Having gotten the hardware configured, we set about installing an operating system. But which to choose? We could happily get up and running using Linux or Windows Server, or maybe even BSD. In the end, we decided to do the difficult thing - and install all of them. How so?
We'll come to the topic of virtualisation in a minute, but for now, we'll just say that we did a base install of Windows Server 2003 64-bit. Installation was pretty much a case of sticking the DVD in the drive and rebooting - just like Windows XP.
Unfortunately, we hit a hiccup. We had previously set up our RAID array to include two disks for storage and one separate disk for installing the main operating system. However, since the ports on the motherboard weren't labelled (alpha hardware, remember) we couldn't work out which drive in the Windows installer to copy too, and were pretty much left with trial, error and reboot until we found the right one. D'oh!
With Windows Server installed, and all our hardware drivers happily humming away, it came time to get some gaming server action going. What would we install? Our obvious first choice was Counter-Strike: Source. Counter Strike is the most popular online game out there, and certainly the one we spend the most time playing in the TR office.
Getting the CS server installed means heading over to steampowered.com and grabbing the downloader. Duly grabbed, this goes and leeches all the required dedicated server files directly from the Valve master servers. Running a dedicated server is free and doesn't require a Steam account, since you can't actually play the game via the server, you can only facilitate other people playing (for which they obviously need to buy CS via their Steam account).
With the files down, running the server is as simple as clicking on the shortcut, then choosing the map and player limit. However, as CS server pros will tell you, using the graphical interface is a little lame. We duly set up a batch script that would run on startup with the correct command line switches to get the server running just the way we wanted it. This means that whenever the server needs a brief reboot, it will automatically start everything up with the correct configuration.