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Windows hardware challenge draws on resources

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Project Watch: Microsoft 2008 Here's a question for you: what hardware does it take to run an entirely new, pre-release Windows operating system and 1TB-worth of SQL Server 2008 community technology preview?

This question seems simple to answer, but the challenge comes in locating the requisite hardware. One problem that always arises when using any beta operating system is: no hardware manufacturer will certify kit to run the new operating system before that operating system has reached its release code form, because last minute changes may interfere with the certification process.

But, while full certification is often a problem, behind the scenes, the hardware manufacturers are working closely with the operating system provider and often know what servers are going to be certified when the time comes.

How willing they are to impart this information varies between companies. The trick comes in tapping the right OEM: I didn't find IBM particularly obliging but Dell, on the other hand, was extremely helpful. So, we have a Dell.

The big question in these scenarios then usually becomes one of whether to go with a 32-bit or 64-bit architecture. Given the size of our data files the only answer was the latter. So we settled on a 64-bit Dell PowerEdge R900 with four, quad-core Intel Xeon processors running at 2.93GHz. That is essentially 16 64 bit processors. For RAM we settled on 32Gb and the disk space. To quote Rolls-Royce on the power output of its motor vehicles, our output was "sufficient".

The PowerEdge is a ferociously noisy beast with multiple fans. It's also a heavy one. Having shifted the machine around the building several times I was moved to bring in a set of bathroom scales and on discovering that it weighed six and a half stone I decided it wasn't shifting again.

We haven't done any benchmarking for speed as yet but it's very quick. At tick-over Windows 2008 Server uses 2Gb RAM and it's coping admirably with the load put upon it.

The setup has been running for about ten weeks as I write. It has shown the fabulous reliability that any modern server should. As I said in the last Project Watch about the software stack, short of making up some drama, there's nothing to report.

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