Joe Chang has a good post up on SQLBlog.com about some new SAP benchmark results that show two socket Nehalem EP systems (with 16 cores – 2 sockets, quad-core plus hyper-threading) having the same score as a four socket X7460 Dunnington system (with 24 cores – 4 sockets, six-cores). If you will be able to get a two socket Nehalem EP with 16 memory slots (so you can get to 64GB of RAM without breaking your budget), then you will have a very capable system for around $10K.
He also has some commentary up about Microsoft’s Fast Track Data Warehouse recommendations. His main point seems to be that SANs are more expensive than many data warehouses need, and that some of the formulas used for the sizing recommendations are overly simplistic.
My experience is that most “IT Professionals”, including many DBAs and Developers are woefully ignorant when it comes to hardware selection, sizing and configuration, especially when it comes to SQL Server workloads. If you ask them what kind of CPU they have in a database server, you might hear “I think its a Xeon, but I am not sure”. This is really sad. Any decent DBA should know exactly what CPU they are using (try running CPU-Z to start with), how much memory they have, how their I/O subsystem is configured, etc.
Given this reality, I think the fast track guidance from Microsoft is far better than nothing.