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tisource 07-19-2006 01:22 PM

Processor suggestions for Linux production server
 
We are planning on buying a new production Linux server for our small office (of less than 20 regular employees) and I want your opinions on what to buy, particularly in the processor arena.

Our setup is a bit complex, even though we are fairly small. We put together 3 newspapers a week (1 weekly publication, 1 bi-weekly publication), and they all go online (which is hosted locally). We have a gigabit ethernet infrastructure inside the office. Anyhow...

The current Linux server (SUSE Enterprise 9) is an EM64T 3.4 GHz processor, RAID 1 (3ware Escalade 160 GB SATA mirror) with 1 GB ram.

From what I understand, EM64T is just a 32-bit processor with some 64-bit extensions, particularly in the memory addressing arena. It runs 64-bit code, but not necessarily at 64-bit speed. If I'm wrong here, please let me know!

I have had difficulties compiling on this platform. It runs well, but it has been difficult to compile on, and it is hard to find pre-compiled binaries beyond what Novell supports.

I have strongly considered an AMD64 route, but unfortunately, few tier 1 retailers are offering it (at least not in our price range). I have to keep the machine below $1,500, so cost is always an issue.

I have looked at a 3.0 GHz Xeon machine with 1 GB ram and similar RAID.

I guess my real question is which does Linux run best on? If you had to pick between a 3 GHz 32-bit Xeon, and a 3.4 GHz EM64T, which would you pick? The other box (whichever I don't use for the server) may replace our 2.4 GHz P4 Windows 2003 server (Windows 2003 will be installed on it).

macemoneta 07-20-2006 11:19 AM

EM64T==AMD64 as far as Linux is concerned. Intel simply copied the AMD64 64-bit extensions (with one minor difference, due to a documentation error). 64-bit performance is great, assuming you install a 64-bit distribution and applications. There is no reason to switch based on the CPU.

The selection of distributions is an issue, in that some applications can be difficult to get working from source. I've been using Fedora Core, and the extensive third party repositories for the distribution have had all the software I needed (thus no compilation required for 99+% of what I run). It makes life much easier.

gloomy 07-20-2006 11:35 AM

I couldn't agree more with macemoneta.

There should be no incompatible software for a x86_64 production server.

Electro 07-20-2006 01:45 PM

EMT64T is 64-bit extensions but are converted to 32-bit. Right now it is hard to tell the performance difference between 32-bit and 64-bit on general applications. Multimedia and games does and will get a speed up when using 64-bit programs. Servers gets a boost in memory allocation when using 64-bit OS because 32-bit OS have to use PAE which is an extension to provide 4 GB of memory or more at a cost of memory consumption for virtual addressing. A 64-bit OS is good in the server environment.

You could go with Intel processor but the amount of money you have to pay is a lot to keep the servers running 24/7. AMD Opteron and AMD Athlon64 X2 are preferred choice for servers because they use less electricity to run 24/7 than Intel processors. You could wait until Intel brings their latest processor that is said to be very, very efficient.

I suggest IBM or Aberdeen Inc (http://www.aberdeeninc.com) to help you create your server. Though you could make the server your self. Dell said that they are going to provide AMD systems but I have not seen any systems yet. I only see them selling the processors.

I suggest Gentoo. Setting up Gentoo to be used as a server takes a lot less time to setup as a desktop. You could have the server up in Gentoo in five hours or less with out the GUI garbage. GUI takes a lot of resources from the server. Suse and Fedora requires you to use GUI to configure. Of course you could use webmin but you have to be careful using it if the server is access from the internet all the time. Compiling is Gentoo's specialty.

macemoneta 07-20-2006 01:57 PM

Quote:

EMT64T is 64-bit extensions but are converted to 32-bit.
I think you are confusing 32-bit compatibility mode. If not, do you have a reference for this, as it's the first time I've seen this statement.

IsaacKuo 07-20-2006 02:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tisource
The current Linux server (SUSE Enterprise 9) is an EM64T 3.4 GHz processor, RAID 1 (3ware Escalade 160 GB SATA mirror) with 1 GB ram.

From what I understand, EM64T is just a 32-bit processor with some 64-bit extensions, particularly in the memory addressing arena. It runs 64-bit code, but not necessarily at 64-bit speed. If I'm wrong here, please let me know!

You're a bit confused. EM64T isn't a processor name, it's the name of a processor feature. This feature refers to the ability to run AMD64 code. The reason Intel doesn't simply call it AMD64 compatability is...well, embarrassment. Google "Itanic" to understand just how humiliating this is for Intel.

Quote:

I guess my real question is which does Linux run best on? If you had to pick between a 3 GHz 32-bit Xeon, and a 3.4 GHz EM64T, which would you pick?
Actually, your "EM64T" processor could very well be a Xeon. Going to a 3Ghz 32-bit Xeon would be a downgrade--slower speed, and no 64-bit capability.

The other possibility is that your "EM64T" processor is a Prescott Pentium 4 or Pentium D. Pretty much any "upgrade" you do right now won't be significantly faster for your purposes, although switching to AMD could theoretically reduce power consumption and might improve reliability (thanks to reduced heat generation).

However, it's hard to imagine this power savings would be worth the cost in equipment, time, and effort of performing a hardware "upgrade". And if heat from your hot Intel processors is really a concern, then just stick some more fans in the server room to keep things cool.

tisource 07-20-2006 03:11 PM

Wow! I'm amazed at all the replies. I've looked up some specs on the existing server (Dell SC420) and it shows that the processor is a Pentium 4 with EM64T support.

Thank you for all your input. It makes much more sense now. At this point I am leaning away from a Xeon computer, and more towards keeping what we already have.

Overall, we have been very pleased with the SUSE Enterprise 9. There have been a few quirks, but overall, a very positive experience. I've always liked Novell's products, particularly NDS/eDirectory, and SLES is no different. I've never tried Gentoo, but I know it tends to be more bleeding edge and I need something a little more on the conservative side. I also need commercial support, which Novell provides.


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