This is the first in a series of posts about my new dual-Xeon Citrix lab project. I’ve spent some time researching the best parts at the best prices for my new server; let’s review all the decisions I’ve made while building the system thus far.

More from the Lab!

 

I’ve had my current server for five years, and it has served me well. I learned HyperV, Exchange, Netscaler, and much more with it over the years. While we’ve had a good run, it doesn’t meet my needs anymore, and the time has come to get some shiny new hardware, and upgrade my lab.

Cloud or Home Server

Azure - AWS - Rackspace
Azure – AWS – Rackspace

Everyone’s talking about the cloud nowadays so I had to consider it, right? I did, and it is just too expensive. Building your server is pretty much always cheaper in the long term than using one of the major cloud server providers. Also, having your own hardware is easier to manage, and more flexible. At home, I have Verizon FiOS with 50Mbps/50Mbps, which gives me comfortable access to my system from remote locations. One of the fun parts about building your own server is looking for new hardware, compare the benchmarks, and install all of it in your case–the cloud cannot give you that. I would say, for small and short lab environment, go for the cloud, but if you are looking to play with your lab for years, go for a home server.

Hypervisor

Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2
Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 R2

I was not sure whether to use VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V. In my day-to-day work, I use only VMware ESX, so I thought that playing with another hypervisor (Microsoft Hyper-V) would be a great challenge. At this time, I haven’t decided between Windows Server 2012 R2 with the Hyper-V role, or Hyper-V Server 2012 R2.

CPU

INTEL BOX INTEL XEON E5-2620 V3 (Haswell)
INTEL BOX INTEL XEON E5-2620 V3 (Haswell)

To be able to use Microsoft Hyper-V (or any hypervisor), you need a processor compatible with Intel VT and Intel Hyper-Threading Technology (Intel HT Technology). Core I5 processors are not compatible with virtualization. All Xeon processors, and a few Core I7 processors, are compatible.

Dual CPU was a must, as I am planning to have a lot of virtual machines, and the CPU would have become the bottleneck of my system. Xeon is the only option when you want to do a dual-CPU configuration. It may be more expensive, but It is not possible to have dual-Core I7 by design.

To find my CPUs, I looked at CPU benchmarks to find the Xeon CPU with the best performance and the best price. I went for the Intel Xeon E5-2620 V3 @ 2.40 Ghz which is in a nice sweet spot of both price and performance.

2620v3benchmarks

The CPU clock matters less for me than the number of cores. The Intel Xeon E5-2620 has 6 cores/12 threads, so with 2 processors, I will have 12 cores/24 threads. The TDP of the 2620 CPU is only 85W which is very good. Something to keep in mind, the CPU has a LGA 2011 v3 socket so I need to make sure that the motherboard that I am buying is compatible with this socket.

Version 3 is the latest version of the 2620 CPU. I was intrigued by the gain from version 2. Pogolinux compared the performances between the 2620 v2 and the 2620 v3.

Xeon-2620-Benchmark-Infographic

Overall, the gain is around 20%.

I found a very good deal at MicroCenter in Brooklyn, NY. The CPU was priced at $339 instead of $439 on Newegg or Amazon, which saves me 200 bucks total on the retail price. There was no price difference between the version 2 and the version 3.

Notes: 

    1. Reasonably priced for Xeon processors
    2. Version 3 at the same price than version 2
    3. Dual LGA 2011 v3 socket
    4. CPU coolers are not included in the boxes.

Motherboard

SUPERMICRO MBD-X10DAL-I-O ATX Server Motherboard Dual LGA 2011 Intel C612
SUPERMICRO MBD-X10DAL-I-O ATX Server Motherboard Dual LGA 2011 Intel C612

Once I decided on the CPU and the memory, I found that there is not a lot of DDR4 motherboards available and compatible with the Dual LGA 2011 v3 socket in the standard ATX format. Only ASUS and SUPERMICRO are selling these DUAL-CPU motherboards. ASUS is kind of pricey, and I read terrible reviews about the ASUS motherboards, so I went for the SUPERMICRO motherboards. I went for the model X10-DAL-I-O because the numbers of SATA3 ports was sufficient and the price was competitive ($264.99 @ Newegg with a $25 coupon). The motherboard has 8 slots of 288-pin 2133/1866/1600MHz ECC DDR4 SDRAM and supports up to 512 GB of RAM which is plenty for my lab.

Notes: 

  1. ATX form factor
  2. DDR4 support
  3. Inexpensive
  4. 10 SATA3 ports – 8 228pin slots 
  5. ECC memory mandatory
  6. The processor sockets are built very close to one another on the motherboard
  7. The motherboard supports running with only 1 CPU

Memory

SAMSUNG 16GB 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR4 2133 (PC4-17000) Server Memory Model M393A2G40DB0-CPB x4
SAMSUNG 16GB 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR4 2133 (PC4-17000) Server Memory Model M393A2G40DB0-CPB x4

DDR4 is the new trend now, with frequency up to 3200Mhz and voltage reduced from 1.5 to 1.2V. Unfortunately, my Xeon processors are only supporting 1833Mhz, which means my memory will lower its frequency from 2133Mhz to 1833Mhz. The motherboard has 8 slots, and supports up to 512 GB, but with the price of the DDR4 memory today, I am only going to go up to 64 GB using 4 slots. Keeping 4 slots free will let me increase the capacity to 128 GB in the future. I found a good deal on eBay, some guy in Texas was selling 4×16 GB (Total: 64GB) for $450 which saves me 280$ on the retail price. Not bad, huh?

Don’t think that because I am opting for DDR4, I will have better performance. That is not entirely true. Anantech published an excellent review of the DDR4 memory showing that the DDR4 is barely offering a better performance.

21 - DDR Comparison, 3per_575px

Note:

  1. 16 GB card 
  2. Error-correcting code memory (ECC memory)
  3. Limited to 1866Mhz because the 2620v3 CPU does not support more
  4. 4 out of 8 slots used

Storage

Samsung 850 PRO 512GB SATA III Solid State Drive Model: MZ-7KE512BW
Samsung 850 PRO 512GB SATA III Solid State Drive Model: MZ-7KE512BW

To host my system, I went for the Samsung 850 PRO which is currently the best value for a fast and reliable SSD:

  • 128 GB to host my Windows Server OS
  • 512 GB to host my virtual machines (deduplication activated to save space)

850PRO

Anantech published an awesome test of this SSD.

The 512 GB SSD is currently priced at $249.99, I managed to get it from BestBuy for $149.99. I got the 128 GB from Amazon for $98.99.

Note: 

  1. I am also going to have 6x1TB SATA II 7200rpm Western Digital hard drives to store data. I can reuse the disks I currently have as I don’t need crazy performances. 

Network

Intel I210
Intel I210

Included in the SUPERMICRO X10-DAL-I-O motherboard, there are 2 Ethernet ports (up to 1Gbps) using the chipset Intel I210, which is sufficient.

Note: 

1. Gigabit ethernet port 

Cooling

SUPERMICRO SNK-P0050AP4 Heatsink
SUPERMICRO SNK-P0050AP4 Heatsink

As the SUPERMICRO X10-DAL-I-O motherboard has a specific dual-cpu design with limited space between the sockets, my options were limited to the compatibility list from the constructor. So I went for the one with the best reviews: SNK-P0050AP4 Heatsink ($39.99 on Newegg).

Notes:

  1. Height (Rack Units): 4U Active
  2. ILM Type: Square, Narrow
  3. Dimension: 105 x 93 x 126 mm
  4. Mounting Bracket for Square and Narrow ILM included
  5. Up to 40 dBA

Video

Updated 08/15/15

Nvidia 9600GS
Nvidia 9600GS

The motherboard has a video chipset. The motherboard does not have a video chipset onboard. I am also planning to add an old HP 466762-001 NVIDIA GeForce 9600GS 768MB GDDR2 192-Bit PCIe x16 Video Card to take the load off the CPU.

Notes: 

  1. HDMI&VGA port
  2. 768MB of dedicated memory 
  3. PCIe x16

Case

Antec Case
Antec Case

I am keeping my current ANTEC ATX server case which has enough disk bays and fits perfectly in my home configuration.

Notes: 

  1. 11 drive bays: 3 x 5.25 inch tool-less drive bays, 2 x 2.5 inch drive bays (dedicated), 6 x 3.5 inch tool-less drive bays
  2. Motherboards: Standard ATX

PSU

Updated 08/15/15

LC6550GP2 V2.2
LC6550GP2 V2.2

The case includes a 550W PSU from LC-Power.

Notes: 

  1. 80 PLUS
  2. 550 W
EVGA 500 W1 80+, 500W
EVGA 500 W1 80+, 500W

Note:

  1. Input: 100-240VAC, 8A, 50/60 Hz, output rails:(total max 500W @ +40C)

Summary

Updated 08/15/15

Component ItemRetail price (USD)Discounted price (USD)QuantityTotal (USD)
Total (without tax)1766.94
CPUIntel Xeon E5-2620v3 Hexa-Core449.99339.992679.98
Motherboard SUPERMICRO MBD-X10DAL-I-O ATX Server Motherboard Dual LGA 2011 Intel C612299.99264.991264.99
MemorySAMSUNG 16GB 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR4 2133 (PC4-17000) Server (M393A2G40DB0-CPB)166.99112.504450.00
SSD OSSamsung 850 Pro 128GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7KE128BW)98.99N/A1 98.99
SSD VMSamsung 850 Pro 512GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7KE512BW)249.99149.991149.99
CPU CoolersSUPERMICRO SNK-P0050AP4 Heatsink39.99N/A2 79.98
CaseAntec Three Hundred Two Gaming Case, Black64.67N/A0N/A
PSU (updated)EVGA 500 W1 80+, 500W43.01N/A143.01
VideoHP 466762-001 NVIDIA GeForce 9600GS 768MB GDDR2 192-Bit PCIe x16 Video Card VGAN/AN/A0N/A

I know cumulatively, this seems like a pricey investment, but shopping around for a good deal is worth it. Furthermore, investing in quality parts upfront will ensure a longer life for your lab down the road, and building it yourself saves money in the long run, too.

With all the parts ordered, now it’s just a waiting game until I can start the fun part–building it! Stay tuned for an update in Part 2.

More from the Lab!

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. hi, great article, but just a quick note. almost all recent processors are compatible with virtualization. close to all of them, both Intel and AMD “know” vt-x or amd-v, and many of them know vt-d or iommu. i think a rectification show be made regarding the information that no core i5 processor is compatible with virtualization. even since the first generation i think (close to) all of them were vt-x compatible. also, same goes for i7. core i5 does not have hyperthreading indeed, i3 and i7 do, but nowadays its pretty hard to find an intel or amd processor that isn’t compatible with virtualization.

  2. Hi,

    I need you suggestion to build home virtualization Lab. Something within 1500 USD
    Planning to run #4-WIn2K12R2 VMs, #2-NS VMs, #2-Win10 VMs, #1-Insight
    Total 9-10 VMs approx. No major production use, Just for learning

    Thanks,
    -Saifee

  3. Even a lowly Processor like Core i3 supports virtualization(vt-x). I bought one in 2011. Used it until few weeks ago.

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