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As an IT company that tries to keep ahead of the game, we need an environment to test server technology and software and over the years I've built up a nice little home office setup that’s designed to mimic the enterprise networks that I work in. We have numerous other externally hosted servers for production, but you obviously can't test on production.

I know of a few friends in the industry that create similar network and server environments and it’s an invaluable tool for learning. For a home office network, I’ve amassed a nice 28Tb SAN with a 10Gb/s network used for storage and a decent vSphere cluster to host the servers, but I realised that in order to do more testing on some new technology that I’ll be implementing in the next few months for a client, I needed more.

Short of putting together another custom server at great expense, I’ve decided to look at some older HP workstations that were previously used for CAD work. These workstations are a few years old and would have no warranty but for testing they’re perfect and considerably cheaper than building a custom server with the latest and greatest.

Enter the HP XW6600 CAD workstation with 24Ghz of processing power (2 x Quad Core 3Ghz Intel Xeon CPUs) and 32Gb RAM. Perfect! I’ll put in a few 10Gb/s network cards in it for storage and network and it should be more than ample. Newer processors are marginally quicker and use less power but as far as value for money goes, these old workstations seem great for a test network. 

The new old workstation should be able to run the vSphere hypervisor (v6) easily and give plenty of capacity for testing the latest Citrix Netscaler appliances with the latest Microsoft SharePoint, Skype for Business, Web and Exchange services that I’ll need to test so I’ll update the blog with progress. Delivery of it is expected this week so I’ll be busy!

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