Best use of 6 gifted poweredge 2950's?

Discussion in 'Windows Server' started by ruiner007, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. ruiner007

    ruiner007 MDL Novice

    May 17, 2011
    Hello everyone,

    Long time lurker, first time poster here.

    I recently acquired 6 fully loaded Dell Poweredge 2950 generation III (some generation 2) servers through a friend in infrastructure.
    I also got a dedicated hardware firewall and switch.

    Each servers have:
    2x2.33GHz Quad Core Xeon Processors
    32GB DDR2 Memory
    6x300GB 15K SAS Hard Drives
    2 NICs

    I still need to sort through all of them to determine what works and what doesn't but so far all of them have booted up successfully when plugged in.
    I work in operations support so i'm not a complete idiot when it comes to servers and networking but i'm certainly not the best.
    I'd like to use these to further my career by creating a private network with these and virtualize a test Exchange 2013 mail environment within these running on server 2012, if possible.
    I'd also like to toss a decent PCIe video card in one of these puppies and use it for gaming/home media exclusively.

    I want to make best use of the gift i've been given and allow myself the most flexibility with what I can do with the hardware I now have at my disposal by running VMs on top of a parent OS on each server.

    This is the first time i've ever dove into this kind of planning and setup before, so I'm writing this post to see what the community can offer in terms of potential configurations.
    I have little to no budget to really invest in these so whatever plan I come up with would need to be cheap. I'm planning on building a rack unit to house these in and the necessary connectors. I may possibly invest in 1 or 2 static IPs for this as well, depending on necessity.

    any suggestions or input would be greatly appreciated.
    I plan on becoming an active member of this community and I look forward to your responses.
  2. charnow

    charnow MDL Novice

    Nov 14, 2012
    Have fun! You can do anything with these servers with the exception of even modest graphics. You can certainly host a small server farm supporting any number of VMs. We still have a couple of these boxes with VMs running on both. Two things to consider in your plans. First, power efficiency is not a strong point of the older servers. Depending on your electricity prices, plan on $30-60 per month for each server running 24/7.

    Next, Dell does their best to limit graphics capability on their servers - they want you to pay a premium for workstations instead. If you are feeling brave, you can take a Dremel or similar tool and cut out the back of one of the PCIe x8 slots so you can fit in an x16 graphics card (you lose half the bandwidth lanes, but that isn't a real issue). You want a cheap, low power card. I had some success with an EVGA 01G-P3-1312-LR GeForce 210 card.

    If you are running a Windows server variant as the operating system host, the onboard video works. Command line based Linux does as well. None of the Linux GUI flavors will run on the base video. Installing an operating system with an add-in video card is somewhat difficult to say the least. Windows Server 2008/2012/2012 R2 will not install with anything other than the baseboard video. I recall getting some flavor of Windows (probably 2012) running with the EVGA card, but it took many hours of going through bus conflicts, etc. all of which had to be done using the command-line interface. It still did not work well.

    With Linux, I could not get Ubuntu desktop to install. Instead, I installed the server version and then added a GUI. That worked, and the box could be used to host VMWare workstation machines.

    On the ESXi front, I have only to get non-GUI Linux running. Windows 7 and any recent version of Server runs happily.

    As you get up and going, I definitely recommend checking fleaBay for cheap DRAC5 cards. Being able to access the console via IPMI sure beats hitting buttons on a KVM or (god forbid) switching keyboards and video cables to a dedicated monitor. The DRAC5 console uses half-assed Java code. I had the best success accessing it with Firefox.
  3. willko

    willko MDL Member

    May 14, 2008
    The Dell 29xx series are great machines - you've received a great gift!! Sure there a bit old, but my goodness they were built to last.

    +1 on the DRAC5/IPMI front - good advice. Also the SAS cards, are the v5 or v6 - again both excellent controllers, many options.
    The BIOS on these has 2.1 SLIC embedded straight from Dell which is nice :)

    They make great SBS 2011 boxes, especially with >24GB RAM. I've got a few in various roles and they just keep working.
    The x54xx series CPUs are cheap and easily found on eBay - a pair of X5470s should be less than $80 now.

    Of course you could always sell them (as parts = more money - The HDDs alone are worth $50 a pop.) but its a shame to see such reliable kit broken down.
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  4. sebus

    sebus MDL Guru

    Jul 23, 2008
    Reliable it might be, but it can not run in Enterprise without warranty. So while it still works great (and probably will for many more years) after 3-5 years it just must go.
    Done the same with mine...

    But they are perfect for ESXi