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tronayne 07-05-2013 08:23 AM

Hardware Recommendations
I'm looking for some hardware recommendations to support a non-profit institute that is the custodian of a large collection of items left to the institute to manage and make available to researchers.

The collections include some 60,000+ books dating from the 13th through the early 20th centuries, most are rare, some are unique. There is art -- statuary from 300 BCE to the 19th century; etchings (both prints and plates plus presses to actually make prints from the plates); world-wide postage stamps; world-wide currency; scientific instruments dating from the 16th century though the early 20th century. And other stuff that hasn't really been classified as yet (think Smithsonian writ a lot smaller) -- lots of documents that haven't been looked at yet. At least there's no bugs or bones.

After fiddling around with library management software and, on the advice of others here at LQ and elsewhere, determined that library management just doesn't fit. We are pretty much settled on DSpace with is, guess what, a collection manager and looks like a near-perfect fit. I have evaluated it along with a couple of folks and we agree that DSpace looks like the Right Thing.

I opened my big mouth and got folks thinking about managing the collections with software (all on paper now), OK, now it falls to me to implement. I have a couple of ideas about platform -- I prefer Dell or Hewlett-Packard but am wide open to suggestions. Essentially, there will be two 64-bit servers, at least 4-core processors, at least 32G RAM (might be overkill), at least a pair of 250 - 500G drives in a RAID configuration. I come from the Off You Can Take, On You Can't Put School and I think a pair of those ought to do the job (although the second server is a little redundant, I'm thinking development box and production box). I'm also thinking 250G drives are going to be sufficient for the job although 500G might be better for the long haul. Terabyte? Well... I'm leery of those.

DSpace is a Java application. Oracle JDK, PostgreSQL DBMS, run-time Apache (Ant, Tomcat, Maven, etc.). Sounds good to me. There will also be the "normal" user stuff like OpenOffice or LibreOffice. There is no need for highfalutin graphics (nobody is going to be playing games on these things); built-in Intel graphics is just fine.

The one thing that scares me is UEFI and secure boot -- I do not want to deal with that nonsense and I've pretty much got everybody convinced that there will be no Windows software installed anywhere unless nothing else will do the job, 100% Slackware, 100% FOSS.

What I really want most is stability. My experience with Dell has been excellent (I'm running two data base servers, Dell Dimension 8400's, dating from 2004, that have been going 24/7 for a whole lot of years with one failure -- a capacitor blew -- and one early disk drive death). Downside of Dell is that you have to pay the Microsoft tax and I do not want Win8 in the building under any circumstances. I really don't have any experience with H-P servers, don't know what the downside of them may be (if any). I do favor H-P for printers, scanners and the like because H-P supports them on Linux platforms like nobody else -- and, we do require heavy-duty equipment with lots of folks banging around and a tremendous amount of scanning to take place (think about the number of stamps, coins, and bills from the entire world over many decades, eh?).

For the moment there is a sort-of LAN, there is Internet access but there will be no access from the outside world -- that's a year or two down the road. There are a few PC's that will be used to access DSpace on the LAN with a browser for data entry and editing (and they're XP, oh, the horror). This is going to be fun.

So, I would appreciate any ideas about platform -- reliability, stability are prime, vendor service counts if there are hardware problems, but any more overnight shipping seems to work pretty well. Obviously there will be spare parts on the shelf. We're not located in a prime retail area, so I can't just run down to Micro Center and pick stuff up as needed.

The obvious stuff (UPS, routers, switches, cables, etc.) are pretty much in place -- my main concern is the servers for the next five+ years.

Thanks for any advice and counsel.

AlleyTrotter 07-05-2013 04:05 PM

I have been using an AsRock Z77 Extreme4 motherboard, which is not a server system, but The UEFI implamentation has had no problems with Slackware 14.0 and current. Not really much help but at least you now know 1 UEFI firmware setup that is very Slackable. This is about 8 or 9 months with no problems.

PS it will also do MBR type boot if required.

Gerard Lally 07-05-2013 05:44 PM

I built a server for a local farm machinery business 18 months ago, and stuck Slackware on it (later upgraded to 14). The machine hasn't missed a beat since. It's a file and print server for 30 users, and it runs six KVM/Qemu virtual machines as well.

Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 PRO (UEFI)
HDD: 4 x 1TB SATA disks in two software RAID-1 arrays, with LVM on top.
PSU: Corsair 650 watt

I generally prefer to stay away from proprietary servers because then you have to deal with proprietary cases and proprietary power supply units and proprietary fittings, not to mention the management "extras" which just add more complexity. If you are going to be the one servicing these machines it's worth bearing in mind how fast you can get a replacement PSU for the machine, or a replacement CPU heatsink and fan. Custom-built servers allow you to spec easily-acquired and easily-replaced standard parts in standard ATX cases. Although you are unlikely to put hardware RAID in your custom-built server, Linux software RAID is a trouble-free and high-performance substitute, and again, you don't have to hunt down an equivalent part if your RAID adapter dies.

Just my tuppence worth.

tronayne 07-06-2013 08:38 AM

Both of those sound pretty interesting, thanks for the input.

I did speak with Dell small business sales yesterday, taking about their PowerEdge Tower Servers, along the lines of a T110. Interestingly it is available with no operating system and is one of the models that comes with Linux (Fedora or Suse [maybe not Suse, but I don't really care]). Also, like many systems, it's UEFI but no Microsoft pollution (no secure boot) -- as I understand it, BIOS is going away and being replaced by UEFI, no problem that I can see there.

Building a box or two might be fun (and maybe I'll do it for myself -- I'm pretty sure my pair of 2004 Dell Dimension 8400's are about at the end of their useful lives -- but, alas, the board (it's a non-profit institute, got a board) feels better if there's a name they know on the hood. I need to talk to Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM (at least) and then, maybe, I can entertain the idea of build-a-box or two (which would be more fun and certainly less expensive). I'm also thinking that H-P (at least) offers AMD processors (the idea of which I find appealing) over Intel Xeon (which I can't really object to) -- four core in any case, 16G RAM (maybe 32G), nice boxes, one production the other development and both serving users.

I'm going to have enough interesting things to do -- like floating the idea of thin clients -- for a while plus getting the prime application up, running and folks trained to use (DSpace is not a simple, intuitive system to configure and use -- takes a lot of thought about classification of collection information to get it right). For crying out loud, the DSpace manual is like 750 pages!

Thanks again for the ideas -- I'm going to go motherboard shopping and find a case and power supply somewhere. Been a long time since I spun wrenches and screwed screws and pulled cables; back the the roots!

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