Buying Your Box

Wondering what hardware to buy to run NT 5.0? NT 5.0 offers many new features that can run on many different platforms. Because each platform definition targets a specific segment of the server market (small office, department, or enterprise) and systems manufacturers have developed custom bundles to address each segment's needs, you need to define your requirements before starting the purchasing process. Decide how many users you'll support, how many applications you'll run, what kind of performance you want, and how much you can spend. Use the following descriptions of system configurations to sort out the server features you need.

Small Business Systems
Typical small offices have up to 50 users and 25 PCs. Small offices' key applications usually include databases, desktop publishing software, and collaboration tools, such as email, scheduling, and document-sharing products. Small offices that are not branch offices or subsidiaries of larger organizations need inexpensive yet reasonably powerful systems. A small-business system doesn't need to be the fastest model available or even the most easily upgraded (unless the company expects to grow rapidly), but it must be reliable and easy to use and manage. If the small office description fits your firm, look for a server in the $3000 to $5000 price range that meets the following system requirements:

  • Two 233MHz (or faster) Pentium II processors
  • 128MB of RAM
  • Ultra Wide SCSI-2
  • Dual 2GB or 4GB hard disks
  • 10/100 megabits per second (Mbps) Ethernet card

Department Servers
These systems belong in environments that use one application server to support up to 200 local and remote users or employ several servers to support a larger number of users. Department servers need to be highly fault tolerant and expandable and must offer high performance, because they serve day-to-day and mission-critical functions. Department servers range in price from $10,000 to $40,000 and require the following features:

  • Up to four 200MHz Pentium Pro processors (or Deschutes CPUs when they're available)
  • 256MB of RAM
  • RAID-equipped Ultra Wide SCSI-2 or SCSI-3
  • Four or more 4GB hard disks
  • 10/100Mbps Ethernet card
  • Intelligent Input/Output (I2O) controllers

Enterprise Servers
Whether an enterprise system serves as a multi-application server that supports hundreds of users or a single-application server that supports thousands of users, it needs to offer high availability, maximum scalability, and optimal performance. Enterprise servers build on the department server but offer more memory, more CPUs, and more disks, which add up to increased performance.

A basic enterprise server can cost as little as $10,000, but an enterprise server that includes all the parts necessary for optimal performance costs $40,000 or more. Instead of buying an enterprise server, you can cluster two identical less-expensive servers to create a scalable and highly available system. Regardless of your method, your final system must include:

  • Up to eight CPUs (Pentium Pro, Alpha, or Deschutes processors when available)
  • 1GB of RAM (4GB of RAM for maximum performance)
  • RAID-equipped Ultra Wide SCSI-2 or SCSI-3
  • Eight or more 4GB hard disks
  • Multiple 10/100Mbps Ethernet cards
  • I2O controllers
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