New Stack Overflow Server Glamour Shots

by Jeff Atwood

on January 12, 2009

In Server Hosting — Rent vs. Buy? I solicited opinions on whether it made more sense to continue renting our Stack Overflow servers, or to buy them. Thanks for everyone's feedback on that!

Now the die is cast -- check out these sexy glamour shots of the two (soon to be three) new Stack Overflow servers:


Feast your eyes on that hot, sweet server hardware!

We plan to have three servers for now, but we did secure a half rack at our hosting provider for future expansion, as necessary. Here's what we'll be shipping to them initially:

The 1U web tier servers are modest:


1Lenovo ThinkServer RS110 barebones$630
42 GB RAM 240-pin DDR2 800$70
2 eBay [drive brackets]($50
2500 GB [datacenter hard drives](, mirrored$160
1Intel Xeon X3360 2.83 GHz quad-core CPU$350

Grand total of $1,260. Plus another 10 percent for tax, shipping, and so forth.

The 2U database tier server is considerably beefier:



1Lenovo ThinkServer RD120 barebones$1,490
122 GB RAM 240-pin DDR2 667 FB-DIMM$600
6eBay [drive brackets]($150
6500 GB [datacenter hard drives](, RAID 10$480
2Intel Xeon E5420 2.5 GHz quad-core CPU$700
1aftermarket IBM heatsink for 2nd proc$90
1aftermarket IBM VRM for 2nd proc$120

Grand total of $3,630. Plus another 10 percent for tax, shipping, and so forth.

I can sell the low-end Xeons and dinky amounts of (incorrectly sized) memory that I pulled out and replaced in every server, to defray the costs a tiny bit.

So, in a nutshell, for around $6,000 we'll end up with the following:

_Web Tier__Database Tier_
two serversone server
4 cores, 2.83 Ghz, 12 MB L2 cache8 cores, 2.5 Ghz, 24 MB L2 cache
500 GB RAID 1 mirror array (hot-fail, cold-swap)500 GB RAID 10 array (hot-swap, up to 2 drives at once)
dual redundant power supplies

(I am taking to heart the comment advice I got in my previous blog entry; we'll be shipping multiple spare hard drives down to the hosting provider, and I added that second 1U server just as a backup in case anything weird happens. We technically didn't need two web tier servers, yet.)

Sure, $6,000 sounds like a lot. But if you take a typical $800 per month hosting bill for renting dedicated servers this powerful, and then cut it in half because you're no longer paying every month for servers -- we save $4,800 per year, every single year! This one-time investment in server hardware pays for itself in a year and a half.

Compared to our current two identical dedicated servers, which aren't exactly chopped liver, this gives us:

  • 1.5x the overall speed (faster CPUs, faster memory bus, more L2 cache)

  • 2x the memory on web; 8x the memory on database

  • larger and faster storage with bigger drives and RAID 10 option

What this means to you is a faster Stack Overflow! As far as I'm concerned performance is a core feature; we can never be fast enough, and I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to make pages load faster.

Having these new servers in place (hopefully sometime in early-ish February) also enables us to expand, which I'll be blogging about in more detail tomorrow.