Hardware

Great Alternative to Replace 15K SAS Drives [UPDATED]

One of the most expensive things to replace on servers these days are the 2.5" 15K SAS drives. Having many HP ProLiant servers at my place of employment, getting these drives from HP is a pricy thing for the average small business. Thanks to some clever work by my company's System Administrator, we found a great alternative if you don't care to or do not have warranty coverage for your servers.

It seems to me that the most expensive thing to replace in servers today is the spinning disks. My company has many HP ProLiant servers including the 360, 380 and 580 series servers. The modern generations of these servers, the G6, G7 and Gen8, all utilize the 2.5" 15,000 rpm SAS drives from either Seagate or Hitatchi. When looking at the 146GB sizing of these drives, I typically see pricing from $168 up to $252 per drive for HP name brand drives. Yes, these drives come with HP's warranty but in some cases, that is useless. An example is my company in healthcare. If the drive had ePHI (electronic Patient Health Information), I have to wipe or destroy the drive. If the drive was bad and I can't wipe it, then I have to destroy it. HP will not certify destruction so I have to do it myself thus buying a new drive anyways.

With the majority of warranties covering hardware replacement and the restrictions my team was under, we moved from getting warranties to not getting warranties and just having stores available to change out when problems arise. Now, we needed to tackle the high costs we were seeing. As I said, my Systems Administrator did some digging and searching online and found the Seagate Savvio 15K.2 ST9146852SS Hard Drives. This was an exact replacement for our 146GB 15K SAS drives on our servers. It was a solid replacement spec for spec and the pricing even caught our eye … $96 per drive. You are seeing that correct, $96 per drive. To sweeten the deal even more, I could order these drives off Amazon with my Prime and get them 2 days later in hand. The Amazon vendor selling them, Yobitech, was solid with their customer support and gets my backing for supporting the Prime shipping requirements. They were a pleasure to work with and I will be going back to them with more purchasing.

Are you utilizing your warranties or are other business needs blocking you from using them? What do you think of having stores of spare parts instead of buying warranty programs from vendors? Put your thoughts below in the comments section.

UPDATE: I just noted that the price from Yobitech was $120 per drive. The lower $96 per drive cost is from another vendor. The drives themselves are solid and worth every penny. I am ordering from the new vendor and will update on how the customer service is.

Easy Caddy for SSD Drives, Part 2

I wrote in an earlier article about a 2.5" drive caddy that holds two 2.5" drives in a 3.5" drive bay. I purchased 3 of them to install in systems at my home. I finally got the first installed into my Mediacenter PC and I am in love! If you have smaller form factor drives in a system with 3.5" bays, you got to get yourself one of these.

Samsung830-128GBIn several of my systems, I have moved from the internal hard disk drives to SSDs, specifically Samsung 830 SSD's. They are great performing drives and have incredible longevity from my experience. Other SSD manufacturers have fallen short while the Samsung 830's continue to impress me. I am at the point of having almost all of my systems utilizing Samsung 830's of some size where I manage the hardware.

When installing the SSD's into the systems, there is no easy way to install. Some manufacturers included a 2.5" to 3.5" installation piece but none of my Samsung 830's included that. As such, they were set into the case loose because there was no good place to install them. Since they have no moving pieces, I was not worried at all. I did want to find a better way to keep them and found it thanks to Amazon.

In searching around, I found the StarTech.com 2 Drive 2.5-Inch Trayless Hot Swap SATA Mobile Rack Backplane (HSB220SAT25B). This allows users to manage two separate 2.5" form factor SATA drives while it is installed in a 3.5" drive bay. Each drive has its own power and SATA connector and offers an easy to use system to insert and lock the drive into the bay. Another advantage is the fact that you do not need to use a special tray for drive installation; you just push the drive into the bay and lock down the front panel/arm to seat the drive.

My first installation was into my Mediacenter where I had two SSDs installed, a Samsung 830 128GB boot drive and a Samsung 830 256GB data drive. Removing the drives and setting up the backplane was simple. I installed the StarTech.com Backplane into the 3.5" floppy drive bay, making a beautiful installation.

This was a very easy installation for me. I can't wait to get these installed into my servers with their SSD's. One thing I can test there is that my servers have hot swap capabilities. I will make one more post on that specific installation.

Do you have SSD's in your systems? Could you use an installation system like this to help you? What have you used for installation of small SSD's into your cases?

Easy Caddy for SSD Drives

As I am working on my systems at home, I am noticing a larger use of 2.5 inch drives in my systems. This is due to the increased use of solid state drives (SSD). In fact, in my newer server rig I spoke about, I have mirrored SSDs for the OS. To help make it easier for installation of these drives into my systems, I looked for a nice drive caddy and found one!

Solid State Drives are a new standard anymore for computer systems, especially for operating systems and data that is needed fast. The larger, "slower" platter-based drives are great for storage long-term and of large data that does not need to be returned fast. I have seen servers that receive, process and forward files onto other systems outperform the software written to do this when SSD's are used.

In my home network, I have replaced almost all of the operating system drives in my systems with SSD's. The one problem I have had in most of my applications is the physical installation of the drive. Some drives include a 2.5" drive to 3.5" drive installation kit. This is not very common though. On top of that, easy access to the drives in case of failures is a priority for me. This was more important with my original SSD's but has not been an issue with the Samsung 830's I have been using lately. (I am knocking on wood now that I have jinxed myself here.)

Going through Amazon, I think I found the answer … StarTech.com 2 Drive 2.5-Inch Trayless Hot Swap SATA Mobile Rack Backplane (HSB220SAT25B). It provides a dual 2.5" trayless installation point within a 3.5" drive space. In looking at all of my systems, there is an old 3.5" floppy area. I never use this anymore for drives, sometimes installing a media card reader.

Given this, I am ordering a few in to try out this weekend in my systems. I will post an update to this post to give you all my findings and some technical knowledge from Rick Smith on how the backplane has been built to provide the hot swap capabilities.

My new Hyper-V Rig

We all want new toys, right? That excitement about opening the gifts … wondering what was inside … hoping for exactly what you want … the thrill of seeing the new toy. I remember my birthday and Christmas of many prior years; the excitement of the wrapped packages; the adrenaline as the wrappings are pulled off; the joy on my face as the new thing was in my hands. Those are the same feelings that we get into today. While I may be the one buying those gifts, the joy of opening everything I get from the places I order from.

In January, I read a blog entry (http://www.expta.com/2012/01/blistering-fast-windows-server-parts.html) by Jeff Guillet (pronounced GEE-yay for all of you) about his new Hyper-V server rig for his home lab. Reading through, I was really interested in building my own rig. I have my own machine right now. It has a Quad core processor with 12 GB of RAM and running Windows Server 2008 R2 from my TechNet licensing. This has allowed me to do some testing of systems like Exchange 2010, SQL Server 2005 and 2008, Windows Server, client virtual machines, and Windows Home Server. This rig has been pretty good at providing me what I need for testing but I have to run specific machines at differing times because of the processor and memory restrictions. I also have learned how to run machines on smaller footprints; something I can't tell is a good or bad thing.

Since reading this great article, I started in on my own certification path via the "60 Days to MCSE". In this endeavor, I realized that my current Hyper-V host was not large enough to use for this. I sat down with Rick Smith (@slegsmith) from my IT team at my day job to discuss what Jeff put together. The goal of this system was to utilize as much newer technology, have a minimum of 32GB of memory for virtual machines, and responsive drives for the virtual machines as well. In the end, Rick came up with some great hardware. I was lucky enough to have a case and power supply already but had to get motherboard, CPU, memory, and storage drives. Here is the order I made:

Part Name Quan Price Part Total
CPU Intel Core i5-2500 3.3 GHz 6 MB Cache Socket LGA1155 Processor 1 $209 $209
MB ASUS LGA 1155 - Z68 - PCIe 3.0 and UEFI BIOS Intel Z68 ATX DDR3 2200 LGA 1155 Motherboards P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 1 $201 $201
RAM Komputerbay 32GB ( 4 X 8GB ) DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz DIMM with Low Profile Heatspreaders 240-Pin Dual / Quad Channel RAM Desktop Memory KIT 9-9-9-24 XMP ready 1 $179 $179
SSD Samsung 830-Series MZ-7PC128B/WW 128GB SATA III MLC Internal SSD 6.0 Gb-s 2.5-Inch MZ-7PC128B 2 $129 $258
HDD Western Digital Velociraptor 600 GB SATA III 10000 RPM 32 MB Cache Bulk/OEM 3.5 Inch Desktop Hard Drive - WD6000HLHX 3 $209 $627
  Pricing as of 6/21/12   Total $1474

I finally got this system together in late May and I fell totally in love with this rig. I was able to put it all together and start building it with Windows Server 2008 R2 as a Hyper-V host. I could have built it with a "core" install but I have run into issues in management of "core" installs in the past. Once everything was installed, I was very impressed with the performance. To verify my person observations, I ran some performance tunes and got the following results:

Storage Performance Statistics

The Samsung SSD Mirror RAID statistics were:

SSDs-WS2008R2

The Velociraptor statistics were:

Velociraptor-WS2008R2

Memory and CPU Statistics

Memory Reads

CPU

Clockspeed

In MHz

Product

 

Memory Type

Memory Timing

Memory Read
in MB/s

Core i7-3960X Extreme

3300

Intel DX79SI

X79

Quad DDR3-1600

9-9-9-24 CR2

16788

Core i7-2600

3400

Asus P8P67

P67

Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

16252

Core i5-2500

3500

My system

Z68 Int.

Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR2

15813

FX-6100

3300

Asus Sabertooth 990FX

AMD990FX

Dual DDR3-1866

9-9-9-24 CR1

14202

Core i7-990X Extreme

3466

Intel DX58SO2

X58

Triple DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

14174

 
Memory Writes

CPU

Clockspeed

In MHz

Product

 

Memory Type

Memory Timing

Memory Read in MB/s

Core i7-2600

3400

Asus P8P67

P67

Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

18438

Core i5-2500

3500

My system

Z68 Int.

Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR2

18134

Core i7-3960X Extreme

3300

Intel DX79SI

X79

Quad DDR3-1600

9-9-9-24 CR2

15095

Core i7-990X Extreme

3466

Intel DX58SO2

X58

Triple DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

12544

Core i7-965 Extreme

3200

ASUS P6T Deluxe

X58

Triple DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

12064

 

CPU ZLib

CPU

Clockspeed

In MHz

Product

 

Memory Type

Memory Timing

Calc Memory in MB/s

4x Core i7-965 Extreme HT

3200

ASUS P6T Deluxe

X58

Triple DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

214.2

6x Phenom II X6 1055T

2800

Gigabyte GA-790FXTA-UD5

AMD790FX

Unganged Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

208.2

Core i5-2500

3500

My system

Z68 Int.

Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR2

198.8

8x Xeon L5320

1866

Intel S5000VCL

i5000V

Dual DDR2-533FB

4-4-4-12

180.5

6x FX-6100

3300

Asus Sabertooth 990FX

AMD990FX

Dual DDR3-1866

9-9-9-24 CR1

176.3

 

CPU Queen

CPU

Clockspeed

In MHz

Product

 

Memory Type

Memory Timing

Score

8x Xeon E5462

2800

Intel S5400SF

i5000V

Quad DDR2-640FB

5-5-5-15

41694

4x Core i7-965 Extreme HT

3200

ASUS P6T Deluxe

X58

Triple DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

37793

Core i5-2500

3382

My system

Z68 Int.

Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR2

32064

8x Opteron 2378

2400

Tyan Thunder n3600R

i5000V

Dual DDR2-533FB

6-6-6-18 CR1

30782

6x Phenom II X6 1055T

2800

Gigabyte GA-790FXTA-UD5

AMD790FX

Unganged Dual DDR3-1333

9-9-9-24 CR1

27770

 

 

The tools I used were:

I had started to build my SCCM environment but ran into time constraints before I was able to go to MS TechEd. After I returned home, I reinstalled the OS with Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate and just have to say "WOW!" Instead of running the 3 Velociraptors in a RAID or as separate drives, as I had with my initial install of Windows 2008 R2, I created a storage pool across the 3 drives with parity. This makes it act as a RAID but not using a RAID card and the through put was amazing; my IOPs were through the roof. Here are the different HDD Tune Pro results:

The Samsung SSD Mirror RAID statistics were:

  SSDs-WS2012

The Velociraptor statistics were:

  StoragePool-WS2012

Clearly, the storage pool is the way to go for me in this build. I will blog again about how it is working in a few weeks.

Jared