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PC Perspective Forum Server Upgrade 2006

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Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: General
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Time for a Change

Introduction


In the course of the life of any website you visit, chances are there are many hardware changes, software changes and hosting changes that take place without your noticing.  The same could be said for PC Perspective, but as we are a hardware review site, and our readers have a stronger interest in what powers this site and other sites', I thought we would share what went on. 


Soon, very soon, you'll be seeing some very unique and interesting changes to the PC Perspective site; no more hints on that, you'll just have to wait.  However, in order for these changes to take place down the line, we needed a powerful system for our forums, located at http://forums.pcper.com/.  Our previous server was being pushed by an aging Tyan 760 MP motherboard with dual Athlon MP 2500+ processors and a couple gigabytes of memory and though was able to trudge on without a reboot in nearly two years, our new site design wasn't going to be as friendly.  The more interactive and data driven the site is, the more strain that will be placed on the servers so an upgrade was in order to prepare for the future.


Tyan Barebones System


Our new server build began with a look at the latest server barebones kits from Tyan.  Long a staple in the DIY server market, Tyan makes kits for just about any server platform and since we have been using Tyan motherboards in our servers for nearly all of the seven years of our existence, I was more than comfortable depending on them for the future of the site as well.  Looking over the options at the time, I decided to go with the Tyan GT24 (B2891) system: featuring a Tyan K8SRE motherboard with dual Opteron 940-pin support on the nForce Professional chipset, this box had all of the features I had envisioned for the new forum server.  The motherboard supports 8 DDR memory modules for up to 16GB of DDR400 total memory, a PCI Express x16 slot, dual Gigabit Ethernet connections, four hot swappable SATA connections and a pre-installed CD-ROM drive. 


Tyan's engineers were able to put all of this hardware into a 1U chassis as well, saving us money with our ISP: always a plus! Of course, we need to add in all the components to fill out the system, and all of that is below. 



Available on our pricing engine for as low as: $826 
Price @ Newegg.com: $854


Processor


Our platform of choice was with the Tyan Opteron barebones system, so our processors were narrowed down for us from the beginning.  Opteron's in 940 packages are available in dual-core and single core and at varying frequencies.  In the end, I went all out with two AMD Opteron 275 dual core processors that run at 2.2 GHz. 



Available on our pricing engine for as low as: $525
Price @ Newegg.com: $529


Memory


Deciding to go with the Opteron 275 processor and the Tyan GT24 barebones system pretty much set in place the memory that we were going to be using in the system.  While each processor socket had support for up to 8GB of DDR memory in its four dedicated DIMM slots, 16GB was a bit overkill.  I ended up getting 4GB total of Registered ECC DDR400 memory from Corsair Memory



Each of the Opteron 275 processors was given 2GB of dedicated DDR400 memory and should be enough storage for the entire forums data to be cached.  This would greatly increase server performance as the need to access the disks would be minimized.


Available on our pricing engine for as low as: $166
Price @ Newegg.com: $154


Storage


Our storage system on the new forum server needed to address two main issue: redundancy and speed.  But then again, who's doesn't?  Our solution was to use the integrated hot-swappable SATA connections that the Tyan barebones system provided with four of Western Digital's 74GB Raptor drives.



These drives are the fastest consumer hard drives you can buy (well maybe the newer 150GB model is faster) and have been seen to be highly reliable at their 10,000 RPM speed.  The new server uses four of these in a RAID 0+1 array to give us the best of both worlds in terms of performance and reliability.


Available on our pricing engine for as low as: $155
Price @ Newegg.com: $149


Operating System


Since the beginning (or nearly so), our servers have been using Red Hat's distributions of Linux and this upgrade was no exception.  We did finally move from the free software to the paid software with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distro, but so far the money has been well worth it.  The support system and automated upgrading and patching system is easy to use and prevents the lack of Linux knowledge (as I have) from being the reason why our server software isn't up to date.  The Red Hat Network is a subscription based service that you pay a yearly fee for and is responsible for tracking the software on your systems (server or client) and notifying you of available upgrades.


So far, so good for us here.


Server Software


Thanks in large part to the open source drive, PC Perspective has been able to thrive and grow.  Having software that anyone can use and learn has allowed us to enlist the help of different people over the years to keep PC Perspective (and previously Amdmb) in tip-top shape.


Our server is once again powerd by PHP, MySQL and Apache, a combination that has lovingly become known as LAMP: Linux Apache MySQL PHP. 


Final Thanks


I would again like to express my thanks to Tyan Computer, Corsair Memory, Western Digital and Newegg.com for helping us with the new server build.  Also, thanks to our server host, Elite Internet Communications for getting the new box online quickly.  Hopefully their hardware will continue to power the PC Perspective Forums into the future, as well as the new PC Perspective that is coming soon. 


Final Specs


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