Build ’06 – SWMI (Secure Well Managed Infrastructure) "Demo Bot" Hardware Specs

This is part a lot of you have been waiting for. In the previous post – I laid the foundation with the nuts and bolts of how I setup and manage the Build ‘06 tour reference network. Now here is the fun Geek stuff – hardware specs and photos of the transparent case that makes up “the bot”.

Before I do that – I have to caveat this post by stating this does not serve as an endorsement by Microsoft to any particular vendor or hardware manufacturer of the underlying technology. As a team, we came up with what we felt would be a good solution to allow us to run and showcase a 64 bit operating system with 64 bit virtualization technology while giving us the best options for implementing future technologies. We created the spec about a year ago and so far it has served us very well.  We could use some upgrades to the box to stay cutting edge, but there is something different coming on the horizon.

A couple of criteria laid out for hardware component selection:
The first criteria is that the hardware had to be 64 bit technology in order to allow us to showcase both the 64 bit versions of Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003. The second criteria was that our virtualization software would have to make use of some serious RAM in order to virtualize our reference network as well as giving it room to grow.  The third criteria is that the hardware component choices would have to have beta VISTA drivers that were available to the public. The fourth and final criteria is that the bot had to be both “cool” (to make people ask questions about it) and “transportable” (because we are on the road across this great LARGE country of ours).

What does it look like?
For those of you who have NOT seen one of our team  use our “demo bot” in person, here is a picture of the system.

Needless to say – we get a lot of looks coming through airport security. The good thing is that most of them know us now and I can get through security with a minimal number of questions. It does fit in the carry on luggage size checking device. It fits within weight limits and it is the second carry on bag I bring when I travel. It’s about the only way I know the system is going to be “secure” while travelling. I have lost / had damaged way too many items over the years. I can’t let the main piece of the demo equipment go missing or damaged with a hard drive failure.

The shopping list – hardware guts details
 Motherboard: ASUSA A8N-SLI Deluxe 
         CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+ 
         Ram: 4 GB total - two pieces of OCZ 2x1024MB (2GB ea) PC3200
      Disk 0: 1 standard 80 GB WD ATA drive for OS
      Disk 1: 3 Western Digital Raptor - 74gb, 10k, 8mb SATA (3 disks for RAID 5)
  Video Card: ATI Sapphire Radeon X600Pro 256M PCI Express 16x Retail
Power Supply: Enermax EG701AX-VE SFMA2.0 600W (24P+6P) 600 Watt PSU
ClearPC "Secret Agent" case
Optical Disk: NEC ND3520A beige/black/silver Dual Layer 16X DVD/RW(+/-)

I will let you figure out the price, since they have changed from over a year ago when this was first built.

OS Install and configuration:
Quite simple really – I have setup the main OS drive to be partition into C drive for XP Pro 64 bit edition and the D drive as Windows Server 2003 R2 64 bit edition and finally the E drive for ongoing Windows Vista builds.  I run primarily in the server OS partition for the events, but I use the XP Pro for some media mastering and podcast audio editing, Vista just for – well – Vista stuff.

The Raid 5 pack of drives have been setup with hardware based mirroring off the motherboard and are the big data dumping ground for all things to do with virtualization and setup / ongoing maintenance of the images. This RAID pack is accessible from all OS choices, provided drivers are loaded. 

Going forward:
We technically have room to grow with this system, since the motherboard supports dual core 64 bit procs from AMD. Unless something has changed recently we are maxed out on ram – which is our current limiting factor for running VMs on the box for the events. We have had issues with drive stability due to the movement and roughness that these cases / drives experience, hence the sticking with some level of fault tolerance. I am quite brutal with the case – since for some reason I seem to travel the most with it. As a result of the travel, my bot has some dings and scratches that are basically just due to wear and tear.

I mention “going forward” because we are in the midst of negotiation some new hardware for events going forward. I am personally hoping for a dual core machine with similar specs but a little more “fit and finish” quality to hold it together for my travels. Stay tuned for additional posts about hardware replacement/upgrades.

What do you think? Want to pick one up for yourself? Will it replace your mobile laptop?  As I said in the previous post – it SURE beats having a laptop with external drives in order to do some level of virtualization using demos… With one of these systems, those days are LONG over.

Comments (5)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I just posted the detailed hardware specifications of our “DemoBot” system on the…

  2. Mitch Tulloch, MVP says:

    Looks like a great machine, but a little more wear and tear on your wrists carrying it around than a laptop! 😉


    Mitch Tulloch, MVP

  3. Sean Kearney says:

    I saw the machine at the Toronto TechnetExchange.  I was sitting near the front "politely drooling".  I’ve been fiddling with Microsoft Virtual Machine 2004 recently (didn’t know about the "Virtual Products" until recently.   How do you go about getting the case?  Having a case with a "Microsoft" logo on the side would just … er.. uh… kick ass to be blunt.  I’ve just gone through a Linux nightmare (Please bring by dead 10 year old ScoServer back to life with no network goodies documented…) and would like to bring some peace to my soul on the next machine.  How solid do you find the Athlon series of chips?  I’ve heard some good words about them.  Unfortunately they’ve been from Die hard AMD users so I wouldn’t mind an independant view.   Has AMD finally shrugged off the "short term powerhorse" cloak and joined the ranks of Intel (or finally beaten them?)

    Thanks in advance.  


    BTW.  Where is a good place to go if I would like to work with Microsoft and am quite willing to start at "the bottom" even if it means serving coffee for months at a time to learn?

  4. Anonymous says:

    As you might remember from a couple of previous posts (post 1, post 2) – I was the initial creator…

  5. Anonymous says:

    As you might remember from a couple of previous posts (post 1, post 2) – I was the initial creator…

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