This Old Server
Today, we’re going to discuss things you can do with your old server hardware. With everything going Virtual or Hosted now, sometimes you’re left with an old server that you don’t know what to do with. Besides the obvious, (boat anchor, paper weight, etc.) we can still put that ol’ reliable server to good use. Let’s assume that the warranty on your old server is out-of-date, and you have already moved all of your production services to either new supported hardware, or to a hosted service like Office 365. As an example, our in-house Exchange Email server was migrated to Office 365 several months ago, and a SQL service we were providing has also been moved off-site. That leaves us with two perfectly good (although old and no longer covered by manufacture warranty) servers. One of these servers has plenty of disk space, but not a lot of memory. The other has lots of memory, but not a lot of disk space. This gave me an idea: Use an iSCSI connection between the two servers, and setup a development environment.
Making the Old New Again
Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) has been around and in use for about a decade, but vast improvements have been made with Windows Server 2012. Before today, you had to use either the Microsoft iSCSI add-ons, 3rd party tools, and they were more difficult to manage. Now you can use the iSCSI tools right from the Windows Server 2012 management console. But not only are design and setup easier; With higher performance network equipment, iSCSI connections are more reliable, and much faster than they used to be. But you don’t need to go out and buy fiber optic cards. Gigabit Ethernet cards can be found in just about any server built in the last five years, and are easy to find. While I’d like to go out and buy fiber optic cards, this is only for development purposes, and I set a goal in the beginning of this experiment to only use equipment that I already had. Both of my test servers have dual gigabit cards (two ports each), and will be plenty fast enough.
We have ways of Making You Talk
There are two simple ways to setup your physical iSCSI connection: Use a switch that supports VLANS, or just use an 8wire cross-over cable. Many Cisco routers include a cross-over cable, so I have a few. Just make sure that they are 8wire – many cross-over cables only have 4 wires to simply cross the transmit and receive signals – but these can only handle 100mb – and we’re going for the full gigabit here.
After installing Windows 2012 on both servers, I assign a static IP address to both primary NIC cards that resides on my primary subnet (192.168.1.x). This is for server management purposes, and to connect to the rest of my network. Then I assign a static IP to the secondary NIC cards that do NOT reside on my primary network, for example 10.0.0.x. This will keep the iSCSI traffic off of my primary network equipment, and make the traffic between the two iSCSI servers MUCH faster.
Next, I use the Windows 2012 Server tools to setup my primary iSCSI management server (DEVHOST1) and my secondary iSCSI storage server (STORAGE1). From the Windows Server 2012 management tools, we assign all of the available disk space on STORAGE1 as a LUN to store our Virtual hard drives, which will be managed by the DEVHOST1 server.
Here’s what it looks like:
By keeping the iSCSI network traffic on its own subnet, either on a separate switch or by using a cross-over cable, we improve the performance of both.
I can now install Microsoft Hyper-V on the DEVHOST1 server. I can then build Virtual Servers with their large files located on the STORAGE1/LUN1 server.
This setup was for a Development environment. I will be using it to test an Exchange 2013 server and a test SQL 2014 server. In a production environment, I would be using new and supported hardware.
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