Server Buyers Guide

Scan has a large range of servers available, built to your requirements by 3XS Systems. While our intuitive configurators give you ultimate flexibility to choose the components and specification you require, are you always aware how any given choice could impact the overall performance of your server? Understanding exactly which components are the best fit for particular workloads may help you select a better server - similarly considering future expansion or flexibility may result in you choosing a different model altogether.

This guide will take you through all the major components of a server build and highlight potential areas to consider while you choose each of them. We’ll also cover accessories and some wider infrastructure points too, as these may all place a part in the performance and suitability of your server. Let’s begin.

What is a Server?

Servers act as the core for any organisation’s network - where all centrally controlled processes are carried out. This can range from storing all files and providing back-up and archive functions, through to delivering website capabilities. They are usually split into one of three main types depending on what the usage of the server will be.

Tower Servers

Servers in this format are usually designed for a small office where there may not be a dedicated rack cabinet or server room. A server like this may also do multiple tasks, so they tend to occupy a larger chassis allowing for greater internal storage space for disk drives.

Rack Servers

A rack server is designed to be installed in a 19in rack cabinet and will usually be located alongside other servers and network equipment. The more compact rack chassis design reflects the fact that this type of server will be dedicated to few or even a single job. Less space is required for storage as this is often external and shared amongst several rack servers. Larger chassis are available to compute accommodate acceleration devices such as GPUs.

Multi Node Servers

Although these are rack mounted chassis too, they differ as the chassis will contain multiple dense servers designed for very specific compute tasks. They are some times referred to as clusters and usually employed for CPU intensive workloads, where each node (distinct server) in the cluster works with the others to provide a greater level of compute power in a more dense rack space.

Servers differ from desktop PC and workstation machines in that they are designed to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This ‘always on’ capability is delivered by having server-grade or enterprise-class’ components - internal parts that are designed to constantly be in use, and cope with the constant workload of the server. This higher grade specification of components also delivers better residency and reliability, so it is never wise to build a server using standard PC parts. It is true that high-end workstations can employ server-grade CPUs, memory and strange drives too, but this is usually when the workstation is critical, so in effect warrants the extra reliability server parts will bring.

All 3XS servers are built using server-grade components from market leading manufacturers, and are fully tested prior to shipment. It is worth mentioning that these are identical components to those used in common server brands such as Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu and HPE, however 3XS offers greater customisation during the configuration process.

How to use this guide

There's a lot to consider when choosing a server so we've broken down this buyers guide into topics.
If you don't want to read the whole buyers guide at once, or one topic is more important to you than the others,
you can use the buttons in this index to skip to the relevant topic.

Server CPUs Server Memory Accelerator Cards Server Drives Storage Controllers Server Network Cards Server Operating Systems Professional Services Network Storage Networking and Infrastructure

Server CPUs

The Central Processing Unit, or the CPU, is one of the most critical components to consider when building a new server. It governs the majority of the servers performance when it come to compute tasks and directly determines the degree of multitasking that can be performed by the server corresponding to how many cores the CPU may have. There are two main options to choose from when considering server CPUs - AMD EPYC and Intel Xeon.

AMD EPYC CPUs

AMD EPYC CPUs are designed primarily for the server market and tend to have a lot of built-in business-critical technology - for example, they support error-correcting code (ECC) memory, which prevents data corruption and system crashes. For businesses where continuous workloads are mission-critical, even a few hours downtime can cost far more than ECC memory is worth. Also EPYC processors support far higher memory bandwidth and more RAM capacity, as well as many more PCIe lanes for connecting add-in cards and NVMe SSDs. With all these extra features, scalability and fail-safes, naturally, the price reflects this.

EPYC 7003

EPYC 7003 processors are the latest range of AMD server CPUs built on the Zen 3 architecture. The range covers all price points from the 8-core base model right up to the flagship 64-core models, and now includes 28 and 56-core models. All models feature support up to 4TB of DDR4 ECC Registered memory, 32MB of L3 cache per core and 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, however it is worth pointing out that in dual socket configurations half of the PCIe lanes are disabled and the resources inside the CPU used for inter-CPU communication, so the maximum number of useable lanes in a dual-socket EPYC system is 128.

EPYC 7003P

EPYC 7003 processors are the latest range of AMD server CPUs built on the Zen 3 architecture, however in all other regards they have the same features and capabilities of standard EPYC 7003 processors. The ‘P’ series of processors has been designed around a couple of specific scenarios - firstly that up to 64-cores in a single processor is enough that a second CPU is not required, and secondly for GPU-accelerated servers, where the majority of compute occurs in the GPU rather than CPU, so an over-specified CPU can be an expense that is rarely utilised.

EPYC 7002

EPYC 7002 processors is a range of previous generation AMD server CPUs built on the Zen 2 architecture. The range covers all budgets from the 8-core base model right up to the flagship 64-core models. All models feature support up to 4TB of DDR4 ECC Registered memory, 16MB of L3 cache per core and 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, however it is worth pointing out that in dual socket configurations half of the PCIe lanes are disabled and the resources inside the CPU used for inter-CPU communication, so the maximum number of useable lanes in a dual-socket EPYC system is 128.

EPYC 7002P

The EPYC 7002P series is a range of previous generation single socket AMD CPUs built on the Zen 2 architecture, however in all other regards they have the same features and capabilities of standard EPYC 7002 processors. The ‘P’ series of processors has been designed around a couple of specific scenarios - firstly that up to 64-cores in a single processor is enough that a second CPU is not required, and secondly for GPU-accelerated servers, where the majority of compute occurs in the GPU rather than CPU, so an over-specified CPU can be an expense that is rarely utilised.

Intel Xeon CPUs

Intel Xeon Scalable processors are now in their 3rd generation and deliver industry leading, workload optimised performance, with built-in AI acceleration to help speed data’s transformative impact. The range is so extensive it is subdivided into three types, each designated a colour, Platinum, Gold, and Silver, but all models can be deployed in at least two processors per system, with some models even supporting more than two CPUs per server. These three families of CPU cover all workstation and server uses from entry-level tasks in small organisations all the way up to HPC clusters. It is fair to say that there is overlap between these families and it is always important to view a processor choice with your current and future workloads in mind.

Xeon Platinum

Intel Xeon Platinum 8300 family of processors are the best-in-class option for secure, agile, hybrid-cloud datacentre workloads. With enhanced hardware-based security up to eight socket processor performance, each CPU provides up to 40 cores and 80 threads, support for up to 6TB memory per socket and 64 lanes of PCIe 4.0 lanes for add-in cards and NVMe SSDs. These processors are built for mission-critical applications such as real-time analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and multi-cloud workloads.

Xeon Gold

With support for the higher memory speeds, and enhanced memory capacity, the Xeon Gold 6300 and 5300 families of processors deliver significant improvement in performance, advanced reliability, and hardware-enhanced security. Supporting up to dual-socket configurations, each CPU provides up to 32 cores and 64 threads, support for up to 6TB memory and 64 lanes of PCIe 4.0 lanes for add-in cards and NVMe SSDs. They are optimised for demanding mainstream datacentre, multi-cloud compute, and network and storage workloads.

Xeon Silver

Intel Xeon Silver 4300 family of processors deliver essential performance, improved memory speed, and power efficiency. Supporting up to dual-socket configurations, each CPU provides up to 20 cores and 40 threads, support for up to 6TB memory and 64 lanes of PCIe 4.0 lanes for add-in cards and NVMe SSDs. These processors are ideal for mid-range compute and storage applications.

There are also several special edition Xeon and EPYC CPUs that have additional features designed for specific types of workloads - you can learn more about these in our dedicated Intel Xeon CPU buyers guide and our AMD EPYC CPU buyers guide.

Server Memory

The memory or RAM you want in your server will depend on what you are intending using the server for - it should also be complimentary to the level of CPU(s) you have selected. There is no point in having 64-core CPUs and only a small amount of memory as this will create a bottleneck in feeding data to the CPUS - transversely it is also not advised to have a large system memory, say 1TB but then only have lower powered CPUs, as then data supply will overwhelm the capacity to process it, causing another bottleneck.

Usually a server chassis, motherboard and memory combination will be designed so that the minimum memory allowed will provide ample performance, though this should be increased if your choose higher end CPUs, or have a workload or application that is particularly memory intensive - this will be highlighted in the ‘minimum system requirements’ section of most software packages.

A word of caution – every server CPU has a memory controller with a number of channels, typically 6 or 8, that will perform optimally when the server has the same number of DIMMs. The 3XS configurators automatically apply these rules, ensuring optimal performance regardless how much memory you select.

Accelerator Cards

An add-in PCIe card for a server is usually designed to accelerate a compute process - often these are optimised for parallel compute workloads where many calculations can be carried out much faster than a CPU can achieve. This is due to acceleration cards such as graphical processing units (GPUs) having many more cores than a CPU will have - think thousands rather than tens.

These parallel workloads are usually high performance computing (HPC), artificial intelligence (AI) or general data science projects. There are a number of add-in accelerator cards that can be configured within your 3XS server to tackle these intensive tasks and depending on the chassis chosen eight to ten cards in a single server system is not uncommon.

NVIDIA GPU Accelerators

NVIDIA offer a wide range of GPU cards to suit all budgets and workloads, either in embedded SXM4 format or standard PCIe add-in card. In many cases they can be combined using NVIDIA technologies such as NVLink to combine the power of GPUs for greater performance. The processing and capability power of any given card will be determined by the architecture of the card, the number of cores and the GPU memory - you can compare individual cards and their suitability for given workloads by reading our professional GPU buyers guide.

The NVIDIA Ampere family of GPU accelerator cards represents the cutting edge in performance for AI and HPC workloads, offering unprecedented compute density, performance, and flexibility to deliver up to 5 petaFLOPS AI performance in a single system. The NVIDIA A100 accelerator is available in either standard PCIe or high-density SXM4 formats. The NVIDIA A40 accelerator card features 48GB DDR6 ECC memory and is the entry-level Ampere card. Any of these Ampere passively cooled GPUs offer the flexibility to be installed in a wide variety of both air and liquid cooled server chassis. It is also possible to use a variety of NVIDIA GPUs to deliver a virtual GPU (vGPU) experience to an organisation, whether this be for remote desktop, visualisation or compute - if this is the intended use of your 3XS custom server then you learn more by reading our dedicated section on vGPU.

Alternative Accelerators

The Xilinx Alveo range of accelerator cards deliver compute, networking, and storage acceleration in an efficient small form factor, and available with 100GbE networking, PCIe 4, and HBM2 memory. Designed to deploy in any server, they offer a flexible solution designed to increase performance for a wide range of datacentre workloads.

Micron's Deep Learning Accelerator platform is a solution comprised of a modular FPGA-based architecture, powered by Micron memory, and running a high performance engine tuned for a variety of neural networks. Featuring a broad deep learning framework support combined with an easy to use toolset and software programmability, these accelerators have the ability to run multiple neural networks simultaneously.

Intel FPGA-based accelerator cards provide hardware programmability on production qualified platforms, so data scientists can design and deploy models quickly, while allowing flexibility in a rapidly changing environment. Complete with a robust collection of software, firmware, and tools designed to make it easier to develop and deploy FPGA accelerators for workload optimisation in datacentre servers.

If your intended server is for AI training purposes then it may be worth reading our dedicated section on custom AI training servers.

Server Drives

The type and capacity of any internal storage required in a server will very much depend on what the intended use of the server is. There are two types of drives - hard disk drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD), the former features spinning disk platters on which the data is stored, whereas the latter has no moving parts and stores data on NAND flash components. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the cost effectiveness or performance required.

HDD SSD Comparison
Performance Up to 200MB/sec More than 5000MB/sec SSDs up to 25x faster
Access Times 5-8ms 0.1ms SSDs have almost no latency
Reliability 2-5% failure rate 0.5% failure rate SSDs much more reliable
Resilience Susceptible to vibrations No moving parts SSD much safer to install in a laptop
Energy Use 6-15W 2-5W SSD much more energy efficient
Noise 20-40dB Silent No noise from SSD
Capacity Up to 15TB Up to 15TB Similar in maximum capacities
Cost £-££ ££ - ££££ SSD more expensive, especially at high capacities

There are also multiple types of format and interface that can be employed - again each more or less suitable for any given usage and workload. The common choices are either SATA, SAS, M.2 or U.2 connections in either 3.5in, 2.5in or M.2 formats. There is also an option to have SSD internal storage in the form of a PCIe add-in card.

Form Factor SATA SAS U.2 NVMe M.2 NVMe
3.5"
Yes
Yes
No
No
2.5"
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
M.2
Yes
No
No
Yes

3XS server systems can be configured using enterprise-class drives from leading brands including Intel, Samsung, Seagate and WD. You can learn more about the differences between HDDs and SDDs, the types of format and interfaces in detail by reading our dedicated internal storage buyers guide.

Within a server it is common that the operating system (OS) will sit on separate drives to the applications and data, so with this in mind an M.2 SSD is ideal. Firstly large capacities are not required for the OS, and secondly it keeps traditional drive bays free for data storage. It is also worth considering a second SSD to provide redundancy and failover for the OS.

For data storage it again depends on usage - large file sizes and/or regular access requirement will benefit from SSDs, where media to be read, or archive / back-up files will be more cost effectively stored on HDDs. As a typical server chassis will take many more drives than a desktop or workstation (up to 24 is not uncommon), then choice of 2.5in or 3.5in play a more important part. Smaller drives will be more power efficient whether HDD or SSD, but for an array of many drives SSDs will win out as they need no vibration resistance and offer greater stability. At this level it may be that data expansion requires additional external storage outside of, but connected to the server - we’ll come back to this later in the guide. Finally, in a very high performance server it may be appropriate to use NMVe card SSDs to gain maximum throughput and minimum latency.

RAID

RAID or Redundant Array of Independent Disks is a technology that takes the separate storage drives within a system and splits data across these in various ways with the result of accelerating performance and in some instances protecting the data from single or in some cases multiple drive failure. So-called ‘parity’ blocks of data instructs the RAID controller where the data should be so if a drive fails, it knows what was on that drive and so can rebuild the array. It is essential to employ some level of RAID where the OS should be protected and / or data is mission critical, such as a server. Let’s look at the options available.

RAID 0 - This method of RAID stripes the data across a minimum of two disks. Generally speaking, RAID 0 increases the read and write speeds proportionally to the number of disks you use, however although no capacity is lost with the array, there is also no fault tolerance, so RAID 0 may not be ideal for critical data storage.

RAID 1 - This method of RAID mirrors the data across a minimum of two disks. Although half the total capacity of the RAID is lost, for example two 1TB disks will result in 1TB of useable capacity, in the event of one drive failing, the system can be turned off, the failed drive replaced and then the mirror rebuilt. This is a popular data security solution but can be costly on drives bearing in mind half the capacity is lost.

RAID 5 - Here, data is striped across a minimum of three disks with a single parity block. Only a quarter of the total capacity is lost, for example three 1TB disks will result in 2TB of useable capacity. Should a drive fail the distributed parity block allows a drive to be replaced and the array rebuilt.

RAID 6 - This is an enhancement to the technology used in RAID 5 – with this method data is striped across a minimum of four disks, but with two distributed parity blocks – although a greater degree of useable capacity is lost, for example four 1TB disks will result in 2TB of useable capacity, it has the benefit that two drives can fail before you lose any data. This can be a key factor if employing large drive sizes (4TB and above), as rebuild times can be significantly lengthened.

RAID 10 - This method of RAID employs a minimum of four drives, and features two striped RAID 0 arrays mirrored in RAID 1, giving the best possible performance while providing some redundancy against drive failure. For example four 1TB disks will result in 2TB of useable capacity. Data integrity is very high, as the array will tolerate a drive failure in each of the mirrored blocks, but again it should be noted that as larger capacity drives are used, the rebuild times in the event of a failure are significantly lengthened.

Depending on how the RAID setup is controlled it is possible to have multiple arrays working independently. For example two OS drives can be mirrored in RAID 1, whilst four storage drives could be configured in RAID 5. Alternatively two RAID 6 arrays of 5 drives could be created in a 10 drive storage device.

Storage Controllers

A storage controller is a hardware device used to manage HDDs or SSDs in server, or external storage array connected to the server. While all motherboards include a basic storage controller built into the chipset, you may need to add a third party storage controller if you need lots of drives or want to configure them in RAID to protect your data.

There are two different types of hardware controller available - a Host Bus Adapter (HBA) is an expansion card that plugs into a PCIe slot on the motherboard and provides fast, reliable non-RAID communication between the host system and the storage devices. HBAs can reliably connect hundreds or even thousands of HDDs, SSDs and tape drives to the host system, making them ideal for cost-sensitive backup solutions or high-performance environments. While HBAs themselves, they can still be used to connect the drives in a Software Defined Storage (SDS) configuration, which can provide similar performance and redundancy to RAID.

A RAID controller card is similar to an HBA, but can also add redundancy (RAID) for your data, help optimise performance, reduce latency, or even make smart decisions on whether to store data on an HDD or an SSD cache, depending on user needs. Since these additional tasks consume power and processing speed, RAID controllers are typically more expensive than HBAs and handle fewer devices. They are however recommended where data is critical and needs some degree of protection and in scenarios where different drive types are being used such as a single array containing SSDs for regularly accessed data and HDDs for archive purposes.

There is also an option known as software or chipset RAID, embedded within the CPU where no additional hardware is required, but it is often limited to only the basic RAID types.

Hardware RAID

ADVANTAGES

• Better performance, especially in more complex RAID configurations. Processing is handled by the dedicated RAID processor rather than the main computer processor which translates to less strain on the system when writing backups, and less downtime when restoring data.
• Has more RAID configuration options including hybrid configurations which may not be available with certain OS options.
• Compatible across different operating systems. This is critical if you plan to access your RAID system from say, Mac and Windows. Hardware RAID would be recognisable by any system.

DISADVANTAGES

• Since there’s more hardware, there’s more cost involved in the initial setup.
• Inconsistent performance for certain hardware RAID setups when using SSDs.
• Older RAID controllers disable the built-in fast caching functionality of SSDs that are needed for efficient programming and erasing onto the drive.

Software RAID

ADVANTAGES

• No additional cost - all you need to do is connect the drives and then configure them within the BIOS.
• Modern CPUs are powerful so can easily handle RAID 0 & 1 processing with no noticeable performance hit.

DISADVANTAGES

• You’re restricted to the RAID levels the server motherboard supports.
• Performance hit if you’re using more complex RAID configurations.
• Limited performance and resilience compared to hardware RAID controller.
• If the motherboard dies you lose access to the RAID array.

To learn more about RAID controllers read our dedicated storage controllers buyers guide.

Server Network Cards

A wired network card, often called a network interface card (NIC) or LAN (local area network) card, is an add-in card for a system to enable it to connect to the wider network and outside world. Although most systems include a basic network card built into the motherboard as standard, there are many types of connectivity so changing or upgrading the NIC is quite common.

If you are making network connections to a regular home network or small corporate network, then Ethernet is normally adequate, but you may want more ports on the NICs or more NICs - both are ways of adding redundancy and resilience into your server and network, as you are making multiple connections in case one should fail. If you are dealing with HPC then Infiniband is the chosen standard rather than Ethernet. Similarly a Fibre connection is often used when dealing with high-end storage, so in both these cases you will need to configure NICs to suit your needs. Our network card options can be configured from leading brands such as NVIDIA Networking (formerly Mellanox), Intel and Broadcom.

Ethernet

Ethernet is the most common form of communication seen in a network and has been around since the early 1980s. Over this time the speeds of available Ethernet connections has vastly increased. The initial commonly available NICs were capable of 10 megabits per second (10Mbps), followed by 100Mbps and Gigabit Ethernet (1GbE or 1000Mbps).

In a corporate network, 1GbE has long been the standard, with faster 10GbE, 25GbE, 40GbE and 50GbE speeds also being available. The last few years have seen speeds of Ethernet increase to 100GbE, 200GbE and recently 400GbE. Although all these speeds are delivered over Ethernet, the distance of connection and speed required have an impact on the interfaces on the NIC and the types of cabling used.

On NICs with up to 10GbE speeds the RJ45 connector is used designed to take a copper based cable. Above 10GbE it is more common to see an SFP (small form-factor pluggable) port.

For RJ45 Ethernet connections the maximum distance data can be transmitted is 100m, which has limitations when looking at networks in large buildings, campuses or even city-wide. The SFP port allows for fibre optic cabling to be employed, which suffers less data loss and can achieve much higher throughput speeds. Depending on the distance and speed required different SFPs can be plugged into the NIC - we’ll look at the different SFP modules later on this guide.

It is worth mentioning that although traditionally Ethernet has lagged behind Infiniband speeds, this is now changing, due to increased common SFP interface use by the likes of Mellanox - perhaps driven by the much larger install base of Ethernet technology in the market and the opportunity for upgrade.

InfiniBand

InfiniBand is an alternative technology to Ethernet. Developed in the late 1990s it is usually found in HPC applications where high bandwidth and low latency are key requirements. Although an InfiniBand NIC fits in a server the same way and works in a similar way to an Ethernet NIC to transfer data, they historically have achieved improved throughput by not needing to use the server CPU to control data transmission, hence latency is reduced by removing this step. Like Ethernet there have been several generations of InfiniBand starting with SDR (Single Data Rate) providing 2.5Gbps throughput. This has since been superseded by Dual Data Rate (DDR - 5Gbps), Quad Data Rate (QDR - 10Gbps), Fourteen Data Rate (FDR - 14Gbps), Enhanced data Rate (EDR - 25Gbps) and the latest High Data Rate (HDR - 50Gbps) cards. Once again differing SFP modules will be employed depending on the speed wanted and distance required.

Server Operating Systems

Servers will usually run on either a Windows Server or Linux operating system, depending on whether the server is aimed towards more regular process and storage need or a high-end compute use like data science calculations.

Microsoft Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 is the latest operating system (OS) for servers from Microsoft. To cover small office servers right up to datacentre deployments, it is available in three versions - Windows Server 2019 Essentials, Windows Server 2019 Standard and Windows Server 2019 Datacenter.

With up to 25 users or 50 devices, the Essentials edition is the perfect server OS for small businesses. It includes many of the features of the larger editions, such as Windows Admin Centre and System Insights. Rather than a license-based model, Essentials is just a single purchase. The Standard edition is aimed at users who only need a few Windows Server virtual machines. In addition to installation on the physical hardware, two virtual machines running Windows Server are also possible with the server license. There is no limit on Linux VMs. Nearly all features and server roles from the Datacentre Edition are also included in the Standard version. One exception is Storage Spaces Direct. Finally with the Datacenter edition, users have the greatest possible flexibility in server deployment and can realise large, rapidly changing workloads. The number of VMs is unlimited and software-defined storage can be implemented using Storage Spaces Direct.

Windows 2019 Edition Ideal for Licensing Model CAL Requirements Cost
ESSENTIALS Small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices No License required No CAL required £
STANDARD Physical or minimally virtualised environments Per CPU core Windows Server CAL ££
DATACENTRE Highly virtualised datacentres and cloud environments Per CPU core Windows Server CAL £££

To learn more about the feature sets of the three version and the licensing requirements for CPU cores and users or devices, please read our dedicated Windows Server 2019 buyers guide.

Linux

Alternatively if your server is intended to be used for deep learning and AI or HPC workloads then it is advisable to use Linux. There are many distributions of Linux available, and our 3XS Systems team can advise which is best for your given use.

Professional Services

Although all our 3XS servers come as standard with a comprehensive 3-year (1st year onsite) warranty, this can be extended to provide extra cover if required. Additional services can also be provided such as installation, remote monitoring capabilities or data science consultancy.

Installation

Installation

Scan specialists will aid with the installation of any new infrastructure, from simple single device installations all the way through to installing complete racks of equipment.

Data Scientist

Data Scientist

Scan will help effect change by building up a client’s analytical skills, developing competencies, and understanding of the intricacies of their business, through the analyses and interpretation of complex digital data.

Remote Monitoring

Remote Monitoring

Complex environments bring with them unpredictability and vulnerability, clear reasons to manage and monitor them efficiently. Scan will have visibility over your data centre/network’s functionality and operations and take a proactive approach to stay ahead of the outages, not just tackle them as they occur.

To learn more about our full service offering for your servers and wider infrastructure, please visit our professional services section.

Network Storage

As previously mentioned it is not uncommon for storage capacity to expand outside the confines of the server chassis. This may be in addition to the internal storage the server has to offer, or if significant fast flash storage is required, then a network storage system may be the best approach.

3XS servers can be configured accordingly to pair with a wide variety of leading storage systems from a number of leading brands, whether these be connected by Ethernet, Infiniband or fibre.

NAS

Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems are the simplest way to add extra storage capacity. Much like servers they can be either tower or rackmount form factors to perfectly fit either a small office or large corporate environment. Usually connected over Ethernet, we offer various NAS options from both QNAP and Synology in 4- to 16-drive bay versions, scaling to additional terabytes or petabytes if required. You can learn more about NAS solutions in our dedicated NAS buyers guide.

Tiered Storage

Tiered storage is designed to act as fast access, regular storage and archive in a single solution. Different drives types are used to achieve the parameters needed - NVMe SSDs for hot data SATA SSDs for the bulk storage, and cost-effective HDDs for the archive capacity. These tiered devices are available from our partners DDN and HPE, where inbuilt software then fluidly moves data between the tiers to maximise performance and access. The interfaces are customisable and can be configured as either Ethernet or Infiniband to match your server connectivity.

All Flash Storage

All flash storage arrays solely use SSDs - either SATA or NVMe - to ensure rapid data transfer to the connected servers. We supply solutions from NetApp, DDN, Pure Storage and Dell-EMC in various capacities which can be configured with either Ethernet or Infiniband network connections. They also offer rich software feature sets including de-duplication, snapshot technology and cloud integration.

AI Optimised Storage

Storage optimised for AI is in many way similar to the all-flash arrays mentioned above, however the main difference is that only NVMe SSDs are employed for maximum data throughput, ensuring GPUs in connected servers are utilised to the full extent. These solutions from PNY are available in various capacities and feature low latency Infiniband connectivity.

To learn more about any of these external storage solutions from our selected partners, please visit our Scan Business storage section.

Networking and Infrastructure

As mentioned earlier the server or servers act as the core of the network in any organisation, however as everything else need to access them, network connectivity and associated infrastructure is also key to overall performance.

Network Switches

A network switch is device that connects multiple PCs, workstations, servers or storage devices within a business environment to enable them to communicate within an organisation and share and access the Internet connection to the wider world. They may also be used to connect other network capable or IP (Internet Protocol) devices such as wireless access points, surveillance cameras, phones and video conferencing system. Switches increase in functionality depending on where in the network they are intended for so it is important to get the correct feature set.

As you may expect switches are available in the same networking standards as server NICs and storage appliances - Ethernet and Infiniband - and with various throughput capabilities and feature sets. It is essential to get the ones that best support your hardware devices across the network. You can learn more about choice of switches in our dedicated network switches buyer guide.

UPS

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a device that sits between the power source and a computer, or a number of computers. Its job is to ensure the computers receive a consistent and clean power supply, whilst also protecting them from power surges and power failures. A surge could damage components within the computer and a failure could interrupt data being saved on the device, resulting in errors. Essentially, the more mission-critical a computer is, the more it should be power protected by a UPS.

A UPS is a device that regulates mains power passing through it and provides emergency power when the input power source, typically the utility mains supply, fails. A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide instantaneous or near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions by means of one or more attached batteries. The battery runtime of most UPSs is relatively short - 5 to 15 minutes being typical—but sufficient to allow time to bring an auxiliary power source online, or to properly shut down your computers and other devices. Much like servers they are available in either tower or rackmount formats.

Tower UPS

Rackmount UPS

To learn more about correctly sizing a UPS, extended runtime options and connections to your servers please read our dedicated UPS buyer guide.

Power Distribution Units

PDUs or ePDUs if network connected, provide better power control from a UPS within a rack environment. Not only do they keep cabling neat, they offer monitoring ability and can even be metered if billing is being conducted in a datacentre.

Rack Cabinets

Even in a smaller office a rack cabinet provides a secure environment for UPS to be housed along with their connected servers, storage appliances and network hardware. They also work to keep cabling simple and clear and stop unauthorised users from accessing the business infrastructure. Cabinets can be configured to a range of heights - typically 14U - 47U, and with a variety of sides, shelves and mounts for PDUs and the like.

Time to Choose

We hope you’ve found our guide to custom built 3XS servers useful, giving you the additional knowledge to get the most out of our intuitive server configurators. Click below to see our great ranges of servers designed for many popular workloads.

If you would still like some advice on configuring your ideal server, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly advisors on 01204 474747 or by contacting [email protected].