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Question

Could someone provide some recommendations on processor speed, hard drive size, RAM, etc. for a TWiki server?

We're running a test TWiki site here on a machine that was just lying around with a 4GB hard drive, 384k RAM, and a Pentium-4 2.80GHz processor. Now that we're getting closer to installing a "live" system, the powers that be are going to want some technical specifications for the machine we install this on.

Here's some background information that may help you shape your answer:

  • This will be a machine dedicated to TWiki; only the TWiki application and those related to it (Apache, Cygwin, etc.) will run on it.
  • The machine will sit on our corporate intranet and will only be accessible by our employees.
  • Initially, only about 20 people will likely use the wiki; we have approximately 100 employees so if we ever decide to open it up to the rest of the company, that would be the maximum number of users we would have.
  • The primary use of our TWiki site will be for collaborative authoring. In addition, it's feasible that we'll have thousands of topics, with a lot of file attachments (we produce a lot of Word, Excel, Visio, PowerPoint, and image files (.jpg, .gif, .bmp, etc.), - we're still trying to determine whether we'll want to attach documents or link to them so it's possible that these files would also reside on the TWiki server or that they would reside on a different machine somewhere on our intranet). Note: Just to give everyone a better idea, in one location on our intranet we currently have 3k files that are related to the type of collaborative authoring we'll be doing. These files total approximately 3GB. Of course, many of these are outdated (one of the primary reasons we're implementing the wiki is to weed out the out of date stuff).
  • So far as I'm aware, all of the client PCs on our intranet (i.e., the PCs that each of our employees use) run WinXP Professional with Service Pack 2 and Internet Explorer 6.0.
  • Btw, the machine on which our test system is installed is a WinXP machine (see Environment below for more information). If anyone feels strongly one way or the other about using something else (e.g., Unix) please state so and give your reasons. I haven't experienced anything negative during our test run on the WinXP machine, but if there are really good reasons for going with something else, I'm certainly open to considering it. Of course, I'm not a real technical person so having done the Windows installation (and having grown up on Windows) gives me somewhat of an advantage in that arena.

Hopefully this information helps. I can provide more details if necessary.

Thanks!

Environment

TWiki version: TWikiRelease04x00x00
TWiki plugins: DefaultPlugin, EmptyPlugin, InterwikiPlugin
Server OS: Windows XP Professional - Service Pack 1
Web server: Apache 1.3.34 (Win32)
Perl version: 5.8.7-5 (Cygwin)
Client OS: Windows XP Professional - Service Pack 2
Web Browser: Internet Explorer 6.0
Categories: Hosting, Performance, Deployment

-- JasonVensel - 10 Feb 2006

Answer

Your use of machine type is probably highly dependent upon your in-house expertise with any one particular platform. We run on a Sun V240, Solaris9, fairly vanilla (80gb HD, 8gb ram), Apache, etc.

If you are authenticating against Active Directory that might lead you down the road toward a Windows box. If you want a system that is relatively cheap and not Windows, that might be Linux. We choose Sun for a very simple reason: it runs forever, has great performance, and we have the expertise. It is not a price leader although the latest Sun w/Niagra running Solaris10 rivals the cost of Intel+Linux.

-- SteveRJones - 12 Feb 2006

BTW, we have approximately 800 registered users of our internal Twiki.

-- SteveRJones - 12 Feb 2006

Expertise. My level of expertise is extremely limited (I’m just a technical writer). I can follow directions and edit system/configuration files to change file paths, etc., but that's about as far as I go. That said, I won't have to (and wouldn't be allowed to) implement this on my own as this machine will be integrated with our existing network. Fortunately, we have our own Help Desk/in-house automation team. While I can make recommendations on a server, they’ll likely have final say as to what we select.

Cost. At some point there's a ceiling, but the Sun V240 line falls well w/in the total amount I was told we were allocating for this project. As I mentioned, the maximum number of users we'll have is 100.

Thanks for the response. You've given me a good starting point.

I'm not changing the status of this post to "Answered" yet because I'd like some feedback from others.

Thanks!

-- JasonVensel - 13 Feb 2006

Hi, I second this! I would like to know how fast a machine I need to run a TWiki at a considerable speed for the user.

AlexanderNicolovius

-- AlexanderNicolovius - 13 Feb 2006

TWiki is easier to install in Linux than on Windows. For this I suggest to use a recent machine running RedHat Enterprise, Debian or another Linux distribution. If the staff maintaining the server is more familiar with Windows, then use a Windows server.

For 100 users, a single processor machine is fine. Get at least 1GB RAM, better 2GB.

-- PeterThoeny - 13 Feb 2006

ok, having run a TWiki on a Windows Server, and in later workplaces on Linux, FreeBSD and openBSD I prefer a UNIX box - debian linux is the simplest in my opinion.

With respect to sizing, my general rule of thumb is to have at least enough memory to be able to have the entire TWiki topic set, and the often used attachements in memory - the fewer times you need to hit the disk the better. Dual proc is nice, as TWiki is quite CPU intensive - and Intel/AMD seem to show good results.

another reason to prefer a UNIX solution, is that Apache is a much better web server than IIS, especially for perl cgi's.

-- SvenDowideit - 13 Feb 2006

Another thing to think about - if your system is to be managed/maintained by an internal IT group, what are they "expert" in?

As the above feedback has stated, you will likely get the fastest performance out of a Linux system - assuming that the hardware is not some white-box variety (e.g., a garage-built system). This is one reason I prefer Sun and Solaris - rock solid. Again, any direction from your IT team?

-- SteveRJones - 13 Feb 2006

. . . and with 100 users I doubt you will see a problem on any platform (well, maybe windows wink )

-- SteveRJones - 13 Feb 2006

From our IT department:

We prefer Windows. We don’t currently have any Linux machines in use on our end. We also would prefer IIS rather than Apache. Neither are hard / fast rules, but since that’s what we’re using elsewhere, it greatly aides backup / recovery, administration, etc. because we already have processes in place.

If by “server” you mean a server class machine that would sit in our server room that IT administers, it would probably be a Dell PowerEdge server with a RAID 5 array, probably a 2850 model so it could be mounted in a rack. These are server class machines (not desktop) so they have Xeon processors. We’d run Windows Server 2003 with IIS installed and handle all the backups. Memory sizes, processor numbers and speeds and number of drives would depend on the expected usage of this system. Also, does it require a backend database or does the twiki software store the data itself?

If you are talking about a machine that you folks administer, then it doesn’t matter as much to us. I’ll just give you some things to think about. How would you do backups? What kind of redundancy would you want (RAID 5, RAID 1 maybe, dual power supplies…)? Who will be administering the system and how will you do it? What operating system will it run on? What does twiki recommend for system specs? I could help you with specing a system, but would need some more information.

-- JasonVensel - 14 Feb 2006

So there you have it - decision point one: Does IT support it or do we? If the former, then Windows. If the latter, then your choice. The issues of backup/restore, disk redundancy, troubleshooting, etc. are only issues if Twiki is to become a major collaborative platform. If this is the desire then treat it as such from the beginning and have the IT folks manage the platform - but make very sure they will do what it takes to make twiki work under Windows as you will likely not have hte access you need to make all of the necessary system changes. If they will not (eg., "We never support opensource software" for instance) then the decision is made for you. You will then need to figure out backup/restore, etc.

-- SteveRJones - 15 Feb 2006

Jason, we would like to hear how you decided. Hopefully not installing MediaWiki, MoinMoin or (beware) SharePoint, do you? wink

-- FranzJosefSilli - 16 Feb 2006

Oooh good stuff. I'm getting ready to write a proposal for funding to move my own TWiki test project to its own server. Currently we're on an existing server which is primarily used for something else entirely. Please do update us.

-- AmandaSmith - 27 Feb 2006

Could someone create a new SupplementalDocument called TWikiServerHardwareRecommendation that summarises the findings here?

-- PeterThoeny - 27 Feb 2006

Update: We're still moving forward with TWiki. While we haven't made any concrete decisions on OS or hardware, the following statements are likely accurate:

  • We'll use Windows.
  • It will not be a server class machine.
  • This will be a machine administered by our QA department (likely me, since I'm the "expert" here), not our IT department.

Note: I expect us to have our TWiki installation on a new machine and "open" to our users within the next 2 weeks. I'll be sure to post all specs on the hardware and software we select here (and in the TWikiServerHardwareRecommendation SupplementalDocument suggested by Peter, if that's an appropriate place for it).

-- JasonVensel - 28 Feb 2006

LOL!
I have a machine that I've been using to test Dakar.
Its an old AMD T'Bird 1GHz with about 300Meg of memory I scrounged from other machines. Its a sort-of-workhorse on the local net for all the unloved and nearly orphaned projects. It runs the cachine DNS server and the LDAP mail directory for the whole office. So long as they work, no-one cares and they are old and stable so no-one does. It runs a few generations back of Mandrake (not Mandriva) Linux. I also use part of its huge disk for my mail archives and run all my incomming mail through SpamAssassin on it. No-one cares so long as the DNS and LDAP mail-book works, so I don't run many Apache instances. Poor baby, it unloved, uncared for and a general dumping ground. If anybody cared it would be upgraded, even to 500Meg of memory. Everybody here has laptops that outperform it in CPU and memory. Poor orphaned baby.

Nevertheless, even under stress load it delivers topics within 3 seconds after a few requests to wake it up and swap the perl interpreter in.

I once tried installing TWiki on a Windows machine, one of the souped up laptops we have: dual core, 1Gig memory. OUCH OUCH OUCH Compared to putting it on the orphaned T'Bird: well the T'Bird was bascially half an hours work whereas the Windows was a couple of days work. Not only that, the Windows version on the souped up laptop runs slower than the version on the crippled T'Bird. We put it up on the Windows laptop for client demos. It was such a disaster we tried installing Linux on the laptop and the difference was astounding. It was so impressive that its started a movement here so now there is only one holdout that still runs Windwos on his laptop, and if you ask him politely and don't play the Linux advocate he'll admit its that he has some applications that only run under Windows.

The Irony of all this is that while TWiki has convinced us of the lameness of Windows, TWiki itself only has a couple of advocates here - principally myself.

-- AntonAylward - 28 Feb 2006

I also have a few windwos applications that keep me back (like VisualStudio..) but a $300 license of VMWare has fixed that. Windows runs faster hosted on top of linux anyway.

-- SvenDowideit - 01 Mar 2006

Balance unfamiliarity with Linux vs problems of installing on Windows. If it's a single purpose box, I'd do Linux. Use CentOS (Red Hat Enterprise for free), Debian or something similar. You'll only have to configure TWiki (almost entirely through the browser for 4.0) and the apache config. Once it's set up, it should "just run" largely unattended - update itself and everything, if you want. To back it up, just copy the TWiki directory somewhere. If you're using a Windows-based backup system, it's almost certain to have a Linux agent that will do that for you, with an instruction manual that will most likely give you commands to type.

Speaking of performance, speshly on the less fancy boxes, something that might be worth mentioning here is using some sort of accelerator, like ModPerl, SpeedyCGI, PersistentPerl. They can cut time to get a page in half. Not sure how this all applies to 4.0 and latest plugins, but could be worth checking out if the machine's a bit average.

-- MarcusLeonard - 02 Mar 2006

We've finally procured a dedicated machine for our TWiki installation. I'll record its specs and post those here later today.

-- JasonVensel - 31 Mar 2006

Here are the specs for the machine we selected as our wiki server. I'm still in the process of moving our TWiki installation to this machine so I can't provide any input on performance. I'll try to remember to post that here in the future.

Just to remind those who are interested. This machine will sit on our Intranet. It will be accessible only to our employees. We likely won't have more than 10 users and I highly doubt the situation will arise where all 10 will be accessing the site simultaneously.

Dell Optiplex GX520 Mini-Tower

Processor
  • Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 640 with Hyper-Threading (3.2GHz, 2M, 800MHz FSB)
  • Hyper-Threading feature currently enabled (it can be disabled/enabled in the BIOS)

Operating System
  • Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 2

File System
  • NTFS File System

Memory
  • 1.0GB Dual Channel DDR2 Non-ECC SDRAM,533MHz, (2DIMM)

Available DIMM Slots:
  • Two Memory slots offering up to 2GB
  • Memory Bandwidth: 533MHz - 8.5 GB/s with dual channel

Hard Drives (2)
  • C:\> label: 160GB SATA 3.0Gb/s and 8MB DataBurst Cache™
  • D:\> label: 160GB SATA 3.0Gb/s and 8MB DataBurst Cache™

Optical Drive
  • 48X CD-RW

Floppy Drive
  • 1.44MB 3.5 Inch Floppy Drive

Graphics
  • Integrated Intel Media Accelerator GMA 950
  • Offers up 224MB shared memory

Chassis: Slots, Bays, and Dimensions
  • Number of Bays
    • 2 internal 3.5", 1 external 3.5", 2 external 5.25"
  • Dimensions
    • H: 16.2" W: 7.4" D: 17.0"
    • H: 41.14cm W: 18.7cm D: 43.18cm
  • Slots
    • 2 full height PCI: (H: 4.2" X L: 11")
    • 1 PCIe x1 full height: (H: 4.2" X L: 9")

Power Supply
  • 230W

Network Interface Card
  • Broadcom® 5751 Gigabit Ethernet LAN solution 10/100/10002 Ethernet with Remote Wake Up and PXE support

IO Ports
  • Microphone, stereo in, stereo out (back) & stereo out (front), headphone
  • RJ-45 network port
  • 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 front & 6 back
  • 1 VGA port
  • 1 parallel port
  • 1 serial port

-- JasonVensel - 31 Mar 2006

I used TWiki in my previous company. They were very UNIX orientated. My new company is a Windows shop. I tried to get TWiki running on Windows but ran in too many problems in the end, especially with installing additional modules.

Since I could not get my hand on a UNIX box I decided to go ahead with a UNIX installation in a VMWare player. I assigned 512 MByte of RAM. It sits on my second desktop machine.

TWiki is free, but from a corporate point of view the documentation in the TWiki has taken years to create. Loosing this information might be very critical. Hence my biggest concern was the backup. All my virtual disks sit on the file server.

This setup is probably the slowest one you can think of. I can’t really recommend it to anyone, but it works. We have about 30 active users and about 1500 documents. It takes between 2 and 5 seconds to deliver the content of a normal page.

The speed is the only real issue users complain regularly about. We tried several methods of accelerating the page rendering such as ModPerl, SpeedyCGI, PersistentPerl. Some of them enhanced the speed significantly, but we had to switch them off, either because they had a memory leak or variables leaked from one session to another (we use the Sep04 release).

The bottom line is: If you can’t get a proper machine, use VMWare, but make sure your data is safe.

-- ClausLanghans - 22 Apr 2006

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Topic revision: r23 - 2006-04-22 - WillNorris
 
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