File Server CPU choice...

EarlySaintClaire

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Aug 21, 2004
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Okay, I'm in desperate need of completing a file server for my home network in the next week or so. I've filled up far too many of my main drives, and I need the space. But here is my problem. I have two old towers stored away that can be used as a simple file server. One is an old 450mhz P2 Xeon. The other is an old 800mhz P3.

Now, I've been told by a few people that I should use the Xeon because they were made to be stable server boxes, despite the fact that the P3 has a faster clockrate and is a newer chipset. I'm wondering if that's true or not.

There is also the issue of upgrading later. We may need to throw XP or a newer OS on there. We were planning to just have it running Windows 98SE. (seeing as that's the only other extra OS we have around the house...other than ME...ME is just a nightmare.). I want to make sure that whater box I choose, that I don't end up "painting myself into a corner." That and we'll also end up at some point putting a dual layer DVD burner in there so that we can back up files that way when we need to. I want to make sure the box is prepared for that as well.

It doesn't much matter when it comes to the storage devices. I'll be using a small 20 gig hard drive for all the OS files and programs, and seperate hard drives for all the information that we'll be backing up. That way if the OS goes, the info won't.

So, p2 450 Xeon or P3 800?
98SE, XP Pro, 2000, or find a Windows Server edition?
Or should I really just make a new one from scratch?

All I want to use this for is file storage. Nothing fancy.

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by EarlySaintClaire on 08/21/04 11:48 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
 

Kelledin

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Mar 1, 2001
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Okay, I'm in desperate need of completing a file server for my home network in the next week or so. I've filled up far too many of my main drives, and I need the space. But here is my problem. I have two old towers stored away that can be used as a simple file server. One is an old 450mhz P2 Xeon. The other is an old 800mhz P3.

Now, I've been told by a few people that I should use the Xeon because they were made to be stable server boxes, despite the fact that the P3 has a faster clockrate and is a newer chipset. I'm wondering if that's true or not.
Considering the purpose of these systems, you shouldn't be worried too much about the clockspeed difference. Simple fileserving can be done fine on old P2-233 systems, as long as you have the proper supporting hardware around the CPU.

As for stability, I would have said that the difference was also negligible. Trouble is, many P3-800 systems used the infamous i820 chipset, which was often riddled with stability issues. Systems that didn't use the i820 often used a VIA chipset instead, which in those days wasn't too snazzy either. If the P3 system has anything but an i815, i440BX/GX, or ServerSet chipset, I would discount it for server duty.

Also, the issue of supporting hardware could well favor the Xeon. Old Xeons often only supported ATA33 on the IDE side, whereas P3 systems often supported ATA66 or ATA100--but Xeon systems often supported such things as SCSI/RAID and 64-bit PCI. SCSI/RAID is undoubtedly better for fileserving duty, especially if the Xeon box has working SCSI hard drives. Add to that, if you decide you want Gigabit, you'll want 64-bit PCI to go with it; 32-bit PCI just doesn't cut it for full-duplex 1000Mbit data rates.

There is also the issue of upgrading later. Me may need to throw XP or a newer OS on there. We were planning to just have it running Windows 98SE. (seeing as that's the only other extra OS we have around the house...other than ME...ME is just a nightmare.). I want to make sure that whater box I choose, that I don't end up "painting myself into a corner." That and we'll also end up at some point putting a dual layer DVD burner in there so that we can back up files that way when we need to. I want to make sure the box is prepared for that as well.
Ummm...Win98 is definitely not a good choice for a server. It's sort-of stable enough for a desktop if you treat it right, but a heavy load WILL crush it.

I'd go with at least Windows 2000 if you're going to stick with Windows. If you've got a competent *NIX admin in-house, I'd try Samba on Linux/BSD instead. Linux should support DVD burning just fine, as long as you get the ProDVD version of <A HREF="http://www.fokus.fhg.de/research/cc/glone/employees/joerg.schilling/private/cdrecord.html" target="_new">cdrecord/cdrtools</A> (free for personal use IIRC).

A competent Linux admin will probably have his own distro of choice. If you're a beginner and still feel like trying it out, I'd suggest SuSE 9.0 (but not 9.1--9.1 is not really all that stable yet).

<i>"Intel's ICH6R SouthBridge, now featuring RAID -1"

"RAID-minus-one?"

"Yeah. You have two hard drives, neither of which can actually boot."</i>
 

P4Man

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Feb 6, 2004
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Xeon isnt anymore stable than Pentium 3.. but, chipsets/motherboards may well be. You don't want a VIA chipset on one of those really, but if the P3 has a decent intel chipset motherboard, I wouldn't hesitate using it. Xeon really is only a P3 with more cache, dual (or more) cpu support) and (usually) a slower FSB..

As Kelledin pointed out though, its not likely a file server will be CPU limited. You want the fastest/best possible harddisk and I/O, cpu speed isn't much if any concern. Go with SCSI if you can, I'd take a SCSI powered Celeron over an IDE Xeon any day of the week.

As for the OS.. please, don't even *consider* windows 9x/ME. Either go for some Linux/unix if you have the expertise in house, or any NT based windows OS. No need for Windows "server" though, Pro will do just fine. I would go with good old NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 if I where you, but that is just because I'm a linux noob. XP doesn't offer anything tangible over w2K or even NT for most file serving needs, but then NT is no longer supported, so w2K might be a better bet.

Anyway, performance wise, your concerns should be (in order of importance):
1) Network performance (decent NIC('s)!)
2) HD I/O, use SCSI if possible, its more expensive, but really worth it in a multi user environment
3) memory. the more, the merrier.
4) cpu. really not a concern as long as you are not serving 100+ simultaneous users and have super fast disk system and network to allow the cpu to become a bottleneck. really, a Celeron would work here...

As for backup.. depending how much info there is to backup, and what procedure you want to follow, you may want to consider backing up to cheap plain vanilla IDE harddisks. Easy, extremely fast when you need to recover, and dirt cheap these days. 200 GB IDE drives are hardy more expensive than 50 empty DVDs, and I know what I prefer to restore from..

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =