Recommendations for good barebones 2U server?

Thinking of moving our website from pay-as-you-go hosting to building our own servers.

I’ve looked around at the Dell site for 2U servers and I wasn’t terribly impressed with the pricing. Here’s what I want:

  • dual quadcore (8 CPUs total)
  • 8 gb+ memory
  • reliable hotswappable RAID 5 or RAID 10 (preferably raid 10)

I configured the Dell 2U to what I wanted at around $1,900, sans memory or hard drives (but with a nice dual redundant PSU). The Dell pricing for these items is extortionate. In contrast (and quite surprisingly) their CPU prices are reasonable. I don’t need massive CPU power for this box, though, just 8 modern cores; I’d rather spend my $$ on tons of memory and highly redundant storage.

So I’d add 16 GB of memory which is around $400 (DDR2-667), and six commodity 500 GB SATA hard drives which are around $480 ($80 each) to build the RAID 10 array.

That puts the dell total at $2,700. Can anyone do better?

(oh, and the reason we’re looking at this is because ~$600 per month in hosting fees adds up pretty rapidly, plus our host wants friggin’ extortionate rates to upgrade our server memory – like almost double the monthly cost. )

Hmm. Looking at this barebones 2U on newegg:

With the two “cheap” Xeon quadcores, 16 GB ECC, and six 500 GB commodity hard drives that all comes to $2,302.

That also means we’d be using the built-in Intel “ESB2” RAID functionality vs. the Dell add-in pci express RAID card. Nor do we get the nice dual redundant PSU. Seems like a wash to me.

Be sure to factor in HDD cartridges, if needed. All of our Dells have that requirement.

We currently get 26-29% off any hardware order just by going through their business sales dept., after much haggling when we first started using them.

I would definitely call Dell as opposed to simply configuring via their website. You’re likely to get significant discounts.

I’ve heard Lenovo is offering some great deals to get their new servers off the ground.

Yeah, the dell website price is for suckers. Even if you’ve never done business with them before they’ll 20+ percent off if you ask.

Cool – thanks for the tips!

What do you guys (nixon66, etc) think of this Lenovo?

product range here:

My thought is to get it as barebones as I can, and then slap in

  • some nice not-quite-top-of-the-line quadcore Xeons
  • a slew of memory, fill all 10 slots
  • six commodity 7200rpm SATA drives

Seem reasonable?

Current memory prices are great. $116 for 4 GB (2 x 2) of 667. The Lenovo server has 12 slots. I assume they can be populated in pairs so $116 x 4 or under $500 for 16 GB memory.

Hard drives are cheap, too. I could get six 500 GB drives (for RAID 10) at $70 each, so $450 for 500 GB RAID 10.

Xeon CPUs are a bit expensive, though.

Harpertown Xeon Quad:
1.86 Ghz - $204 (wolfdale, dual)
2.0 Ghz - $225
2.33 Ghz - $288
2.5 Ghz - $340
2.66 Ghz - $475
2.83 Ghz - $717
3.0 Ghz - $900
3.2 Ghz - $1,345

I think 2.5 might be the sweet spot, so right at $700 for two 2.5 Ghz quad core CPUs.

Barebones Lenovo ThinkServer RD120 1 dual Xeon 1.86 Ghz server - $1,491
Barebones Lenovo ThinkServer RD120 1 quad Xeon 2.33 Ghz server - $1,748

Seems like the cheap one w/ upgrades is the way to go; no way is that slow Xeon quad in the same box worth an additional $257.

So we have:

$500 + $450 + $700 + $1,491 = $3,141.

The only thing I worry about, is that this basic model sounds like it uses the default onboard Intel RAID stuff. The docs say it supports RAID 0,1,5,10,50 – is the onboard Intel RAID good enough?

The only criteria for server RAID for me has been hot-swappable drive capability and a RAID controller that can rebuild on the fly if a disk is swapped out. I don’t know about those Intel controllers, but that’s what I’d look into.

Looks like it’s gonna be a server-building Xmas for me! Isn’t that the best kind?

I pulled the trigger on the barebones RS120 (2U) and the RD110 (1U). $2,100 for both + $60 shipping.

They include CPUs and basic amounts of memory. I bought 6 hard drives (500GB) to play with building RAID arrays up (RAID 10 for the 2U, simple RAID 1 mirroring for the 1U) and make sure I understand it all.

I also picked up 2 x 2GB 667Mhz DDR2 FB-DIMMs to make sure the memory upgrade will “take”.

Once I have it all set up, I’ll buy the “real” CPUs and the rest of the drives and memory to fully populate them. I guess I should buy some extra HDDs to ship to the hosting datacenter in the case of array failure, too…

I suppose a backup 1U is probably a good idea as well, since that one was pretty cheap.

Some glamour shots of the Lenovo 1U and 2U servers I ended up going with, are in here:

I learned a ton about the server market, so if you have questions, ask away. Amazing what you can learn when you let your pocketbook pay for it. I CAN HAS KNOWLEDGE!

(biggest surprise? the way they cheese the hell out of you for the hard drive rails.)

Wow, you’re running windows? Huh. Not what I expected. I guess you’re more about development than administration.

Also I hope you have a DB slave setup, with two servers.

Seems like an optimal environment for ASP.NET usage…

Lenovo? Hope nothing goes wrong then.

EDIT: read ‘drive rails’ as ‘rack rails’.

I think it makes sense if you’re already a Windows shop and don’t have the budget or time to learn how to configure and administrate less familiar operating systems and applications.


PM inbound, $600 is too much. We only charge one-time going rate for RAM, plus a bit of gravy. No recurring fee.


edit: Didn’t see that you had already pulled the trigger, NM.