Should I get a new server?

In 2006 I got myself a new server. The old one was already 7 years old and was at its limit. Memory was tight and the setup was not ideal. For instance, I had 2 internal hard disks with a RAID card and it was just generating a lot of heat and required a lot of cooling. Amazing that it held on for so long.

So in 2006 I got myself a new server. Using a Core Duo processor (not Core 2 Duo) at 1666MHz, one of the first dual core mobile processors. This was of course to reduce power consumption and heat production. To reduce heat production further, I used external hard disks that were put into a separate enclosure. After some time in operation I got myself a 19” rack (of the kind used by musicians) and replaced the external storage by a 19” storage rack. Also, I got a 19” UPS to protect the hardware some more. Another improvement was the use of an Areca ARC-1200 instead of a highpoint rocketraid to get true hardware RAID. Other improvements at that time were the use of logical volume managment and the use of postfix and cyrus instead of sendmail and Universtiy of Washington IMAP.

Over the past weeks I have been looking into managability and backup/restore a bit more. The reason is that this server has been up for already 4 years continuously so failure is becoming more likely every day. To deal with this, I improved my backup strategy so I will lose at most one week of data in case of a problem (or one month in case my house burns down). In any  case, I have tested this procedure and have a documented method to simply boot from the backup and continue running the server. In addition I have setup hard disk monitoring so I should have a bigger chance of knowing beforehand when a drive is going to fail.

But having this worked out this changes the whole picture again.  Now, instead of having to replace the server by a newer one as a precaution, I can just as well run the server until it breaks. But still, some things are still bothering me. For one, it would be really really cool to be able to:

  • run a linux server based on server hardware (for instance low power Intel Xeon L5630)
  • run multiple virtualized domains

In particular, one of my aims is to have a hardware independent server that can just be easily replaced by another one in case of problems. Doing this would require a storage area network (e.g. based on iSCSI) and using hardware virtualization (Intel VT). Paravirtualization is not an option as it increases maintenance problems because it ties host and guest together more (dependency between host and guest versions). A problem that I have currently is that although my current processor supports Intel VT, the motherboard blocks it. Also, I do not have enough memory for such a virtualized setup

So in summary, I am now in a situation that there is basically no need to replace my server. Also, it would feel like a waste to ditch a server which is in perfect working order. However, getting a new server would allow me to do al kinds of new interesting stuff with it and to take the next step to a hardware independent server.Another reason to replace the server by a more silent one. In particular, a low power Xeon processor can be cooled passively and there are also good fanless powersupplies that would enable me to get a really silent system. What should I do? Get a new server or not?

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