Friday, 11 November 2016

Dell T110 Server - older tech still doing the yards

The last time I was out in Coober Pedy, I saw a lot of Toyotas running around. Landcruisers mostly - a great vehicle and out in the Red Centre with some pretty harsh conditions, they were the vehicle of choice. Solid, reliable, amazingly well built. It's a bit like the older Dell servers still kicking around.

To my case in point - the Dell T110 Server. These servers, brand new, with a Xeon Processor, 4GB of RAM and a 250GB HDD were around $1400. We got several cheap, added RAM, disk and an OS and sold them to customers. The basic spec was pretty sound:
  • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X3430 @ 2.40GHz 
  • 4GB of RAM (maximum 16)
  • Dell PERC S100 onboard RAID (fake RAID but still OK)
  • space for 4 disks
  • tower configuration
 About 18 months ago I was given one of these servers by a grateful client after a particularly painful weekend migrating one server to another. After thinking about it for a bit, and knowing the S100 RAID card is Windows only (Linux won't see the arrays, just the disks - use AHCP if you're using Linux), I decided to pop Windows 2012 Server on and run a bit of the Hyper-V action for shits and giggles. In order to do this and to solve a tricky customer problem, I upgraded the server a little bit.

I added two 250GB SSD disks and made them the primary array, with the two 250GB HDDs as a data array. I installed Windows 2012, set up Hyper-V and then built a 2008R2 server as a VM. I also added more RAM to max it out at 16GB. Now, the 2008R2 server boots up in under 20 seconds! It is so quick and as I was using it to try to repair a broken SharePoint (see my previous post on this) I was very happy to have a machine that would restart in the blink (almost) of an eye.

Fast forward to about 3 months ago, I ditch the 250GB HDDs out of it and upgrade them to 2TB drives giving me a data array of 1.8TB for stuff. I've used the machine to create (and destroy) about 20 different VMs for testing and it has been reliable and solid for all the time. Suffice to say I'm very happy with it.

I was puttering around on eBay about 3 weeks ago and saw one of these for sale for $150! I grabbed it, as quick as possible. It turned up with the base spec. Using some old stuff lying around I've upgraded it to be a 2012 server, with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB HDD based primary array and a 1.8TB HDD based secondary array. This one is as solid as the other! I've since moved the bulk of the family data to it, configured some nice backups and off it goes. I've even put Hyper-V on it and run up a 2016 test server - it goes quite well.

All in all, I've spent under $1000 for these two servers and they comfortably handle everything I'm throwing at them. The original server, at one point, was running 2008R2 with SharePoint live for a client with 20 people using it, several Linux servers and a Windows 2012 based file server - all on hardware that is 5 years old. The SSDs really make the machine fly - a worthwhile upgrade indeed. In fact, as they get cheaper I can see myself upgrading the data array to SSD... it'll be pretty good!

The next gen in the T110 - the T110 II has a better Xeon processor in it, with double the RAM capability and they also came out with hardware based arrays. I'm keeping an eye out for one even as I write this.

If you're looking for a server to play with, or to manage a small workforce, then it's hard to go past something like this. Need redundancy? Buy two instead of one and set up live migrations (next on my to-do list).

I love this older tech - I can still get brand new replacement parts (like PSU's) and the original gear is running happily. It's cheap and it works - get around it!

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