The Pursuit of Homelabs, Part 3 – How I Learned To Love the R710

Bells and whistles

Here are some highlights of the R710:

  • 2x LGA 1366 processor sockets, compatible with Intel Xeon 5500 and 5600 processors
  • 18x DDR3 800-1333 RAM slots, with a realistic maximum of 144GB (18 x 8GB) of memory
  • 6x 3.5″ drive bays, with a realistic maximum storage of 30TB (6 x 5TB drives with an H200 or better RAID controller)
  • 4x 1 gigabit Ethernet ports, allowing some VMs to have dedicated NICs to achieve better network segmentation
  • 4x PCI-E slots for most expansion needs (including a RAID controller)
  • 1x slim optical drive slot (allowing replacement with a 2.5″ SATA drive)

Compared to the maximum features of modest builds costing twice as much (1 processor socket, realistic memory cap of 32GB, 1 on-board NIC, etc.), the R710 clearly offers way more bang for my buck and better fits my needs.

Barebones, prebuilt, or something in between? 

In my search for the best deal, I noticed that there were three general types of listings for most refurbished server models: barebones kits, starter kits, and fully loaded boxes. Unfortunately, almost all listings I saw lacked two components – rack-mount rail kits (for sliding chassis in and out of server racks or homemade racks made from parts of IKEA furniture), and the front security bezels, as featured in the lovely image above (courtesy of a Dell information PDF, found here). I can live without both, but the rails would have made organization much easier, and the front security bezel that locks in hot-swappable drive caddies would have looked snazzy. Oh well. Let’s take a look at each of the kinds of listings.

Barebones only – These listings were by far the least expensive, but also came with the least amount of parts. Usually, these would come from vendors with fewer ratings with listings that lacked many pictures and text descriptions; some only offered pickup-only shipping options. Barebones listings were just that: barebones. I’d get a case and a motherboard, and not much else. While it was tempting to practically build from the ground up, I chose against it. Why? Processors. Most separate processor listings on eBay were for used, only-sometimes “tested” loose Xeon processors. Sure, getting a pair of processors for less than a bottle of bourbon sounded like a steal, but I didn’t want the headache of bent pins or other DOA complications. Plus, finding appropriate heatsinks presented an additional challenge that I wanted to circumvent.