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I'm about to buy a server, for a Django system (Ubuntu + Django + nginx + postgresql) I have two options:   Dual Intel Xeon 5420 16GB DDR2 240GB SSD or I7-2600 16GB DDR3 240GB SSD

Which of these setups would you recommend?

  • As written, it's really hard to recommend the correct setup for you. Can you clarify what you're using this database for? I assume you're okay with buying used; what's your budget? – JMY1000 Feb 11 at 21:33
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My main computer (at it now) is an i7-2600k. I built it myself, installed Windows 7 Ultimate, and have run it for years. It's getting old, but I still love it. Best home computer I've ever built or owned.

However, I completely disagree with @Natsu. The i7-2600k is not a server CPU:

  • It does not support ECC nor Registered (Buffered) RAM, the Xeon does (winner).
  • The Xeon uses DDR2 while the i7 uses DDR3 (winner), but both at 1333MHz.
  • The i7 will forever be alone, the Xeon comes with a mate (winner). Why? Your anticipated server software stack (Ubuntu + Django + nginx + postgresql) will benefit greatly from the second CPU. Most software we run on home computers often doesn't need or can't use a second CPU effectively, but your server software should utilize as many cores you can throw at it.
  • The i7 is top of the line, which means end of the road. You can upgrade the E5420 to dual X5450 @ 3.0GHz for less than $20 each (winner).
  • Now, this is assuming you are getting ECC RDIMM memory with the Xeon setup, and the motherboard supports the X5450 (it should, same CPU family). If not, then you aren't getting a true server, but rather a glorified home computer. I build and use both types of machines, "home/small business" desktops and full-on enterprise servers. The difference in memory is worth it if you want reliability. What is the difference? You know those random crashes, lockups, or errors that just don't make any sense? Unrecoverable memory errors are often the cause, and with Non-ECC Unbuffered RAM, they occur about once a month, while with ECC Buffered RAM, they happen about once a year. Power issues, heat, sunspots, proximity to nearest nuclear power plant, and many other factors affect these rates, but that's about average, 1/mo vs 1/yr.

    Make sure to get a server chassis, not some Rosewill or Corsair case, if up time is important to you. Multiple hot-swap fans, dual hot-swap power supplies, hot-swap drive bays, out-of-band management, all contribute to the qualities that make a server a server.

    I buy HP Proliant DL380 G6's: 4x 1Gbps NICs + iLO mgmt port, 6Gbps SAS RAID controller w/512MB cache, 2x 72GB 10k SAS drives, 2x450W hotswap power supplies, 2x E5504 Quad core 2.0GHz, 8GB DDR3 ECC RDIMM @ 1333, for $85.

    I can upgrade to 2x X5660 Hexa-core @ 2.8GHz for $50, and put in 8x 146GB 15k SAS drives in RAID10 (584GB yield) for $80 (refurbished). Memory prices constantly change, but right now 2x 8GB ECC RDIMMs is $25, so $300 will max out the machine w/24 sticks for 192GB RAM.

    Add misc. cords, some more RAM, rails, spare parts, tax, shipping, $300-$400 total for a great little server. Since I'm buying refurbished, I like to keep 25% replacement on-hand: I get 2 extra drives for every array of 8 (one server), and 1 extra power supply for every 2 servers (each having 2 PS in them). In over three years, I've had one drive die (RAID10, so I swapped it out, no problem), one motherboard die (when we moved to a new building, hmmmm...) and no power supply, CPU, NIC, or memory problems.

    I don't know where you are or what's available to you, but my advice is this: If you need a server, buy a server. These 10 year old HP's do a great job on the cheap, and they are but one possibility.

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    • I agree all the way that ECC and 8 cores might be better. But IPC and RAM bandwidth might help more on the long run. Anyways, both are pretty much low power for a server. – Natsu Kage Feb 11 at 13:36
    • Speaking of power: an old dual-socket LGA 771 platform is not exactly energy efficient, regardless of idle or full load. Personally, I would not go with anything older than Ivy bridge (Xeon E5-2xxxv2) these days. But then again, electricity is rather expensive where I live. – user13807 Feb 11 at 17:32
    • @Natsu and MechEng - You both make great points! Natsu, regarding compute power, I assumed Diego (OP) either judges it to be enough, or is constrained by budget. If it's budgetary, my experiences in the refurb market are a comparison point (but only one point). MechEng, :D I often forget about power consumption and cooling in informal discussions, I think because my company's office is "all bills paid," and our clients place servers in "retail" locations that foot the bill for power and cooling. I forget sometimes how lucky I am that when I calculate that cost, it's purely theoretical! – G DeMasters Feb 12 at 1:10
    • Thank you for the detailed explanation :) – Diego Feb 12 at 14:47

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