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I have two machines and need a shared file server (>6TB of storage), database server, and a webserver. Security people here say I should waste an entire machine on the webserver so that I can separate out one machine that has access to the outside world but it doesn't have access to anything else. So the file server and database server will reside on one machine. But I've also read that you would typically not want to bog down a file server with other tasks, especially if it is suspected of operating under a semi-constant load (about 15 people writing/reading large files from it for 10 hours a day) with a semi-constant writing to/reading from a database

Note: I'll also need a machine to act as host for a software suite for several members of the lab, but I just lumped that into a shared "database" term.

How should I distribute tasks? What are some general best practices here?

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If your web-server is reachable from the outside world (e.g no local intranet only) then I agree with your security people. –  Hennes Sep 10 '13 at 19:42

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you only have two machines, here is one idea...

Use one machine as a dedicated file server.

Install VMware ESXi on the other machine. This will allow you to have multiple servers running on one physical machine. Then you could have separate instances of an OS for your web and database servers. You also have room to grow here, so if you want a separate application server for your lab members, then bring up a new OS install and give them their own host to work from. You can add additional servers as long as you have the resources available.

It sounds like the free version of ESXi should be all you need, but if not there are free alternative hypervisors out there.

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+1. ESXi does have some hardware requirements, so be careful and make sure your hardware will support it. Same goes for any bare metal hypervisor. –  user3463 May 18 '12 at 6:01

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