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My Ideal SQL Server Test Box is on the Way

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “What is the Ideal SQL Server Test Box?” At that time I was putting together the specs for a test SQL Server box I hoped to be able to get for my home office. While a laptop is great for giving SQL Server presentations, it’s not the greatest for testing and stressing SQL Server. And while I do have access to some large SQL Server boxes via remote access, I am limited to what I can do on them. So what I really wanted was my own test box that I could reconfigure as needed for testing and benchmarking.

While I was at TechEd, I had a talk with the head of the DBA Tools division at Red Gate Software, and we were talking about software testing when I mentioned that I would like to have my own test hardware at home. And a little to my surprise, he agreed with me. That’s when I started to do some research on what I thought would be an ideal (and still affordable) test box, and that’s when I wrote the above mentioned blog post.

As I was corresponding with the head of the DBA Tools division, he suggested that I also spec out a two-node cluster with Direct Attached Storage (DAS) so that I could test even more scenarios. That was a little more than I was expecting, but I went ahead and put together two proposals: one for a single tower test box, and another with two towers plus a DAS that was configured for clustering. To my surprise, the cluster configuration was approved and I placed the order for it yesterday. Hopefully, in about 30 days, all the hardware will arrive and I can begin to build the cluster and to begin some testing and benchmarking that I have been wanting to do for a long time.

Here is what I ordered:

–Two identical Dell T610 Towers, each with a single, 6-core CPU (Intel Xeon X5670, 2.93 Ghz, 12M Cache, HT, 1333MHz FSB); 32GB 1333MHz RAM; a PERC H700 RAID controller; two 146GB 15K SAS Drives; one HBA (to connect to the DAS); and dual network connections.

–One PowerVault MD3000 DAS with two, dual-port controllers, and 15 146GB 15K SAS drives.

In order to have a proper cluster, I also need a third box to act as a domain controller. Fortunately, I already have a small Dell tower that will now be devoted as my domain controller and be configured so that I can access my network remotely.

While not a huge system, it should more than meet my needs as a home test server, and give me plenty of flexibility to experiment with different configurations. Of course, it is not as big a test system as Paul Randal has, but I think it will do just fine. When I get the equipment and start building the cluster, I’ll blog on the experience. It has been a few years since I built a cluster from scratch, and this should be a good learning experience.

PS: I also want to think the head of the DBA Tools division, and Red Gate Software, for my new test system.


Posted by henrico.bekker on 1 July 2010

Nice...erm...sorry, brilliant test box spec Brad.

Tell us more on the planned software you will be using...?

versions etc..

Posted by Brad M. McGehee on 1 July 2010

I will be experimenting with various combinations of software for different testing. For the OS, I will be using Windows 2008 or Windows 2008 R2 (with Hyper-V). I will also be testing with SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 R2.

Posted by Glenn Berry on 1 July 2010

I am sure you will get a lot of good use out of that hardware. It will be interesting to see your testing to see the best way to carve up those 15 hard drives for the best performance for different work loads.

Posted by Brad M. McGehee on 1 July 2010

Glenn, I want to try several different drive configurations, and see which ones offer better performance under different conditions.

Posted by michael.langdon on 2 July 2010

I have been looking into building a home test/play ground.  Your spec looks good and have had a look on Dell.co.uk for pricing.  Looks like £20 for the same setup over here.

Posted by michael.langdon on 2 July 2010

oops that should be £20K

Posted by Brad M. McGehee on 2 July 2010

The total system, in dollars from Dell USA, is a little less.

Posted by Kevin Kline on 7 July 2010




Posted by Brad M. McGehee on 7 July 2010

Kevin, I understand that Brent turned in his test equipment back to the company. Maybe you can have it sent to your home office.  ;-)

Posted by Brad M. McGehee on 7 July 2010

The disk array came today (the box weighted 102 pounds), but I am still waiting to receive the two towers.

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