Since the xmas holidays when I rebuilt the VMWare/file server, I’ve been having occasional reboots of the system. I have no understanding of why this is happening, as I tried to diagnose the problem by removing all but the necessary cards from within the server, but to no avail. Sometimes it runs for days, and others it reboots every few hours.
I ran memtest+ on it to check the RAM, and that passed.
Maybe the mobo is wonky? Maybe I didn’t seat the heatsink on the CPU properly? Can the CPU cause this? Maybe it’s a PSU issue (I’m not close to fully loading the PSU as it’s a 750W).
I had plans to painstakingly swap out various components to isolate the problem and then all those plans went out the window. I made the decision to look at proper server equipment instead of consumer grade parts. First decision was to abandon the AMD boat. I’ve been an AMD fanboy since the Cyrix 6×86 days in the late 90s, and had only bought AMD mobos and CPUs since then. However, nothing new has really been happening in the AMD CPU camp for a while, and Intel has gotten so far ahead in terms of performance and power consumption that I will make the switch. Since Intel is the universally supported server gear, it should make it painless to move from any OS without having to hack drivers or other patching.
I was looking at socket LGA1366 servers and CPUs on the used market, and comparing the performance of those systems to what I currently have. LGA1366 is based on DDR2 and that will give you an idea of the age considering DDR4 is starting to become mainstream now. But the price to performance ratio seemed good. Dual socket mother board, dual socket moherboard (with 2 CPUs, 5500 or 5600 series Xeon processors) would give me nearly twice the CPU power I currently have with the FX-6100 CPU and I would get ECC ram with it. ECC ram is kind of important if the server does file storage duties as any RAM errors will be passed onto the storage media. ECC ram (error correcting ram) can detect errors and fix them in realtime, so there’s no data corruption.
There’s lots of systems on ebay and Kijiji to choose from. I wanted a case and mobo that would also support a full size GPU as i want to play with virtualizing a GPU into the system.
On the other hand the newer server Xeon socket is LGA2011, but mobos are more expensive and so are the CPUs (these are DD3 based). There are LGA1150 and LGA1155 CPUs and sockets but the vast majority of what’s available on the used market are mainly socket LGA1366 and LGA2011.
As I was researching, making spreadsheets and evaluation my options between the two and was almost sold on the older LGA1366 systems, I came across super cheap E5-2670 xeon CPUs on EBay. This is a socket LGA2011 CPU. the price was US$69! A CPU which in it’s day sold for US$1,500. How could that be!?! And out of the US to boot (not china or somewhere shady).
Other xeon CPUs in the same family and roughly similar performance like the E5-2680 go for $250 to $500 used.
Well it turns out that they are indeed the real thing. Many people have bought them and they work great. These are 8 core (16 threads) CPUs! and are no slouches. Compared to the best CPU in my house (an AMD FX-6300, six core CPU) these E5-2670 are about 2.5 times faster.
The plan to go with older socket LGA1366 hardware and DDR2 ram was abandoned. One of these E5 cpus was faster then most of the high end dual socket LGA1366 CPU/mobos I was looking at before. Working in the cost of a new mobo for the E5 CPU (LGA2011 socket mobo) the price was nearly on par between the older LGA1366 hardware and the newer LGA2011.
The next day I bought a mobo from Newegg along with a heatsink, and places an order on ebay for the CPU.
Now I was waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the components. I had already scorred 32GB of DDR3 buffered ECC ram from kijiji for $100 which was a steal so I was ready.
A few days later (while continuing to wait) I started thinking about how often do I really upgrade hardware (especially the file server) and how much more performance do I normally get at each upgrade. The file server and my experimentation with virtualization got upgraded about 4 years ago, and I moved up to the FX-6100 CPU. I can’t remember what I had before that, but it was likely some 4 core AMD processor that was 1/2 the performance. So that makes a 4 year cycle and doubling of performance at each upgrade. The new E5-2670 would meet the 2 times the performance criteria, but what about future upgrades going forward? These E5-2670 CPUs are near the top of their game. Sure I can go for an E5-2697 which are just 40% faster but currently sell for over $1,000. And being the upper upper end of the LGA2011 socket, they will stay relatively expensive for a while still. And upgrading to them in 4 years certainly won’t give me double the performance. Oh, since DD3 has been replaced with DDR4, the LGA2011 socket is not supported or rather no more new CPUs will be made for it since the LGA2011-v3 socket has taken over. The LGA2011-v3 is the DDR4 version of the same CPUs. And no, the mobos and CPUs are not backwards or forwards compatible. Whatever I get now I won’t be able to upgrade and will be stuck with, so it better be good.
Which is when it struck me. Why not spring another $50 to move to a dual socket motherboard and buy another E5-2670 CPU.
Now I have on order a dual socket motherboard and 2 CPU heatsinks coming from Newegg along with another CPU from ebay.
The new system should be about 5 times as fast (actually 4.6 times) as my current system. In theory this system should last me for 2 upgrade cycles (of 4 years each), but who knows.
It will have two 8 core CPUs so 16 cores, and each core had 2 threads (32 threads). This is a little crazy when you think about it, but I should be able to grow with this system and not be limited by CPU horsepower. Just keep throwing RAM at it over time (it support up to 256GB of ram) and it will work.
And I’m glad I’ll have some proper server equipment to play with which will hopefully be more stable.