The server selection
After the question of platform had been solved, Eric had received the initial capacity planning analysis, which indicated the need for eight or nine dual-socket, quad-core ESX hosts. With that in mind, the IT group turned its focus back to selecting the hardware platform for the revamped datacenter. Because Fergenschmeir already owned a lot of Dell and Hewlett-Packard hardware, the initial conversation centered on those two platforms. Pretty much everyone on Eric’s team had horror stories about both, so they weren’t entirely sure what to do. The general consensus was that HP’s equipment was better in quality but Dell’s cost less. Eric didn’t really care at an intellectual level -- both worked with VMware’s ESX Server, and his team knew both brands. Ed and Mary, the two server administrators, loved HP’s management software, so Eric felt more comfortable with that choice.
Before Eric’s team could get down to picking a server model, Bob made his presence known again by sending an e-mail to Brad that read, “Read about blades in InfoWorld. Goes well with green campaign we’re doing. Get those. On boat; call cell. -- Bob.” It turned out that Bob had made yet another excellent suggestion, given the manageability, power consumption, and air conditioning benefits of a blade server architecture.
Of course, this changed the hardware discussion significantly. Now, the type of storage chosen would matter a lot, given that blade architectures are generally more restrictive about what kinds of interconnects can be used, and in what combination, than standard servers.
For storage, Eric again had to reconsider the skills of his staff. Nobody in his team had worked with any SAN, much less Fibre Channel, before. So he wanted a SAN technology that was cheap, easy to configure, and still high-performance. After reviewing various products, cross-checking the ESX hardware compatibility list, and comparing prices, Eric decided to go with a pair of EqualLogic iSCSI arrays -- one SAS array and one SATA array for high- and medium-performance data, respectively.
This choice then dictated a blade architecture that could support a relatively large number of gigabit Ethernet links per blade. That essentially eliminated Dell from the running, narrowing the choices to HP’s c-Class architecture and Sun’s 6048 chassis. HP got the nod, again due to Mary’s preference for its management software. Each blade would be a dual-socket, quad-core server with 24GB of RAM and 6Gbps Ethernet ports. Perhaps the IT team would increase the amount of RAM per blade through upgrades later if the hosts became RAM-constrained, but this configuration seemed to be a good initial starting place.
The network selection
The next issue to consider was what type of equipment Eric’s team might need to add to the network. Fergenschmeir’s network core consisted of a pair of older Cisco Catalyst 4503 switches, which drew together all of the fiber from the network closets, and didn’t quite provide enough copper density to serve all of the servers in the datacenter. It was certainly not enough to dual-home all of the servers for redundancy. The previous year, someone had added an off-brand gigabit switch to take up the slack, and that obviously needed to go.