[CentOS] Best Motherboard

Fri May 16 03:21:37 UTC 2008
Luke S Crawford <lsc at prgmr.com>

Simon Jolle sjolle <urandomdev at gmail.com> writes:
> What are the advantages of building your own server comparing with
> products from HP, Dell and IBM? Is it cheaper?

I find that if you order the base package from Dell, you get a pretty
good deal.  sometimes better than buying the parts alone.  But if you want
more ram, disk, or CPU, (and the base system is pretty anemic) you usually 
end up paying twice market rate for the parts if you buy those upgrades from 

the other vendors are  similar, only their kit is much nicer, and the 
prices across the board are higher.   

I do really like the HP ILO on the high-end boxes that let you ssh into the 
ILO card-  Much better than IPMI, imo.  but really a external 
network-accessable rebooting power strip and a FreeBSD box with a rocketport 
multi-serial card in the rack does the same thing at a lower cost, and
I'm more comfortable with the security on a FreeBSD box than on the 
ILO card.  

Personally, I find that the most advantageous setup is often to buy the
pre-built chassis/motherboard kit from SuperMicro or Intel, and then get
the rest of the parts from Newegg or Ingram Micro.

See, there is usually only a very small premium for the chassis/motherboard
assembly,  which I think is worth it because I don't have to screw with the 
cooling system, the board fits the chassis just right, and almost all of the 
assembly work is done.    But, at the same time, I get to pay commodity 
prices for ram, cpu and disk. 

my new servers are intel SR1530AHLX chassis/motherboard combos,
which I get from whatever reseller is currently cheapest, 
they are nice, but the chipset isn't yet supported by memtest86, but
it is supported by bluesmoke, so good enough.

I use core2quad q6600 CPUs (I buy them at fry's, on sale)  and 8Gb of
crucial unbuffered ECC ddr2, which I usually get at newegg.  (I think ECC 
is very important and worth the (rather small) premium-  I don't think 
buffering is worth the required upgrades-  I could get two or three of
this kit for the price of a xeon/fbdimm setup that is only slightly 
faster.)   I then put in 2x1Tb sata drives (usualy the consumer-grade 
kind rather than the enterprise kind, which only makes sense because 
everything is mirred and I live near the co-lo.)  

total cost is around $1100-1300 for a quad-core box with 8Gb of ram and 
1Tb of mirrored storage.   You can do the same with higher-end kit,
of course, replacing my vendors with others, and you can usually 
save a good chunk of change over getting the whole thing from HP/IBM/Dell.  

Of course, if you have the budget, there is a support advantage to getting
everything from the same place, but with my labor costs, the premium isn't
worth it.    The problem is that the support advantage isn't that great-
You still usually can't just ship the box back to the vendor saying "It's 
broken"  - they run a cursory check and if it's clean, they send it back.

Usually determining for sure that there is in fact a hardware problem 
(and you or the vendor needs to do this before the vendor will fix it)
also tells you what hardware is bad-  and once you know what the bad part is,
the only overhead is looking up the proper vendor address.  

My experience has been that I am usually better at finding hardware errors
than dell (and rackable, and HP)  I attribute it to the fact that if the
dell tech doesn't find the problem, he gets to go home early.  If I don't
find the problem, the thing crashes and my pager wakes me up sunday morning.

(in my experience, sending ram back to say, corsair,  or disks back to,
for example, seagate  after a proper diagnosis is far more likely to get 
me a new, working part than sending the whole kit back to dell or rackable
with an "It's broken")