by July 10, 2001 0 comments

1. Gateway server

This need not be a very big or powerful machine, and for a small to medium-sized organization, even a Celeron with 64 MB of RAM would theoretically suffice. Hard disk space is also not critical, 6—8 GB is enough. Display can be anything you want–even a small monochrome monitor attached to a cheap display card, since we will not run X on this machine, and most of the administration will be done remotely. In our setup, we used an i810 motherboard, a Celeron processor with 128 MB RAM and an 8 GB hard disk. 

The machine will require either one or two network cards (depending on dialup or leased line, cable or DSL). We used standard RT8139-based 10/100 network cards. If you connect via modem, you will need an external modem (internal modems are highly discouraged). We used a DLINK DFM-560E modem.

A CD-ROM drive is required for installation only. The BIOS of the machine was set to boot only off hard disk, and the BIOS settings themselves were password protected. CD booting was enabled only during the installation.

2. Intranet server

This is your workhorse and it will face tremendous loads at times. We therefore suggest that you use a reasonably powerful server-class machine instead of a desktop-class machine. Otherwise, resources and performance might run out sooner than you think.

We recommend a server-class motherboard with SCSI-based hard disk(s) with twice the capacity you need now. In a mid-sized organization, look at an 18 or 36 GB SCSI hard disk (10,000 rpm preferred). Make sure that you have a backup device (such as a SCSI-based DAT drive or better)–backups are as important as primary storage. And the more RAM you have, the better–at least 256 MB to start with. In most cases, more RAM improves the performance far more than a faster processor. For example, you will find the performance of a PIII/550 MHz with 512 MB of RAM much better than a 1 GHz Pentium 4 with 128 MB of RAM. If in doubt, get more RAM before you get higher CPU speeds.

The Intranet server will require two network cards–one for connecting to the LAN, and one for connecting to the gateway server. This machine will occasionally run X, so you should have a supported display card. Most server-class boards have minimal SVGA circuitry onboard and this usually suffices. This is not going to be a workstation, so ultra-fast 3D display cards are a complete waste here. Anything that can do 800×600 (1024×768 preferred) at 16-bit color or better should do. A CD-ROM drive is necessary.

We used a STL2 based motherboard, a PIII/800 MHz and 256 MB RAM, with a Quantum Atlas 10K 18 GB hard disk and an HP Surestore DAT drive. The motherboard already had one network card (Intel Etherexpress), so we needed to add only one more.

As with the gateway machine, this machine was set to boot off hard disk only, and the BIOS was password protected. CD-booting was enabled only 
during the installation.

3. The LAN

While very small setups can get away with using a 10 Mbps hub arrangement, modern networks should work at 100 Mbps, using Ethernet switches. 

Un-switched traffic tends to bog the LAN down, and with the cost of a good 24-port 10/100 unmanaged switch now down to about Rs 23,000, this should no longer be a ‘maybe’. We used a DLINK DES 1024S switch. 

Atul Chitnis 
is CTO of Exocore Consulting, and Consulting Editor of PCQuest

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