Two old CPUs vs. one fast one.
October 3, 2007 5:12 PM   Subscribe

I have two old pc's and two things to do with them, but I don't know which machine is best suited for which task.

I want to make two things: a file server, and an active directory server running Windows Server 2008 (beta, I want to try it out).

The file server will have a 2TB raid 5 array made of 4 500GB sata drives and a hardware raid card I have yet to buy. Mostly it's going to be serving about 100gb worth of small files (music) and a growing collection of large files (SD tv, dvd isos, and if feasible HD media as well). The AD server will probably not do a lot aside from being an AD server, though in the future it may also act as a terminal server for an old Wyse thin client that I will steal from work after they upgrade legitimately acquire.

The two machines I have available are ancient, but serviceable. One is a dual 500mhz Celeron on an Abit PB6 and the other is an Athlon XP 2000+ on an ECS K7S5A. Other hardware depends on what I can pull out of my junk pile, but probably I can max out memory for both machines. They'll both run headless and will be connected to a GbE managed switch.

So, what's the best machine for what, and why?
posted by tracert to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
blech, windows 2008 on a 500mhz celeron? Even dual CPUs doesn't get ya much...

Are these boxes toys or servers? If they are servers, go with linux and run samba.

I suspect your file server is a server and your ADS server is a toy for messing around- if that's the case, I'd use the athlon box for a file server- dual CPU doesn't buy you much for a network-bound file server; even GigE is slower than the local hard drive that the machine is handling without breaking a sweat. You'll be running headless, but you'll want to use terminal services to get into the box; the dual celeron will probably make your life easier there.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:22 PM on October 3, 2007


The file server is going to need to be reliable, whereas the active directory server is not (relatively; it's beta software, right, so you're not expecting stability.) CPU speed doesn't really matter here; in the case of the file server, network bandwidth is your speed limitation, and for active directory experiments, it's irrelevant.

So first consider the past reliability of the machines. If one is sketchier than the other, use the less-sketchy one, hands down.

If sketchiness isn't an issue, look to solid driver support and a good power supply, and if possible look at the running temperature and noise. You want a machine that runs cool, runs quietly, and has stable drivers for all your hardware.

Finally, if all the above criteria is met equally by both, run the file server on the machine with (a) the highest memory capacity, (b) the largest potential internal drive capacity, (c) the lowest power draw, or (d) the lowest possible physical footprint. Which of those is your tipping point depends on your specific preferences.

I eagerly await your next question: what OS should I run my file server with?
posted by davejay at 5:25 PM on October 3, 2007


For what it's worth, four 500gb drives in RAID 5 will give you 1.5tb of usable space.

That said, neither of those tasks are too processor-intensive. If you're only running Server 2008 on one of the two machines, I'd give that the faster processor, because of the extra overhead it'll doubtless need. The file server will do just fine on a dual 500mhz, especially with a hardware RAID card.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:25 PM on October 3, 2007


oops. in my comment above, in paragraphs 2 through 4, I'm recommending criteria for the file server, with the active directory box being the leftover.
posted by davejay at 5:26 PM on October 3, 2007


Solely on the basis of file servers being low proc requirements, I say put the dual celerons on the file servers. Win 2K8 is going to need more raw MHz and probably more memory which I assume the Athlon board can handle.

Alternatively, install VMware Server on the Athlon box (of ESX if you can "acquire" a copy) and run them both on the same box! Assuming your raid card is supported. But I'm mostly just kidding. Just make the Abit board the file server.
posted by GuyZero at 5:32 PM on October 3, 2007


That athlon barely qualifies for the min sys reqs for 2008. Youre better off putting a slim linux distro on there and using samba for smb/ad duties.

Might want to go with a slim linux distro for the file server too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:52 PM on October 3, 2007


Not directly related, but i have owned both motherboards in the past and the leaking capacitor issue popped up on both.

So if anything odd starts happening with the machines, take a look at the board before you spend too much time troubleshooting it.
posted by jbroome at 7:55 PM on October 3, 2007


Thanks for all the advice guys, but I decided to solve this problem by throwing a little (more) money at it. Evidently, PCI bus crowding was going to be a problem, and hardware raid cards are pretty expensive anyway, so I'm just going to get a cheap mobo with integrated everything and do my dicking around on the athlon box.

Sorry to waste your time, I guess I just really, really wanted to use that dual cpu computer for something useful again. It's loud, slow, and clunky, but I still love it.
posted by tracert at 10:08 PM on October 3, 2007


"...so I'm just going to get a cheap mobo with integrated everything..."

I would strongly advise against using on-board RAID for a file server. You're just trading one vulnerability for another. You're safe if a hard drive dies, but if the motherboard goes, you're going to need to find a replacement motherboard that uses exactly the same RAID raid chip, which will be difficult if not impossible. Far more difficult than finding a replacement PCI RAID card.

This might not be a problem if you make regular backups, but doing so for 1.5tb of data is difficult (by which I mean expensive). So if you're going to be storing files you can't lose, don't use on-board RAID. Get a card.
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:24 AM on October 4, 2007


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