What do I do next, need some input [memory, life, and stuff]

Discussion in 'DIY Server and Workstation Builds' started by nle, Nov 10, 2018.

  1. nle

    nle Member

    Oct 24, 2012
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    Howdy, not totally sure if this is the correct place to post this, but if not, please move it.
    Also, this is going to be a long one. :)

    I live in a two bedroom apartment, where one of the bedrooms currently is a server room/storage/man-cave, but life happens and we are expecting a baby in a few months – hence I need to give up my man cave to give room for the baby (until we end up moving somewhere bigger).

    I currently have the following gear:

    Dell J727N 2700 W UPS
    I got this "as a part of the deal" when I bought my 22U server rack. Unfortunately it makes too much noise – and I also don't really have the fuses/power (?) to support it. It works and all that, but it ideally requires more power than I have specced in this room. So it's currently just a heavy paperweight in the bottom of my rack (it lacks a rack mounting kit).

    Dell R210 II (OEM branded, flashed to Dell)
    I use this for OPNsense – it's the brain in my small network. It's connected to a cable modem, a dumb switch, and a Netgear R7000
    - 1 x Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E3-1220 @ 3.10GHz
    - 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) memory DDR3L PC3-10600 1333MHZ ECC REG 1RX8 LP
    - 500GB SATA drive for OPNsense

    Dell R710
    ESXi host with a few VMs. OmniOS ZFS datastore, backup, plex, rtorrent, flexget, etc. (I’m not even close to maxing out the capacity.)
    - 2 x Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X5650 @ 2.67GHz
    - 144 GB (16 x 8GB) memory DDR3 1066 PC3-8500 8GB ECC REG 2RX4
    - Perch H200 (flashed IT mode)
    - 6 x 3,5” caddies
    - 2 x 870 Watts PSUs
    - iDrac 6 Enterprise

    Since my homelab most likely is downscaling soon, I got my hands on a Dell T420 tower server that also is a bit quieter than my R710. I got a Dell T420 and a Dell T310 for ~120 USD (I'm in Europe, so it's approximately) – a pretty good deal I thought. My plan is to have this in the corner of our living room.

    The T310 I’m probably just gonna scrap.

    Dell T420
    - 1 x Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2430 0 @ 2.20GHz
    - 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) memory PC3-10600U, 1333MHz, 1.5V, CL9
    - Perc H310 (flashed to IT mode)
    - 8 x 3,5" caddies. Only 4 caddies (but I've ordered new)
    - 2 x 750 Watts PSU's
    - iDrac 7 Enterprise

    The idea is that the T420 is taking over for the R710 as a VM host. It could be I also need to virtualize my R210 II with OPNsense, but I’m hoping my SO will let me keep it running. I'm not sure what's up with the low memory on the T420, but somebody switched out the 3 x 8 GB ECC memory (from the service tag inventory specs) with 2 x 2 GB non-ECC.

    I guess I need to upgrade the memory to use it as an ESXi host.
    - Could/should I use the some of the memory from my R710 (is it compatible?)? Or is it better to buy more from e-bay (is this listing a good deal?)
    - How much is ideal? I was thinking about 6 x 8gb?

    I’m also thinking about upgrading with one more CPU
    - Should/could try to get an identical CPU – or do I need to buy them as a pair?
    - Any recommended CPUs to get?

    Bonus question:
    I also have a few spare parts from upgrading my R710:
    - Perc 6II (Part number: T954J1)
    - 2 x Intel® Xeon® CPU X5570 @ 2,93GHz
    - 1 x Intel® Xeon® CPU X5650 @ 2.67GHz
    - I’m also considering the PSU (all tough I could use that later if I get a more suited space). On another note, the power supply is really stable here (I’ve been running for two years without interruption), so I guess it’s not that critical anyway.

    Is it worth trying to sell anything of this? I guess it’s not as big of a market here (Norway).

    Any other thoughts/advice, feel free to share!

    Thanks for reading!
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  2. Patrick

    Patrick Administrator
    Staff Member

    Dec 21, 2010
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    My question given where you live:
    1. Think you can sell it? Norway is a different market than the US. You may get decent money for this.
    2. The tower servers are usually good for noise/ performance. We are reviewing a HPE ML110 Gen10 ($959 shipped) that is really quiet using a single Silver 4108.
    3. What if you sold everything and got a dedicated server for a lab somewhere?
    nle likes this.
  3. nle

    nle Member

    Oct 24, 2012
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    Thanks for replying @Patrick!

    1. Selling
    I haven't really figured out the market in Norway – I'm not sure if it's the lack of gear that is the problem or if it's the lack of interested buyers. There are a few servers listed on our local "craigslist/eBay" called finn.no, but not many. It's ie. only one other R710 (with 2 x CPU x5650 @ 2,66Ghz, 80GB RAM, front bezel and rack mounts) – and that is priced at ~830 USD and has been listed since the end of June.

    I could probably sell some of it if I gave it a low price, but probably not instantly. So I think the use value is bigger than the financial.

    On the other hand, my homelab is a hobby of mine, so in one way I'm thinking I could keep it (even if some of it is idle) until we get a bigger place. Then again the HW is getting older and obsolete – that you would rather buy an R720 or R730 (if you could get your hands on that second hand in Norway – or pay a lot in freight and import tax from somewhere else).

    I guess the question is if it's worth holding on to the gear until I get a bigger place or not. That could take 6 months, but probably more realistic 1-2 years.

    (I guess the R710 is going to be redundant hardware-wise [and not just noise-wise] when I get the T420 up and running with a bit more RAM, etc. but I like having a rack and rack servers – as stupid as that sounds)

    2. Noise
    The T420 in idle state is pretty much dead silent, much less noise than the R710. It makes a bit of noise booting up, so it can be a bit noisy if it needs to be :)

    3. "Dedicated lab somewhere"
    As I said I like tinkering with this as a hobby (also the hardware a bit), so selling my gear and buying a VPS (if that is what you meant) does not feel like a good option. I don't think I can justify the price for buying actual rack space in a data center.

    Also, I like having our data "safe" at home (of course backed up offsite as well).

    It could be that I could move the rack to the basement of a house my family has (it's getting a fiber connection soon), but I'm not sure if it's worth the hassle since that would become a backup server of some sort.

    I like having my hobby, I would prefer to have a bigger place and not worry about this. Then again it's just a hobby, it's just metal, it's replaceable (even though it's a bit harder to get used servers here), etc.

    So I'm a bit on the fence – it's harder "mentally" to downsize/sell it I thought (if that makes sense). I like my hobby… I guess I have a few more months to figure it out. The baby is not going to need it's own room right away, but time flies fast.
  4. WANg

    WANg Active Member

    Jun 10, 2018
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    Well, congratulations - it's one of those things that IT guys both cherish and dread hearing -
    "honey, I am pregnant". I went through something similar with the missus a few months back, and that certainly ate into the old homelab budget (both in terms of time and monetary allocation). Once the kid shows up, well, your free time evaporates until you send him/her to the university.

    So, several things you will definitely need to consider:

    a) Those hardware are almost not worth upgrading - They are Sandy Bridge and Nehalem. At the very most all you can do with the Nehalem is to recycle them, and for the E3/E5 machines - upgrade them to the Ivy Bridge Xeon v2s. As for upgrading your CPUs, they should be upgraded in pairs. For best bang-for-the-buck, look for the Xeon E5-2440v2 - I think they are about 100 USD each. The 2450v2s are not significantly better to justify the price bump and the 10 core 2470v2s are priced ridiculously for its actual abilities. As much as I love the Ivy-EPs (I manage a few at $dayjob), they are at least 3-4 generations out of state-of-the-art, and unless someone practically give the hardware to you (corporate discards), it's really hard to justify spending too much money on them. Keep in mind that a spec'ed out E5-2440v2 benches at around the performance level of a Core i7-6700T (consumer level Skylake CPU commonly found in small form factor PCs), so that's alot of spending for poor return.

    b) Coming from experience, Nehalems, Sandys and Ivys tend to share the same type of RAM (240 pin 1.5v DDR3 FBDIMM). You should be able to swap RAM from the R710 to the T420 without issues. As for optimal RAM configuration - they all have dual triple channel RAM controllers, if you buy, buy in multiples of threes for better performance. As for RAM count...you should be able to get away with 8 or 16GB DIMMs, but you can't carry them forward to anything newer. If you have 1 socket populated you'll have access to 6 RAM slots, so it'll either be 8x6 (48GB) or 16x6 (96GB). If you plan to go dual socket, then you'll get to use all 12 RAM slots, so 8x12 (96GB) or 16x12 (192GB) - in the US 192GB will cost you...wow, at least 700 USD if you pay retail, probably less if you buy from eBay - of course, I am not sure how this pricing will work in Scandinavia. That's almost 500-1000 USD if you buy that along with the dual Xeon E5v2s.

    c) As for redundancy, I found that to be...hmmm...not something you can do much about, besides shoving your data/VMs into a 24/7 RAID array and keeping that machine up and running. I mean, it is kept inside your house, and you don't have amenities like anti-flood measures, multiple auto-switching power feeds or a security staff with man-traps and alarms. For me, most of my environment is considered disposable (the VMs I can always rebuild), but certain things like photographs and my mercurial repo is on the array and periodically snapshot to the cloud "just in case".

    d) At some point, you gonna start asking "is having such a massive piece of nearly obsolete hardware such a great idea?" and "what am I expected to learn from it?". If the objective is to allow the machine to cram a massive amount of RAM within and run a bunch of VMs - the T420 has 12 slots, and economically maxes out at 96/192GB. 32GB DIMMs "might" work but the pricing is insane (4x the pricing for double capacity and you can't carry them forward) - last I've seen a single 32GB DDR3L module goes for about 400 USD from a reputable dealer, and you'll need 12. Not something you want to justify to the missus.

    If you are going to spend $1000 on getting the entire setup to a pair of E5v2s with 192GB of RAM...that's poor for value. You might as well buy a pair of HP EliteDesk 800 G2 SFF desktops off corporate lease, max them to 64 (or 128GB) each using regular desktop DDR4 (pricing should go down in 2019), wire them up for 10GbE (tons of $20 cards available on eBay) and invest in a good NAS chassis that you can keep running 24/7. If it's for Proxmox or ESXi you can shut down one of the 2 nodes when not in use. Less noise, less heat, less ability to draw/kick up dust in the apartment. Or yeah, as @Patrick would've hinted, just buy something more modern. Once the machine age past the tech sweet spot its almost never worth the extra investment.

    e) Try to minimize the number of machines in your house - not even telling its impact on your electric bill, it's more about its ability to collect dust and pollen within its chassis while in operation and then spraying it all over via its exhaust fan, which aren't great for infants. I would probably surround the server with cardboard HEPA filters and making sure the exhaust air stays clean using something like this:


    It's a box fan whch blows air out of the air conditioner cardboard air filter on the other side. Now picture something like that surrounding a pile of servers.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
    nle likes this.
  5. Evan

    Evan Well-Known Member

    Jan 6, 2016
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    Forget the space and budget topics with a new baby!
    Time or rather lack of is what you will be the biggest challenge (that is after sleep, don’t let the first 6 month or all night sleep lull you into a false sense of security)
    Later on the children will find they love to pull cables haha.

    Keep it small and simple and on 24x7 so maybe you can play at 3am after being woken up for milk :)
    nle likes this.
  6. kapone

    kapone Active Member

    May 23, 2015
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    I'm confused...and I say that as a Dad of 2 yr old twin boys...

    You have a hobby other than your kid?? :)

    p.s. For the last almost 3 years, I've been on "cruise control"... nothing but a singular focus on raising the boys, EVERYTHING else takes a backseat. It's only in the last few months that the kids have started going to daycare (once they turned two), that I can even think straight. For the last two years, I've been a diaper assembly line... seriously. I can change a diaper in under 30 seconds now, and that's with a baby throwing a tantrum. :)

    Enjoy fatherhood, everything else will sort itself out.
    nle, WANg, Evan and 1 other person like this.
  7. nle

    nle Member

    Oct 24, 2012
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    Thank you for all the replies and good wishes! It's pretty scary and exciting at the same time! :)

    It gave me a bit to think about, and I think I'm gonna bite the bullet and try to sell all my rack gear, including the cabinet (even though I sort of like the rack-part in a gimmicky way). I'm a bit worried about the logistics around selling it, but I'm sure it will sort itself out someway or another.

    And I guess I will always be able to find something new rack gear eventually when we get more space – if I still want it.

    To keep my homelab functioning "as is", I'm going to keep the T420 f0r VMs/datastore (replacing my R710) and put it in a bit of a hidden corner of the living room. And buy a fanless OPNsense box for my router needs (replacing my R210).

    I really appreciate all the input, I don't really have any IRL friends that share my interest in this kind of stuff. And if you have anything more to add, please do. :)
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