load.)

Some Basic Pointers.

1.) Always keep in mind that you will need some overhead for the hypervisor when caluclating requirements.

A.) RAM - Never skimp on RAM, if you do not have enough RAM you can run into a lot of trouble. A good rule of thumb is take the amount of ram your current servers require and multiple it by 1.3 to calculate the RAM needed for your virtual machines. (The ".3" is the overhead for running that VM.)

B.) Processors - Processors, are always a bit more tricky, but allow for a bit more leeway. I would start by seeing how many cores are currently in use by your current server, when under high load, and then use that to calculate the total number of cores your Virtual machines will need.

2.) For a More scientific Approach Check out this guide: vSphere Sizing Formula – CPU & RAM

3.) Also check out this "Server Virtualization Calculator". It is a bit more complex to use, but can be a big help.

I saw you already picked SSDs for your VMs, which is great. These make a world of a difference.

3 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for replying!

It's hard for me to calcualte, since much of the requirements are speculative / in the future. That's why I'm going for "reasonable overkill".

I was told by someone experienced with server builds that since I'll use Windows Server 2016 I'd be better off using Hyper-V since it'll be included. I'm still unsure how the free version of ESXI compares to that.
Anyway, I'll use a small SSD for Hyper-V or a decent USB for ESXI, so there's not that much of a difference in cost.

RAM: 32 GB will be plenty for the moment. And I can easily upgrade it if need be.

NVMe: I'm unsure whether to pick a INTEL SSD DC P3520 PCIe or a SAMSUNG 970 Pro NVMe SSD M.2. The Samsung is cheaper and has better specs, but the heat dissipation is worse.

I thought about using 4 Iron Wolf HDD's in RAID10 and a small NVMe to cache them, but I fail to see significant advantages. And the price would be about the same.

I guess I'll just make sure everything is easily upgradeable, build this thing to the best of my knowledge and go from there.

Premium Member
4,484 Posts
Implementing virtualization with either Hyper-V or ESXi doesn't change the costs associated with the Microsoft Windows licensing.

If you're more comfortable with Windows, stick to Hyper-V. Implementing VMware adds another level of complexity / knowledge that you may not have time to acquire.

If this is for a business, I strongly recommend you go with a brand-name server rather than a whitebox build; just for the hardware warranty. Though if you choose to go with an OEM OS with the server build, you'll also at least get *some* support from OEM for the OS. Otherwise, if you buy the OS separately on a whitebox build, you may find yourself stuck getting support from Microsoft (if you need it).

For such a small organization, unless they're running I/O intensive servers (unlikely), you won't need to run the VMs on SSD storage - it would be "nice", but not necessary.

Remember - Windows Server 2016 Standard only includes licensing for 2 operating system environments. If you install the Hyper-V role by itself on the bare metal, it doesn't count against the 2xOSE. However, if you install Hyper-V and say, DHCP on bare metal, then you're left with only 1 virtual machine license.

Done properly, you should also plan on at least a 2nd domain controller separate from this build.

Also, you should also be able to get significant savings from Microsoft on licensing due to the non-profit status of the organization. As a NGO, you can also get aggressive with hardware vendors on pricing. Just have to assertive :).

Your build should also include redundant power supplies; hence another reason to go brand-name rather than white-box.
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