I want to focus on HDE 226868's second bullet:
A counterargument is that the answer shouldn't necessarily provide a full recommendation, and should only take in characteristics of the hardware into account. The problem is that that would lead to incomplete recommendations, which aren't necessarily helpful.
If you subscribe to Interpretation 2, then you rely on the counterargument I gave above, namely, that answers should focus merely on the hardware in question. It shouldn't matter who actually owns the thing; the point is that someone will buy it (either you or the third party), and you should treat the "buying" process with a third party the same way that you would treat the process of buying the thing yourself.
I think that this is an important distinction. The example question I provided can provide a solid recommendation for the hardware that is needed to run the set up.
I have 6 bullets in the question:
- Must be able to host 10-14 Team Fortress 2 server instances without causing lag to the players. Each server will host 24 players and approximately half of the servers will be near capacity 24 hours a day (based on current traffic)
- Must be able to handle MySQL database traffic
- Must be able to handle web traffic
- Price range: $100 - $125 a month
- Must be on a 100 Mbit line
- Most players are North American and European. I'd like a hosting location that serves both of these locations and keeps the lag low.
The first three bullets are all related to the hardware that is needed. The hardware must be able to perform these three things, or the recommendation (regardless of price, bandwidth or network lag) is invalid. An answer can provide minimum specifications to meet these.
The forth bullet - price - is important, but only to set an upper bound on what the user considers a viable recommendation. A server that costs $500/month may meet the first 3 bullets, but the price is out of their budget. I don't consider that as important as the first three, because sometimes there just isn't something that meets the user's desired budget.
Bullets 5 and 6 - bandwidth and lag - are not relevant to us. The user needs hardware. We can provide that recommendation. It is then up to the user to finish their due diligence in searching for a hosting provider. With the knowledge of the hardware they require, they can approach potential providers (on their own) and see if such a machine can be procured from the provider.
I think third party hosted hardware should be on topic. I do not think third party providers should be on topic. Who controls the hardware is unimportant to us.