12 Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Rack Server for Your Needs

Dec12,2023 #Rack Server #tech #Technology

Choosing the right server is about more than just the upfront hardware costs. A well-researched selection considers the complete solution needed from the perspective of both technical requirements and business objectives. Getting it right supports key business initiatives for years to come. Conversely, an unsuitable choice can introduce unnecessary complexity, performance issues and higher long-term expenses that offset any perceived short-term savings. 

This guide walks through the twelve most important factors to systematically evaluate when vetting rack server options. Following its recommendations ensures identifying a platform that aligns capabilities with current and emerging demands in a cost-effective manner.

1. Define Your Workload

The very first step is to understand exactly what tasks the server will be handling. Will it be primarily used for file storage? As a database server? Running virtual machines? Having a clear picture of the server’s intended functionality helps narrow down requirements like CPU power, memory capacity, and storage needs. For mixed or demanding workloads, look for rack servers with robust processors and room to expand over time.

2. Consider Processor Type

Processor choice greatly impacts performance and price point. Intel Xeon and AMD EPYC are the top options for these servers. Intel Xeon is optimized for balanced workloads, while AMD EPYC excels at memory-intensive and multi-threaded tasks. If virtualization or containerization is a priority, the higher core counts of AMD EPYC may be preferable.

3. Evaluate Memory Needs

Memory requirements vary significantly depending on the workload. Virtualized environments and databases typically demand larger capacities of 32GB or higher, while file servers can often get by with 16GB or less. It’s also important to factor in future growth when sizing memory. Leaving empty DIMM slots ensures the ability to easily upgrade down the road without replacing the entire server.

4. Assess Storage Requirements

Assessing storage needs involves determining not only how much raw capacity is required but also what types of drives provide optimal performance. Within a rack server, options typically include SAS/SATA HDDs optimized for large capacity at modest cost but with slower access times. Alternatively, NVMe/PCIe SSDs deliver much faster read/write speeds that boost the performance of applications with intensive I/O demands, like databases. 

A hybrid approach utilizing SSDs for frequently accessed data and HDDs for large, sequentially accessed archives represents a balanced solution. Additional factors include assessing RAID levels for redundancy, whether additional external storage arrays are needed to scale beyond on-board limits, and whether specialty drives like PCIe Optane could further accelerate select workloads.

5. Gauge Networking Requirements

Networking capabilities are crucial for server functions and bandwidth demands. Many rack servers offer dual 10GbE or 25GbE ports as standard, with faster 40GbE and 100GbE available on high-end models. Additional features like load balancing, teaming and stacking provide network resilience. On-board SD cards or NVMe drives let administrators access server management portals.

6. Evaluate Expansion Capacity

Expansion slots allow the server to keep up with evolving demands. Top rack servers have 6–8 PCIe 3.0 or 4.0 slots to accommodate additional networking, storage controllers or GPUs. Newer AMD EPYC CPUs feature additional Arm-based cores for offloading tasks. Consider both current and future expansion needs when selecting a platform.

7. Consider Energy Efficiency

Beyond just selecting a more efficient server model, utilizing additional technologies and design practices can further reduce power costs. Services that continually monitor CPU utilization, along with installed software inventories, facilitate rightsizing servers to minimize wasted overhead capacity. 

Storage tiering intelligently places “hot” frequently accessed data on higher-performance SSDs and “warm” data on energy-saving HDDs. Software-defined platforms dynamically allocate hosted workloads across physical rack servers to maximize efficiency through server consolidation. Committing to open standards for interoperability between hardware, hypervisors and resource management tools gives administrators flexibility to iterate on the most effective energy strategies.

8. Assess Portability Needs

Portability refers to a server’s ease of migration between on-premises data centers and cloud environments. Selecting servers with modern architectures designed for virtualization streamlines cloud adoption. Features like Secure Boot and ephemeral hardware assist compatibility while minimizing software licensing costs. Remote management lets administrators access servers across locations.

9. Evaluate Reliability and Uptime

Careful hardware engineering is critical for reliable, long-term operation. Advanced rack servers from top brands undergo rigorous validation and have inherently higher DOA rates than no-name hardware. Also consider redundancy of power supplies and cooling, warranty length, and 24/7 technical support response. All help maximize up-time for critical applications and minimize unplanned downtime costs.

10. Choose Size and Rack Density Appropriately

Rack density, or the number of servers fitting in a standard rack enclosure, influences acquisition and footprint costs. High-density 1U and 2U single-socket servers maximize space but have cooling, noise, and maintainability tradeoffs. Mid-range 2U and 4U dual-socket options strike a decent balance. Footprint-focused 4U+ servers enable a lower total cost of ownership over a multi-year period.

11. Assess Manageability Features

Comprehensive manageability goes beyond simple remote access and alerting. Leading rack servers feature sophisticated integrated monitoring of over 200 system parameters, including voltages, temperatures, cooling fan speeds and power supply loads. This health data streams via multiple interfaces to client software or network management systems for centralized visibility. Alerting notifies administrators of anomalous readings or predicted failures long before issues cause unplanned downtime. 

Remote capabilities like KVM-over-IP and dedicated out-of-band Ethernet ports empower hands-free maintenance from any location. Fleet-level orchestration using industry standards like Redfish further streamlines configuration, firmware updates and remediation across thousands of end points through simple API-based automation.

12. Develop Disaster Recovery Plans

Finally, think about replacing servers if failures or outages occur. Will replacement parts need to ship overnight? Can you keep alternate “cold spare” ready-to-use servers on standby? Plans for swiftly recovering key workloads, whether via automatic failover or rebuilding infrastructure as code, preserve business continuity.

Summing It Up

In conclusion, by weighing factors like workload, processor, memory, networking, reliability, expansion flexibility, and manageability, organizations can select rack servers tailored exactly to their unique needs both now and into the future. With the right upfront planning and combination of hardware choices, mission-critical applications stay optimally supported for years to come.

Read More: How Edge Servers Are Changing the Way We Use the Internet

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