How to set up a QA box that closely simulates production

I want to recommend that our development shop setup a QA box that closely simulates production. My manager said to put together a proposal. Right now the development box is too small and has an older version of SQL Server, plus the operating system is NT. I'm wondering how to setup the environment. Getting the machine is the simple part. Should we get MSDN Universal, install the same operating system as production (Windows 2000 server) and the same database (SQL Server 2000)? That seems like the least expensive way. What has been your experience?
You're right on target with the suggestion that your QA environment closely model the production environment as much as possible. Different versions of SQL are just ASKING for compatibility problems down the road, and mismatched operating systems will have you spending more time troubleshooting than it would cost to upgrade to current versions. (You can easily prove that ROI to your manager -- wasted employee time is far more painful to a company's bottom line than coughing up the money for license fees.) MSDN is an excellent way to save money on licensing for testing and development environments. I would also make sure that your QA server has similar amounts of RAM dedicated to the SQL Server process, for the best results.

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