CPU advice

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CPU advice

Postby dimm » 2012/02/24 19:29:10

Hi,

I was hoping for some advice on what to look for in a CPU. I currently have a development server cobbled together from scrap (Athlon XP 2200+), but I've now got the time and a little money to rebuild it.

The server will be on very light duties, Apache, MySQL and I want to use it as a mail server in the future. The load will be really light, just two people building php/mysql websites and testing them. The old hardware has proved to be fine until we had to build a Magento shop, but page loads for Magento seem to take about 5 to 10 seconds, which is unacceptable for populating hundreds of products.

What factors should I consider when it comes to buying a new processor? AMD/Intel, Multi core, CPU architecture etc etc. I have budget of about 70GBP/110USD to spend on the processor and think this should be plenty for the type of server I need.

Any advice would be gratefully received.

Thanks

Paul
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Re: CPU advice

Postby vonskippy » 2012/02/24 21:43:45

A new CPU, will require a new Mainboard and new RAM.

I don't think you're going to find much of anything that fits in your budget.

Shop around for a LGA1155 socket mainboard, a low end Intel i5, and 4 Gig of DDR3 RAM.

That won't be a "true" server class system, but then again, neither is your current setup.

When you're on such a shoe string budget, the only "factors" to consider is what you can actually buy for that amount of money.
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Re: CPU advice

Postby dimm » 2012/02/24 22:06:34

Thanks vonskippy

I was meaning the budget of 70GBP/110USD for the processor alone. I've budgeted about 230GBP/365USD for the whole system (CPU/Motherboard/Ram/HDD).

A low end i5 is going to eat most of that budget up in one go! At the moment, the Athlon XP 2200+ with 1GB of Ram is doing everything we are asking of it except serving Magento pages quickly. I would have expected that for my budget I can get a new CPU that is at least an order of magnitude faster than my current one.

The cpu's I'm considering are:
AMD Athlon II 641 (quad core)
AMD A6-3500
AMD Athlon II X2 250
Intel Core i3-550

Any of these standout as particularly bad or particularly good choices for a home/small scale server?

Thanks
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Re: CPU advice

Postby vonskippy » 2012/02/24 22:52:58

I'd go bigger RAM before bigger CPU.

Most reviews show that INTEL is vastly faster (per dollar) then AMD (although the buy in cost is higher).

Unless all your apps are multi-threaded, multi-core will not deliver the same performance bump as a faster core.

Maybe work backward

4 Gig of DDR3 is $30 USD
Low end Intel or AMD mainboard is $90 USD

So you have $245 USD for a CPU

Or double the RAM to 8G ($60 USD) and spend $215 on the CPU

$210 USD gets you a Intel i5-2500 or $200 USD a AMD FX-8120

So you should be able to get a decent desktop class MB/CPU/RAM setup for under $350 USD (not sure what the prices are like on your side of the planet).

We used to do dev work on servers built from desktop components, way cheaper, usually faster then what you could put together for the same money in server components, and fine for a small shop. The big difference is no ECC ram, no server class CPU's, and the mainboards are built for cheap speed over stable reliability (but how hard is it to yell to the other 2 developers that you need to reboot the server - compared to planning downtime in a 300 user biz environment?).

When you look at your budget, think about the likely length of time the new components will be usable. So for a "server" it's at least a couple of years. So if the bare bones upgrade is $375 and a much better is only $425 - that's a mere $2 per month over the life of the box for the extra cost. Think forward in the future how many times you'll slap yourself for not going the extra $2/month. Obviously there's a point of diminishing returns, but a few extra bucks usually isn't worth sweating over.
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Re: CPU advice

Postby dimm » 2012/02/24 23:31:27

Thanks again for the reply.

My budget of $365 has to include the hard disk too. On the sites I've been looking at (budget uk sites), the prices break down as follows:

0.5 TB ~ $90
DDR3 4GB ~ $25
Basic FM1 MB ~ $75
Basic LGA1155 ~ $75
Case/PSU ~ $30

This gives me ~ $130 to spend on the processor, which for an Intel gets me: pentium G6950 or i3 2100, to go up to the basic i5 will cost $220.
Or with AMD I can get Athlon ii 605e or A6-3670k or AMD Athlon II X4 651 which is the processor I'm particularly interested in.

It seems that at my price point AMD will give me better bang for my buck. It's difficult to justify 25% increase in the cost to got with Intel over AMD, especially as it's always possible with hardware at every price point to just spend another 5-10% and get a lot more, you have to set a budget somewhere and work within that.

I thought that most of the server tasks that I'm interested in are multithreaded, such as apache and MySQL. However I imagine that these can only use one thread per request, so with really low load, multicores wont be as advantageous as it would if there were several requests per second.
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Re: CPU advice

Postby vonskippy » 2012/02/24 23:43:42

The X4 system would probably be your best bet. The i3 being a dual-core CPU just isn't in the league as the i5 or i7.

When you think about it, it's amazing what you can get for just a few hundred dollars.
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Re: CPU advice

Postby TrevorH » 2012/02/25 00:28:30

I started looking at your budget thinking that it might be achievable but with the addition of a case/PSU in the mix I think you're out of luck. Do not spend ?20 on a case and a PSU, the case will rip you to pieces as you install the components in it and the PSU will last 1 day more than the warranty period and then explode spectacularly and take everything else it's attached to with it! OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration but possible - failing PSUs have been known to blow out motherboard and disks as they go.

I went to my favorite e-tail website in the UK and started adding things to my basket from their Today-Only page and by the time I'd added an Antec case + PSU @ ?62, an Asus S1155 motherboard, 4GB RAM and a 500GB SATA disk I had ?10 left for a processor :-( In fact, with the case/PSU, the disk and the RAM I had about ?100 left for motherboard and processor. If you wanted your AMD 651 processor then adding pretty much the cheapest FM1 motherboard with embedded video that I could find took the cost up to ?280.

If you want to go this route I think you need to extend your budget a bit.

I did also have a quick look at Ebay UK and for about your budget the best I could find was a quad core 2.13GHz, 8GB RAM, 2 x 146GB 15k, hardware RAID card, Dell R200 rackmount server. No operating system installed but I'm sure you can find one of those somewhere around. Now this is a rackmount server and it'll be loud so if you're in a confined office or anywhere where noise is a consideration then it won't be suitable.
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Re: CPU advice

Postby dimm » 2012/02/25 13:40:02

vonskippy wrote:
The X4 system would probably be your best bet.


This is what I was thinking, but my problem is that it's not the old Athlon II X4, it seems as though it's the new A8-3850 but with the IGP disabled. These Athlon ii's have only be about for a couple of months so the benchmarks available on http://www.cpubenchmark.net are not particularly accurate due to small sample size.

I currently have an old/original Athlon II X3 in my desktop machine running Ubuntu. As well as the usual desktop tasks (multiple browser instances, email clients editors, uml tools), I also run a local MySQL server and Apache server. I've tested the Magento store on my desktop and it's pretty responsive, more than good enough for development. Therefore If I could get an original Athlon II X3 or X4 then I wouldn't hesitate to buy and start the build now, but there are non available and I'm not convinced that these new Athlon ii's will be as good as the original ones.

I'm wondering how much performance is lost from the A8 with the IGP and whether this will have much of an impact on a server.


TrevorH wrote:
Do not spend ?20 on a case and a PSU, the case will rip you to pieces as you install the components in it and the PSU will last 1 day more than the warranty period and then explode spectacularly and take everything else it's attached to with it! OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration but possible - failing PSUs have been known to blow out motherboard and disks as they go.


I've lived without brushed aluminum cases for the last 15 years, so I guess I can put up with some rough edges for a little while longer. The first server I built lived in a cardboard box for three years and never complained.

Never had a PSU blow up or hear first hand of a PSU blow up, I've had them die at my parents house by sucking in too much cat hair, but every one which has died has always done silently without taking anything else with them. Only motherboard I've ever killed was through my own stupidity/lazyness, dropped a screw in the case, didn't bother to fish it out and eventually it lodged itself between the motherboard and case and shorted something out with lots of smoke, but the cpu, ram and disk were still fine. The reason I'm saying this is that I think that sometimes the more expensive stuff is just the same as the cheaper stuff, just with more stickers on it and a spray of gold paint. This project is not for a production server, it's purely web development and possibly a mail server.

Basically I'm more than happy with my estimates for all other components (I'll live with cheap stuff for now) and have a budget of approx ?70/$110 for the processor and was after advice on which processor will offer the best performance for a web/mail server within this budget.

Thanks
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Re: CPU advice

Postby TrevorH » 2012/02/25 14:14:15

I was reading your budget as ?20 for a case _and_ a power supply - i.e. ?10 each. Maybe I read that wrong and you meant ?20 each. Doesn't change my advice since every single no-name PSU I've ever had is now in the bin and every single Antec/Enermax is still going or has been outpaced by power hungry components. I've also learnt from sliced fingers that getting a case that's been designed rather than thrown together is much more useful than getting blood all over everything.
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Re: CPU advice

Postby dimm » 2012/02/25 14:40:45

TrevorH wrote:
I was reading your budget as ?20 for a case _and_ a power supply - i.e. ?10 each. Maybe I read that wrong and you meant ?20 each. Doesn't change my advice since every single no-name PSU I've ever had is now in the bin and every single Antec/Enermax is still going or has been outpaced by power hungry components. I've also learnt from sliced fingers that getting a case that's been designed rather than thrown together is much more useful than getting blood all over everything.


I did mean together, a bundle ?20 for midi case with a 500W PSU. You must have been really unlucky as my machines (mostly desktops) have all had regular use and cheap components have never caused me a headache. Just out of interest, what sort of numbers of failed budget PSU's are you talking about?

As to cases, I've always gone with the cheapest and I know what you mean about sharp edges, but I haven't cut myself yet. I do agree that cheap cases can be a little frustrating with lids that don't align correctly, sides that are flimsy and can vibrate a lot. However after build, I rarely find the need to go back inside so I'm prepared to be careful during assembly and then forget about the cheap case for the next 18 to 24 months until it's upgrade time. I always rate functionality above aesthetics with almost everything in life, so if I can cut the case cost to get a faster processor or more ram, then I will always choose to do that. If you head down the aesthetic route too far you'll end up with a mac!

I do have to admit superstition of my own, which is that I always buy ASUS motherboards if I have the choice. I've had several in the past and not one has given me any problems so I've stuck with them. I know this is ridiculous, but that's the way the human brain works, spotting patterns that are not really there based on tiny samples.
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