Best Practices Question

Over the top server purchasing?

06/06/2012 3336 views

I was recently told to spec out a server that will run a single heavy duty application and required sql database. I gave them a quote for a Dell R710 with 48gb ram and dual Xeon X5660 (6cores @ 2.8ghz). They have it in their heads that this isnt enough. The application is currently running on a Dell R610 with 32gb ram and dual Xeon E5520 (4cores @ 2.27) which sadly has less processing power than my i5 rig at home.

So I have this delemia. Do I say 'no this is more than enough' or do I say "Yes, shower me with money to get you a quad cpu server that can cook a turkey with the power it consumes"

Answer Summary:
So I gave in, and bought a server too ridiculous for words to be running this one set of applications. 96gb mem dual Xeon X5690s (6cores @ 3.43) and 6Tb of raid5. To quote the software company "That setup should scream"
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All Answers


Get the money, invite me for the turkey, I like turkey.

Seriously though, depending on where the bottleneck currently is (processor/memory), if you're certain you've provided enough extra room, taking into account possible future needs, you should tell them.

If they then have valid concerns...

Answered 06/06/2012 by: pjgeutjens
Red Belt

  • hey use the extra horse power to run virtual servers with it

  Do you have historical growth metrics over the past year to back you up?  If not, use resource monitor to show what's actually being used on the R610 over a few weeks, and give them a plan.

  Of note, in my experience SQL pretty much eats whatever RAM is presented to it.  You can throttle it, but otherwise if you give it 96 GB of RAM, SQL will probably use 96 GB of RAM.

  Six cores are of no use if they won't be used between SQL and the application.  Is the application multi-threaded?  Do you have four cores at 30%, or one core at 100% running the application and a little SQL, and three at 7% running nothing but SQL?

  Be careful rating processing power based on MHz. It's not an accurate benchmark.

  What kind of disk I/O is currently needed?  Where is the actual bottleneck on the current server?

  Ask what their concern is.  Are they trying to oversize thinking they have the money now and more is always better, or do they really think your specifications won't be enough to carry through next year?

Answered 06/06/2012 by: philologist
Red Belt

  • No joke about rating on processor power. I use real benchmarks as much as I can.

    The main problem is that the situation has changed quite a bit. The application is currently no longer being peaked because 90% of the users are gone for the summer. Also we are one of the largest customers of this piece of software and it was not meant for an organization as big as mine.

    As you said sql would eat up the memory and it does. But as far as processing power goes. I could make one query in the sql and it would throttle half the cores for 100% for several seconds. Just one query in an application used by thousands of people. After major complaining to the company they rewrote the code for one of the applets that we use and improvements were quite noticeable.

    I have repeated again and again the bottle neck is their coding. But the server is kinda weak.

    Do they need something better? Absolutely.
    Do the need something better than what I spec'ed out? I really don't think so

    They are looking for a Cadillac solution and are willing to spend the money. But I'm balancing between disappointment that it wasn't enough or disappointment that it is too much.
  • Well, sometimes the right solution isn't the likely solution. Try a different perspective. What is the cost of the extras on the overpowered server vs. the cost of getting the company to fix the code? You are going to upgrade the server either way. That said, if you have the pull, explain to them that you can always expand the server. They are paying you to be a subject matter expert. You are doing your best to save them money in the budget. Ask them to tell you why you need more, so that you can go over it point for point. If you have numbers, and they just have a gut feeling that you need more, hopefully it will work.
  • I figure I will use the situation to my advantage for future purchasing. I can always say well you need to upgrade the critical piece of equipment might as well get something that's better than that "one sever" you got running that single application.
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