Sunday, 14 October 2012

New Home Lab Workstation - 64GB RAM, 1.25TB of SSD, and 8 x 3.6GHz CPUs

Recently – after struggling with trying to setup complex multiple virtual server labs inside VMware Workstation running on a networked setup of 8GB RAM laptop, four year old gaming machine with 6GB RAM, and five year old laptop with 2GB RAM – I decided it was time to invest in a new lab machine that was suitable for building up virtual labs to simulate and learn about complex IT infrastructures.

Here’s what I went for:
I went over to www.overclockers.co.uk and there is a nice Custom System Configuration there (Home >> Systems & Bundles >> Full Systems >> System Configurator) and went for the “Intel X79 Sandybridge – E 10300i Configurator – Workstation & Gaming System” with:

Configurator options:
Corsair Obsidian 550D Quiet Midi Tower Case
Intel Core i7-3820 3.6GHz (Sandybridge-E) Socket LGA2011 Processor
Note: The above is a quad core processor with Hyper-Threading, so 8 logical cores, which is plenty for the lab – don’t need the extra cores provided by the more expensive but slightly slower hex cores
No Overclocking Option
Intel Liquid Cooling Solution CPU Cooler
Asus P9X79 PRO Intel X79 (Socket 2011) DDR3 Motherboard
Note: The motherboard supports 64GB RAM, and has 4 x 6Gb/s internal SATA III ports, and 4 x 3Gb/s internal SATA II ports
Corsair Dominator 32GB (4x8GB) 1600MHz C10 Quad Channel Kit
MSI HD 5450 1024MB GDDR5 Graphics Card
Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gbps 64MB Cache
Note: This is just for data
No RAID Option
PC Power & Cooling Silencer MK II 950W 80 Plus Silver Power Supply
No Operating System
No Case Mods Required

Additional purchases (not available in the configurator):
Corsair Dominator 32GB (4x8GB) 1600MHz C10 Quad Channel Kit
OCZ Vertex 4 256GB 2.5” SATA 6Gb/s SSD (VTX4-25SAT3-256G)
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB 2.5” SATA 6Gb/s SSD (VTX4-25SAT3-512G)
Note 1: I could have gone for the slightly less performant VTX4-25SAT3-512G.M which uses Micron NAND as opposed to Toshiba NAND, and saved £100 a pop, but – hell – this machines going to last a long time, and don’t want to compromise on SSD performance, even if I’d probably never notice the difference
Note 2: The 256GB SSD is for the O/S and programs (Windows 7 Ultimate (x64) and Windows Server 2012 (with Hyper-V R3) dual boot), the 512GB SSDs are purely for virtual machines
Note 3: The OCZ Vertex 4 2.5” SSDs come with a 3.5” caddy

Total Cost:
Just under £2500

Now, this is a lot of money, but when considered over the intended lifetime of 5 years, that’s pretty much the price of a box of Jaffa Cakes a day! And with the time savings recovered from provisioning labs, and the career benefits of being able to make better and bigger labs than ever before – it is a sensible purchase!?

Delivery:
Arrived on the Saturday as requested, less than 5 days from placing the original order, and well built, just left for me to put in the additional 32GB RAM, 3 x SSD drives, and apply an operating system.

Images:
Fig. 1: The System – just about visible are the 8 DIMMs – 4 either side of the CPU, and the 3 SSDs in bays 1,2,4 with the SATA drive in bay 6

Fig. 2: Task Manager – 65513 Total Physical Memory (MB)

Fig. 3: Device Manager – 4 x Disk drives, and 8 x 3.6GHz Processors



Final Note

On a final note, I did encounter one glitch. When copying about 10GB’s worth of files onto one of the SSDs from a USB 3.0 drive, the copy process hung and I had an:

Event ID: 129
Source: iaStorA
Reset to device, \Device\RaidPort1

I killed the copy process – basically explorer.exe – via task manager and re-ran explorer.exe but this failed to recover access to drives – I couldn’t see any drives! The VDS service crashed/terminated unexpectedly too – this might have been me killing explorer.exe. A hard reset was the only way to recover the system as it would not shutdown to reboot.

The fix appears to have been updating the BIOS – from 1103 (or something like that) to 3009. To be honest it was a bit sloppy of me not to update the BIOS from the off. Another thing is to check none of the SATA drives are enabled for hot-swap in BIOS as it appears I had inadvertently done this whilst initially configuring my system (I have no need for hot-swap.) And from then it has run fantasticallyJ!

5 comments:

  1. this is a beautifully timed post, as I am looking at pretty much the same spec for the same purpose...

    Just getting signoff now. Thanks again

    ps - is this the RAM you purchased?
    https://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MY-318-CS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Carl,

      Yes, that is indeed the RAM I purchased.

      Cheers!

      VCosonok

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  2. Hi Carl,

    Thank you for this post! This is exactly what I want to build for my lab setup.

    Couple of questions.

    1. Have you tried installing VMWare ESX 5.1 on this box?
    If yes, was it a success or did you encounter any installation problems?

    2. Have you tried installing Windows Server 2012 on this box?
    If yes, was it a success or did you encounter any installation problems?

    Thanks,
    John

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  3. Thanks for the post - I had just independantly done a specification for pretty much the same purpose as you _ ( plus a few games :-)) but nice to see that the MOBO / CPU / SSD / RAM combination will be sufficient to run a lab or three.

    ReplyDelete