Death of the 1U web server
One of my goals in writing this blog is to help other people in the operations field. It's not a point of bragging or telling other people how to do their job. It's just a helpful guide that isn't full of sales pitches. That said, I'm going to say something somewhat inflammatory. You're crazy if you still run 1U "pizzabox" servers as your web front ends. Seriously.
It's 2013 folks. The 1U web server blueprint for building out a medium to large scale web property is old...and busted. 1U servers simply don't give you enough throughput or cores to really scale. We all know the deal. PHP blows up. Your rails apps use all the memory. Some cron job uses all the disk I/O. Oh well, just get more 1U servers. They're cheap, right? Wrong. They're actually very expensive for how they're actually utilized. They're expensive in terms of throughput, rack space occupied, and especially power. Yep. Your new Dell R620 servers might be doing great at 75-90 watts of consumption. Or so you thought. That's a ton of power compared to the alternatives.
One alternative: virtualization on bigger servers. It's a popular approach for those who listen too much to their EMC salesmen. I guess virtualization is OK if you're a lazy sysadmin, but the applications are usually limited to multi-tenancy or test/QA setups. To get really good power efficiency, you also need to buy really beefy boxes which are usually over-built and very costly in terms of SPECint/$.
Another option is to stop running your own hardware and only pay for what you need in the "cloud." Definitely an option if you don't use much storage nor have much traffic in terms of bandwidth. Then again, you're probably not running a popular site if both of those apply.
The option we chose is to go smaller than 1U. No, not blades. Micro servers. There are a few vendors selling microservers (Dell, Supermicro, HP), but we settled on the Dell C5000 chassis running C5220 Intel blades. These things are awesome. Seriously. I cannot emphasize how great these servers are. I've posted some photos and a quick video review below. I'm not going into the detailed specs since dell.com can do that -- but here's the gist: single socket, 4 DIMMs, 4 2.5" drives or 2 3.5" drives. 20-50 watts of power. 12 sleds in 3U. Bam
We've got more than a few of these chassis running our web front ends, and I think it's safe to say that we're done with 1U web servers. You should be, too.
Since some people only put their faith in numbers, here's a plot showing average power consumption between an R610 and a C5220 on the same web tier we run.
One thing to note is that the chassis only runs on 200V and up. You're SOL if you run 110V circuits. Then again, what are you running 110V for? Here's the video.
A NOLA native just trying to get by. I live in San Francisco and work as a digital plumber for the joint that runs this thing. (Square/Weebly) Thoughts are mine, not my company's.