Review – Dell PowerEdge T110 II

04Feb14

It’s almost 3 years since I got my HP Microserver – time for a change. 8GB wasn’t enough RAM for all the VMs I want to run, and even with an unofficial upgrade to 16GB I was running out of room. The NL40 processor was starting to show some strain too. The time had come for something with 32GB RAM, which meant getting a real server.

Ridiculously cheap

I just missed out on getting my server for £219.95+VAT (£263.94). Procrastination got in the way, and when I did go to order they were out of stock. They’re now back at ServersPlus for £249.95+VAT (£299.94) – and that’s the version with a proper server CPU (a Xeon E3-1220 v2) rather than some weedy Pentium or i3 meant for a regular desktop.

I know it’s possible to get PCs for even less than £300 these days, but a proper server from a brand name vendor that’s nicely put together seems like a bargain[1].

Fill her up

A server with 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard disk is approximately useless[2]. I had a couple of 3TB spindles to transplant, a freshly shucked 4TB drive that cost me £124.99[3] and ordered 32GB RAM (£307.18) from Crucial and a 240GB Transcend SSD that was on sale from eBuyer for £99.99. My server was no longer ridiculously cheap, but for less than £1000 I had a machine that would be fast and have lots of everything.

Performance

Given a choice it would have been nice to pay a small premium for the E3-1230 v2, which with a CPU Mark score of 8890 seems much faster than the 6503 of E3-1220 v2 – a difference that just doesn’t make sense on paper for a 0.2GHz clock speed differential (and no other notable differences in cache etc.).

Running Geekbench turned in a multi-core score of 8573 – the new house champion by a good margin – just what I hoped for with a full fat CPU in a big box.

Subjective performance is great, even when running a load of VMs. The only let down is DivX Converter transcoding, which seems to thrash the CPUs without going very much faster than it did on the HP Microserver.

Network transfer rates are substantially better than I was seeing with the HP Microserver (Iperf is clocking around 400Mbps over a less than perfect 30m cable run – I was previously seeing 150Mbps).

Build

The case is solid but not too heavy. Opening is achieved with a simple single latch, and everything is very tidy inside.

It comes with 4 slide in 3.5″ disk trays, which are great (and often a premium item for other brand servers). Using a 2.5″ SSD on an Intel mounting plate made cable routing a slight stretch, but otherwise it’s a very neat arrangement. There’s a 5th SATA port internally, which I guess is there for an optical drive, but I’ve routed it to a removable HDD caddy. There’s also an eSATA port (but no eSATA power).

There are 2 USB2 ports on the front,  4 around the back and another couple on the motherboard. There’s also gigabit ethernet, VGA, and a proper old 9 pin serial port[4].

The server is quiet in operation, and seems to run nice and cool. The power supply is rated at 305W, but I’d guess it’s not slurping anything like that – fingers crossed that my electricity bill doesn’t leap up now that I’ve given up on the Microserver.

Conclusion

The new server has given me the processing power, storage and VM space that I need now, with a good deal of headroom for future needs. At less than £1000 for such a high spec I’m very happy, particularly given the strong performance and good build quality.

Notes

[1] I’m left wondering why these don’t get bought as the basis for cheap workstations?
[2] A 4/500GB configuration might just about do for a basic office server these days, but I wish it was possible to buy (on Dell’s web site) a minimal config with no RAM/disk.
[3] Supply chain insanity (and varying warranty offerings) mean it’s cheaper to get external disks and remove the disk from its shell than it is to just but the disk naked.
[4] I thought that this might be useful for my old APC UPS until I discovered that serial UPS support disappeared in Windows 2008.



8 Responses to “Review – Dell PowerEdge T110 II”

  1. 1 Matt Wardle

    Hi Chris.

    How are you finding this? Interestingly I’m going down the exact same route as you.

    My MS (N54L) us just not enought for what I want anymore.

    Are you running the disks raw or using RAID? If RAID what card?

    Matt

    • Since writing the review I’ve switched the OS from Windows to ESXi. The disks have always been raw (so I now have them passed through with the original Windows P2Ved).

      I’ve also subsequently bought a couple of the Gen8 Microservers, but of course they can’t manage the 32GB RAM.

      The newer Microservers have iLO built in, which I love. It’s almost enough to make me wish that I’d got an ML310e instead, but then I’d face the HDD compatibility issues that HP forces on its (non Microserver) users, which is frankly a deal breaker for me.

      If I was buying today I’d probably go for a T20 to get the newer CPU (and it’s cheaper).

  2. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the very helpful review… I just got a used Dell T110 ii off of eBay, and I’m setting it up. I was wondering how that 5th SATA port on the motherboard has worked out for you? (The one meant for an optical drive.)

    Any issues with using it for an actual hard drive (speed crippled, that sort of thing)?

  3. 6 Tego

    Can your T110 II see the 3 and 4 TB drives ? I thought the system was limited to 2Tb drives.
    Thanks !

    • There’s no 2TB limit. I’m running it with two 3TB spindles and one 4TB – no problems seeing them in Windows or vSphere.


  1. 1 Gen8 Microservers | Chris Swan's Weblog

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