A Secure, Well-Managed Disaster Zone

I owe a great debt to Microsoft Canada (Damir!) and Hewlett Packard Canada (Laurie!) who came through to supply me with a server for my last two projects.  If you happen to find yourself in the market for a server for a small to mid-sized company I cannot think of a better product than the HP ProLiant DL-585 G2 that I have been using since May.  It truly is everything that I could ever ask for in a server, and has been running my virtual environment flawlessly and without so much as a hiccup.  

Let me give you a little bit of information on this machine – that I have often described as the server G-d would buy if he were running a mid-sized corporation.  It is a 4U rack-mounted server with hot plug redundant power supplies.  Forgetting the basic configuration, the model that I have been working with has four dual-core 2.8GHz AMD Opteron CPUs, sixteen gigabytes of RAM, and six hot plug high-speed SAS (serial attached SCSI) drives (2x 72 GB for the system drive, 4x individual 146 GB drives for storage and virtual machines – all 15,000 rpm).  It has a fibre channel host bus adapter, dual gigabit NICs, and HP's server management package which I have come to love – Integrated Lights Out 2 (iLO 2) Standard Management.

In a word, this server rocks.  It would fit in perfectly in any company's data centre.  Having said all of that, I do not necessarily recommend it for your home office to sit under (or on top of) your desk, as I have had it for the past few months.  There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. The server is not quiet.  If you are a long-time reader of my blog (back to the days when it resided on www.mitpro.ca) you may have read about the Hovercraft, my old PowerEdge 4300 server which sat on the floor of my apartment in Ville St-Laurent and ran my mail server (see http://mitchgarvis.com/blogs/mitch/archive/2007/06/27/the-dell-hovercraft-is-officially-retired.aspx).  We called it the hovercraft because it was loud.  Well, this server is louder; initially it scared the puppies, though the entire family has grown used to its sounds from behind the closed door of my office.  For several weeks I continued to work in the office despite the noise, but eventually realized that laptops and wifi routers allowed me to escape the constant headaches.
  2. The server generates heat.  I do not mean it kicks the thermostat by a degree or two; I mean that if the central heating goes out in the winter we can all sit comfortably in a room with this server going… as long as we brought ear plugs.  Occasionally during the HP DL-585 G2summer Theresa would turn the air conditioner to max… I understand that she just does not like the heat.  Whenever it got too chilly for me I would just go down to my office and warm up for a bit.  Not to say that my office is not air conditioned… but the server wins!
  3. The server is not light.  The ProLiant DL-585 G2 is a lot of things, but it has never been accused of being portable.  The configuration that I described above weighs just shy of one hundred and fifty pounds.  When I picked it up it took two of us to carry it to my car, and when I got it home I had to remove the central processing unit (40 lbs) and carry it into the house in two parts.  I do not recommend putting it on your desk without doing some serious weight-capacity testing first.
  4. The server is not small.  19" wide by 26.5" deep by 6.94" tall (48.3cm x 67.3 cm x 17.6 cm) is a perfect size for a server room… if it had four legs three people could comfortably sit at it for afternoon tea.  In a word, it is BIG.

Clean Office Back in May I actually brought the server with me to Montreal.  I drove, not because I couldn't write off the airfare, but because Air Canada laughed at me when I suggested I wanted to bring a 150lbs delicate oversized piece of carry-on luggage.  As I drove down the 401 it occurred to me that my Toyota Matrix had more computing power in it than the entire space program that launched the first few space shuttles, and likely more CPU cycles than the entire world did when Ronald Reagan was elected president.  The concierge at both hotels I stayed at were not entirely sure that I was not secretly playing a practical joke on them, and looked around for hidden cameras.  Needless to say they both expected (and received) sizeable tips for helping me to and from my rooms!

Over the past few years I have professed to anyone who would listen the need for a secure, well Desk with Servermanaged infrastructure.  Part of that should be a clean environment, and I am afraid that I have fallen quite short of that goal.  Several months ago I posted about how Theresa and I cleaned out our office together (http://mitchgarvis.com/blogs/mitch/archive/2008/02/04/an-organized-office-and-the-journey-into-the-unknown.aspx).  I took a picture at the time of what my desk looked like (see left).   Unfortunately the past few months my desk area has not looked exactly like that, what with the server and all (see right).  I took the picture this morning before removing the server, which thanks to months of air purification and cleaning (after adopting out our cats) has now been re-homed to the basement, where it will probably spend the rest of its life.

Now that I have a little bit of time (between contracts) I am going to spend a few days rebuilding my network environment… I look forward to taking the time to plan both the physical and virtual environment to my liking… a project that I am looking forward to tackling that will let me get back to being a system administrator for a bit!  I'm sure that when that project is done I will be proud to blog about how my home network is organized… until then, have a great week-end!

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