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Ask LowEndBox – What Hardware Spec to Sell VPS for?

Date/Time: July 21, 2010 @ 4:32 am, by LowEndAdmin

Got an email from Paul — sorry it is not his real name as he seems to email me from his email address of a Defence Department of a certain large island nation. To protect him from possible future persecution so I am masking out the name :) Anyway, he asked

I was wonding what people would expect to see as the base specifictions as a low end VPS host box.

Having a look at some dedicated server deals it seems something like a 1x Intel Xeon x3460 at 2.8 GHz with 4 GB DDR3 ECC — would be the minimum to make this viable to sell 128mb VPS servers off at a lowend box rate.

So what I’m going to put out to the community is what do you expect to see as the hardware for the host node?

Okay. I have never been on the provider side of the table so I have no idea. However from what I can see here, it tends to go two extremes

  • Cheap desktop Pentium box or 3-4 year-old old server hardware with small amount of RAM (4-8GB) and software RAID1 of SATA2 drives. Sell 10-15 VPS on it.
  • Expensive dual quad core Xeon boxes and latest hardware, with 32GB+ memory and 6x SAS drives. Sell 50+ VPS on it.

Well the numbers are purely pulling out from nowhere so don’t be surprised that they are completely out of whack. Both are acceptable for slicing up to provide low end boxes I guess, and I guess the performance would be similar. You either get less contention on cheap box or more on high performance beast.

However at the sub-$7 end I am actually not “expecting” any kind of performance. I would actually much prefer stability and consistensy than being able to burst to 4x 2.8GHz one day, and complete unresponsive because of IO-wait on the other.

Anyway. Xeon X3460 is a good quad core CPU. Up the memory to 8GB so you can jam more virtual servers on it. Also don’t forget that RAID1 would be the bare minimum :)

As potential customers of a low end virtual server, what is your expectation?

The original owner of LowEndBox known as "LowEndAdmin" or "LEA" for short founded LowEndBox in 2008 and created the concept of hosting applications on low resource "Low End Boxes". After creating the roots of the community that we know today, "LEA" stepped aside and allowed others to carry the torch forward.

37 Comments

  1. earl:

    Hey This is a good topic LEA.. Not sure it would be profitable to only have 10-15 vps’s on a server. I wonder how many vps’s the average server can hold without degrading service?

    July 21, 2010 @ 5:00 am | Reply
  2. Raj:

    There is a similar thread over at WHT here : http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=965748

    To piggy back on someone else’s post, I like the following :

    1) low budget ($5-$10)
    2) a provider who’s won’t dissapear in a few months
    3) reasonably good uptime (a few minutes of outage per month won’t kill me, also random reboots as long as they come right back automatically are OK)
    4) Stability and consistensy
    5) diskspace (20-30GB)
    6) mid-range RAM (256/512burst)
    7) unmanaged (i’m a techie damnit!).

    July 21, 2010 @ 5:08 am | Reply
  3. AZGuy:

    @ earl – In terms of degrading service, the limiting factors are normally disk IO and CPU.

    July 21, 2010 @ 5:46 am | Reply
  4. earl:

    @AZGuy

    I think that disk I/O seems to be more limiting than the CPU..

    Also I can’t really see it being worth while selling VPS’s on a Pentium PC, even if you own the hardware to Colo it would probably cost more than if you were to just rent a Dedi.

    July 21, 2010 @ 5:54 am | Reply
  5. It is still coming down to what kind of server are you expecting to pack 10-15 VPS in it. A VPS that runs a simple WordPress site that gets 3000-5000 page views a day (like tis one) would use very little resource, and I expect a lot of people buy cheap VPS to use it occassionally for development and experiment (rather than moving a high traffic production site on it).

    I guess the bane of VPS hosting would be mis-configured software. For example a heavy MySQL user misconfigured the key buffer so indices load from disk all the time despite sufficient memory, and in the end everyone else on the node suffers due to poor isolation provided by OpenVZ.

    July 21, 2010 @ 6:44 am | Reply
  6. IWTFI:

    @LowEndAdmin: Can you make a comment or post with stats about lowendbox.com? Like how much memory it uses, server configuration……… please

    July 21, 2010 @ 7:01 am | Reply
  7. earl:

    would be interesting if they used the atom servers for hosting VPS’s.. they’re pretty cheap, but not sure how well they would perform.

    July 21, 2010 @ 7:21 am | Reply
  8. earl:

    Actually I’ve installed Hypervm on my thinkpad R40, celeron 2.0 with 512MB of ram.. it does work but creating a VM does take a while.. I guess due to the slower 2.5″ disk speed performance is not all that great.

    Also tried it on a IBM desktop with 3.0 hyperthreading 1GB of ram and 7200 rpm sata drive. Creating a VM is also slow.. but pages seems to load quicker. maybe if I were to add a couple more drives and use Raid 0 it would be faster..

    July 21, 2010 @ 7:35 am | Reply
  9. @earl — when I said Pentium I actually meant those low end C2Duo CPUs, like those E5xx/E6xx designed for cheap desktop boxes. More grunt than Atom and pretty cheap as well.

    @IWTFI — Currently it uses around 63MB on a 80MB Xen VPS. 7MB are swapped out. I did need to give MySQL a bit of query cache to play around (cuts 20ms for WordPress front page!!) and sufficient key buffers.

    July 21, 2010 @ 7:42 am | Reply
  10. @earl
    About intel atom:
    – not all proc have intel-vt
    – L2 cache is little

    July 21, 2010 @ 7:46 am | Reply
  11. Srikanth:

    I had in the past bought a pentium e5200 (2.5ghz) and 6 gb ram dedi as it had a good offer then. i split the thing into 8 vps of 128/256 ram and .5 ghz with about 15gb hdd (because it only had about 160gb). It definitely was fast and responsive. It cost me $40+5+4 a month as it only came with 4gb ram and 2 ips. But then as it was my own system i didn’t “oversell it” Even if i managed to peak all 8 vps, all of them still had full burst ram and proper share of cpu resources. But then if you do the math you need to charge ~$6 just to cover your costs and that too if all eight have been sold.

    July 21, 2010 @ 10:55 am | Reply
  12. so we don’t get nothing new from what we learn.

    July 21, 2010 @ 11:15 am | Reply
  13. IWTFI:

    @LowEndAdmin what about a public page with real-time stats about the server that lowendbox.com is hosted on?

    July 21, 2010 @ 2:41 pm | Reply
  14. earl:

    @LEA
    Ahh.. Ok that makes sense, the difference in price between renting an older P4 compared to a C2Duo is not much if you compare the performance difference you are getting

    @bekanosky

    Correct me If I’m wrong.. but I don’t think a Intel VT / AMD-V is required, unless you are using xen-HVM or Vmware.. OpenVZ and Xen PV should work without it?

    July 21, 2010 @ 5:10 pm | Reply
  15. Paulmankipu:

    Buy and put grease on that old wheels of my office chair or buy a brand new one?

    July 21, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Reply
  16. @earl
    You are correct on virtualization bits not required for OpenVZ and Xen PV.

    Typically quadcore, 4GB, HW RAID-1 is bare minimum specs required for decent setup to sell VPSs.

    July 21, 2010 @ 8:43 pm | Reply
  17. AZGuy:

    I think as a VPS provider, you’ll find that 4GB doesn’t last long if you have a good number of sales. I think you could manage 8GB worth of VPSs with some fast drives in a HW RAID1 setup.

    July 21, 2010 @ 9:28 pm | Reply
  18. earl:

    I was on an older dual CPU AMD Dual core Opteron 270, and performance was alright..but I noticed that disk speed has more to do with performance than does the CPU. even when the load on the server is not so high I can still feel lag from the VPS. Not sure how acurate iowait is for an openVZ but a low iowait normaly the VPS feels more responsive..

    Also the unixbench results for this processor was terrible.. but the performance does not seem to reflect the actual performance of the VPS.. maybe unixbench 4 does not handle AMD CPU’s well..

    July 21, 2010 @ 10:48 pm | Reply
  19. @earl
    * intel-vt
    yes, you’re right. As small cache , i just mentioned it to tell the shortage of intel atom

    July 22, 2010 @ 12:11 am | Reply
  20. earl:

    @bekanosky

    Yes you’re right bekanosky, the small cache size would really limit the processing power in a Virtual enviroment.. by the way, I like your site, hope you can continue writing more articles!

    @Srikanth

    Thanks for giving us some figures, I guess if you sell packages of 256MB ram with no burst, include the cost for soulsvm for $10 for the server totaling $60, at 6GB of ram you can offer 23 256MB packages. each package would cost you $2.60 +.50 cents per IP so $3.20 is your cost, you can make a decent profit if you were able to sell it at $6 per VPS. not sure how well that server would be able to handle 23 VPS’s?

    July 22, 2010 @ 12:57 am | Reply
  21. @earl
    my site : thanks, i’m happy when someone said that i write usefull things. You can find more articles in my indonesian site.
    I’m not english native. Hard for me to write in english.

    July 22, 2010 @ 6:11 am | Reply
  22. Srikanth:

    @earl
    yeah actually to think of it, about 20 vps would be possible(i just like to leave a whole gig for the host) even then, 40+5+20 (ok now the 20 is guessing they might have given a 500gb drive for that price) so that is $3.50+.50 per ip. so $4 cost for a 256 vps doesn’t sound too bad. and also each box gets about a quarter of processing power. This won’t be the best in the market, as it would get sluggish with moderate traffic and can definitely be used to host websites with wordpress or similar.

    Now lets say everything sells, then we have $30 a month if we sell if at $6 each and make it into LEB :) but i spend more on coffee every month so support would simply mean google or wikipedia. I wonder how all these providers on LEB afford such prices.

    July 22, 2010 @ 6:50 am | Reply
  23. earl:

    @Srikanth

    you finance a server from dell R210 $23/month, colo a whole 42U rack for $500 so it would be about $15 per 1u, you can add more ram yourself to the server and add $10 for solusvm license, give or take a few bucks if you buy a bulk of IP, so for about $50 you got yourself a decent setup..

    or you can buy older servers on ebay and colo them, but the trick is renting a full 42u rack so you basically get each 1u for cheap.. this way after a month or two your server is paid for so you’re only paying for the colo and solusvm license which is $25 or so a month.. seems to be very profitable going this route.

    July 22, 2010 @ 7:16 am | Reply
  24. Srikanth:

    @earl
    I see what you are saying. a few days back i saw on ebay that dell poweredge2650 2u were for sale for an average of $45. Also if you build your own, then most places sell 1u for $10 or less for bulk. and for some of these guys bulk is more like 10 pieces, which isn’t too bad. and intel processors are quite cheap if you go for a sale. It definitely is a profitable business. Also most providers give 2x100mbps unmetered for a rack so even bandwidth isn’t an issue.

    July 22, 2010 @ 7:28 am | Reply
  25. earl:

    Yeah the used rack servers are great cause they already come with scsi.. and I think the 2u might actually be better cause you can have more drives compared to the 1u, reading the solusvm site I got the impression that you can stuff about 40 clients per server so if they each pay $5 that’s $200 per server minus your $25 fee it’s $175 profit per server.. not bad if you have a rack or two. But I would imagine handling support for that many clients would be overwhelming..

    July 22, 2010 @ 7:38 am | Reply
  26. The conclusion:
    if you are only a businessman, your will be looking for the cheapest pricing with acceptable quality so you can gain some profit. But if you are a businessman and a tech guy you can gain much more profit not to mention the tech skill experience you’re going to get along the way.

    July 22, 2010 @ 1:38 pm | Reply
  27. Adam:

    Did anyone calculate the power cost ? Or its incl. ?
    Also how about bandwidth?

    July 22, 2010 @ 10:54 pm | Reply
  28. earl:

    @Adam

    I’ve never actually colo before.. but at last I checked they did include bandwidth and power at the price mentioned.. Not sure if there is enough power or bandwidth if you were to fill the whole rack thought.. maybe someone else who’s done colo can verify the hidden costs involved..

    @LEA

    I think It would be a neat Idea if you were to start your own VPS business and write a journal about the whole process.. that would be interesting. and of course the price has to be well below $7 to be featured on LEB. I would be your first customer..

    July 22, 2010 @ 11:45 pm | Reply
  29. AZGuy:

    @ earl – For a $500 cabinet deal you definitely won’t have enough power for 40 servers. If those deals include power and BW, it’s probably not much more than 20 amps and 10mbps BW.

    Some of the best deals you can get on colo are usually like $800-1000 w/ 20 amps and 100mbps (maybe up to a GigE BW depending on the deal and datacenter).

    But if you want to fill the rack with 1U/2U servers, you’ll need to buy more power and that can get expensive. I pay $18/amp for normal power — and that’s cheap. I’ve seen some popular west coast datacenters charging up to $35/amp. Not all datacenters will let you buy much more than 40 amps either (HE.net comes to mind). And if they let you buy more than 40 amps, they might charge extra cooling fees (I pay $7 extra per amp for cooling I think).

    Not to mention with a full rack you’ll probably need 2 PDUs and a good switch — and that’s expensive (a good switch, especially Cisco, can easily be $2000 and up).

    July 23, 2010 @ 4:32 am | Reply
  30. AZGuy:

    tl;dr

    Full cabinet colo is definitely not for someone who wants to start small or doesn’t have a lot of money to work with. You’ll need to buy a PDU, switch, servers, and still pay for the monthly colo fees (and sometimes a setup fee equal to the first months payment!).

    July 23, 2010 @ 4:35 am | Reply
  31. earl:

    Wow! Thanks Azguy for filling us in..I sort of figured there’s more to it than just the listed price. I actually got those figures from joesdatacenter. I was calculating on 35 1u servers, with 7u for overhead like switches and what not..

    Server Colocation – Full 42U $135.00
    IP’s: /27 (29 Usable IP’s) ($25.00) $25.00
    Bandwidth: 10Mbps Unmetered on 10MB port ($100.00) $100.00
    Power: 20Amp on UPS Circuit ($240.00) $240.00
    Total Cost $500.00

    I wonder how the providers do it then? VPS’s for under $5!

    July 23, 2010 @ 5:07 am | Reply
  32. Srikanth:

    @earl
    sorry i didn’t get back to you on that.

    Been calculating the cost and it seems the best budget would be to get a full and fill it with
    12 x 1u – P4 or cheap pentium D with about 4 gb ram and 10mbps unmetered
    6 x 2u – high end dual core or low end quadcore with upto 12gb ram and 3 x 10mbps unmetered
    3 x 4u – 2x high end quad core with 32 gb or higher ram with 2 x 100mbps
    remaining 6u shall be used for a switch, power and the likes.

    Now the interesting bit here is that it seems in this kind of a configuration the power required is well under 30amps. Could someone make a quote out of this. I think cogent should be good. Or even internap at chicago, as i understand power is cheap there.

    July 23, 2010 @ 6:18 am | Reply
  33. Marianne:

    Hi,

    I have 2 128MB Budget Xen Boxes.In One of them ,I have access to 4 AMD Opteron cores (2 or 2.2GHz).Other Box, I have access to a Core of a Core2Duo E5x or E4x (I can’t Remember now-Same 2 or 2.2GHz) .in Unixbenxh 5.1.2 , 1st one is much quicker (i exclude Disk Benchmark), but in Real world Because of I/O Wait, the 2nd one is much more quicker! so i think if i want to sell 64/128 MB VPS, I will go with Low end Machines.Even on RAID 10 ,i think more than 20-25 Client on a Box, cause I/O wait. and as a provider i should have a good monitoring / Client Distribution system.if a provider can monitor their servers and client resource usage,they can divide the total load between different servers and have very good performance overall.

    July 23, 2010 @ 6:45 am | Reply
  34. earl:

    @Srikanth

    Hey.. no need to apologize, I’m sure you have a life outside of LEB.. I was thinking to start off it would be cheaper to build a home data center, you can get a couple of DSL lines and MLPP them. Then you don’t have to worry about the data center charging setup fees or shipping your servers and what not. I saw a few home data centers on youtube, it seems interesting. Wonder if any of those folks visit LEB, maybe they can create a test server and charge a small fee so we can find how many VPS’s you can actually stuff in one server.

    @Marianne

    I agree.. it seems when a provider offers high end specs they tend to stuff more VPS’s in the server compared to a lower end box, where it feels less crowded.. I do notice that disk i/o has more a factor in performance then the CPU. I also experience the same thing with unixbench. A xeon E5410 had an excellent score but seemed to performed poorly compared to an opteron 270 that had a terrible score but pages seems to load quicker..

    July 23, 2010 @ 7:33 am | Reply
  35. AZGuy:

    > I wonder how the providers do it then? VPS’s for under $5!

    Overselling, most likely.

    July 23, 2010 @ 6:26 pm | Reply
  36. IWTFI:

    @AZGuy yes some providers oversell but some others (like RamHost) not. You can see server stats on their website.

    July 23, 2010 @ 8:21 pm | Reply
  37. Paulmankipu:

    Ramhost display server stats on their website.

    July 23, 2010 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

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