DSL/Cable Webserver Server Upgrade - Dell PowerEdge 500sc
June 2, 2002

Author: Brian Lee
Page: 1

Note:  All the images in this article can be enlarged to 640 x 480 in a new window by clicking on the thumbnail.

Id thought it would be cool for a behind the scenes look at how DSL/Cable Webserver runs.  Then again, almost everything we do around here is behind the scenes since this website covers DIY webservering.  Anyhow, let's take a look at the server situation here at DSL/Cable Webserver.  Now this article isn't exactly a product review, but we do cover many different products.  Consider it more of a tour.

A little history.
I've been running a webserver on DSL since the year 2000 and at the time, our webserver was a home-built computer with an AMD K6-3 333 Mhz CPU overclocked to 350 on a FIC 503+ motherboard. 

Click image to enlarge

Here are the complete specs for that machine.

Original Server:

  • CPU: AMD K6-III (3.5 x 100 MHz = 350 MHz)
  • Motherboard: FIC 503+
  • Memory: 256 Megs RAM CAS 2 - (2 x 128 Kingston ValueRAM PC100)
  • Hard disk: 20GB Quantum AT Fireball LCT 15, 4400rpm, 512k buffer, ATA66
  • Network adapter: Intel Pro /100+ Management Adapter

Surprisingly enough, that server was rock stable.  It never crashed, never BSODd on me, never hiccuped at all.  The only time I would have downtime with that server is when I rebooted the machine, which was quite often since installing the multitude of service packs and patches for Windows 2000 always requires a reboot.  Left alone, the longest uptime the server had was 4 months.  This may not sound like much, but I am confident that if I didn't have such itchy fingers to upgrade this or that and try new hardware, the uptime would have been even longer.

The performance of the original server was also quite good.  Since most of the content on this site is static, the CPU load averaged around 2-4% all the time.  However, the forums are dynamic and since they are coded in Perl, the CPU load did spike to 60% or so when posting a message, doing a search, or anything else that required processing by the server.  But most of the time, the CPU load was very low.  This is not surprising at all since the amount of visitors we normally cater to is easily handled by the AMD CPU.  350 Mhz may not sound like a lot today, especially since we have CPUs that can run at 2.4 Ghz and above, but consider that the original Cobalt RAQ line of servers were designed to handle up to 200 websites with the same CPU!  So handling a single website with a modest amount of traffic is no big deal at all.  Besides, the main bottle neck of this whole website isn't the CPU, RAM, or HD, it's the DSL connection speed.

Up until recently, this site was hosted on a 128k upload line, or about 2x faster than a 56k modem.  While the photos did load up a bit slowly, overall, the performance wasn't bad at all.  On a daily basis the site would transfer over 200 megabytes upstream.  Only recently did I upgrade the line speed of this website to 384k.  This is 3x faster than our previous speed but for long time visitors, the only real difference was apparent in the photos since all the text and forums still came up at the same speed.

Since I was in an upgrading type of mood with the upgrade of the DSL line speed, I thought it would be cool to upgrade the server as well.  It was a very hard decision to make since the old server was very reliable, it could handle all of our loads with minimal CPU utilization, and it was a good friend.  As you can see, there was no single good reason to upgrade the server.  So why did I do it anyway?  Upgraditis.  All techies have it.  I have a mild form that causes me to upgrade at least once a year.

Actually, there were a few things about the server that I did want changed.  First of all, the server was running out of hard disk space.  I was using a 20 gig 4400 rpm (yes that's right, a 4400 rpm) hard disk and it was getting full.  Not with this website per say, but with other files I have.  You see, the webserver is also a home file/print server for me.  That's where I store some common files and other miscellaneous media files (read MP3s).  I tried to fix this problem by purchasing a 80 gig HD, but the FIC 503+ motherboard wouldn't recognize it.  Also, I was worried about data security.  I wanted to be able to have a disk mirror using RAID 1 just for peace of mind.  Lastly, although the CPU was fast enough for webservering, it was getting kind of slow for administration.  Processing log files, performing backups, and other housekeeping chores were taking longer than I wanted to wait.  I know, these are pretty sad excuses for dumping a server that did it's job pretty well, but I went ahead and started shopping.  The fun begins!