How to run your business on four rack units

With a little hardware and a lot of virtualization, you can keep 50 to 100 users happy -- and you don't even need much horsepower

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Looking at this data center microcosm, we see I'm easily running a varied workload on low-power, low-cost chips, servers, and storage, and I have plenty of room to grow. If anything, this is where smaller infrastructures need to be concentrating.

When planning and specifying servers for new virtualization projects, it's enticing to go with the biggest, baddest, fastest CPUs in an effort to "future-proof" the resulting infrastructure. The theory is that if you get the newest, fastest chips available, they'll have a longer usable lifespan than if you go with cheaper, slower CPUs. However, the returns on that investment may not always be what you think.

The fact is a significant number of virtualized infrastructures use far less CPU resources than anything else. They chew up RAM, but RAM is cheap and easily added. Spending money on RAM and faster disk is almost always going to provide better overall results than dropping several thousand dollars per CPU on the fastest chips on the market.

There's always a question of redundancy as well. Having only two servers running an entire company's server infrastructure may seem precarious to many, but the reality is that with the load-balancing and high-availability features in modern virtualization solutions, both servers would have to fail at the same time to actually take down everything. If it's that much of a concern, you can always add one or two servers later on instead of just increasing the RAM in the existing boxes. The primary storage in this case may not have redundant controllers, but it does have redundant power supplies and is easily backed up to the QNAP box through the use of simple rsync.

This solution isn't tuned or spec'd for anything beyond normal small- to medium-sized-business computing needs. However, the fact that the cost of all of these components is well under $20,000 and can support a significant number of users is certainly food for thought.

This story, "How to run your business on four rack units," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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