Used IBM x3650 M4: is it worth it? Suggestions and advices on the best configuration.

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Hi there,

I'm looking for a used server in order to build a development/testing environment for some high performance PostgreSQL and Spark applications. After a long research on Internet and based on my (limited) experience on such machines (I use 3 different servers of this kind, all of them bought before 2013), I decided to go with a IBM x3650 M4 machine. The budget is limited to 2500€.

The best offer I could get is the following:

  •  2 x Intel Xeon E5-2690 (20MB cache, 8 core each, 2.90Ghz, TurboBoost@3.8Ghz)
  •  96GB RAM (12 x 8GB PC3-10600 @ 1333Mhz, ECC, Registered, Low Voltage)
  •  IBM ServeRaid M5110e RAID controller card
  •  2 x 900W AC Platinum power supplies
  •  2 x 146GB SAS 15k rpm HDD 2.5"

This will cost me 1200$ + 250$ shipping = 1450$ (about 1400€).

I would like to add a secondary backplane (about 80€), some empty HDD SFF trays and some spare fans (34€ each).



Based on my typical work-load (datawarehouse and parallel processing), should I upgrade to PC3-12800 (1600Mhz) RAM? From what I understood, I will gain in bandwidth but will loose 2 CAS latency points and will increase energy consumption. This upgrade will also cost me 300$ more with same overall RAM size (96GB). The specifications of the two supported type of RAM are:

  •  96GB (12 x 8GB) PC3-10600 @ 1333Mhz, CAS=9, Low Voltage (1.35V) (about 300$)
  •  96GB (12 x 8GB) PC3-12800 @ 1600Mhz, CAS=11, Low Voltage (1.5V) (about 600$)



This server allows to host 16 x 2.5" HDDs or SSDs by adding a secondary backplane. I bought 4 x Crucial MX300 525GB SSD (best price/performance using various discounts and black-friday offers) and the server ships with 2 x 146GB 15k rpm HDDs. My idea is to:

  • Buy other 2 Crucial MX300 in order to reach good performances in RAID 10 (6 total SSDs), and
  • buy 4 "garbage" HHDs that will be used as a stage transition area for data

Will the built-in ServeRaid M5110e card be able to handle 6 SSDs and 6 HDDs? It has 512MB RAM. Should I buy a different RAID controller? Should I use a software RAID? What do you suggest?



On full throttle (both CPU running at 100%) using this configuration, how can I estimate the power consumption? I know that CPUs are 135W each and that SSDs consume 80% lower than HDDs. I also know that a 900W PSU suffices and the minimum requirement for those CPUs is 750W.



Today, is it worth it to buy a similar configuration for less than 2000$? I compared Dell R720 and HP Proliant G8 (from the same era and generation) and this IBM model seems the more affordable and valid solution. For the next generation of servers (Intel E5-26xx V2 family) I should add at least 1500$ but RAM goes up to 1866Mhz and cache size to 30MB with better power consumption.


Thank you all. Hope to have posted this in the right section of the forum.

 Pietro Pugni

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I don't have any hands on experience with IBM servers. The one thing though with any server is openness if you want to use a variety of drives or add-ons that may not be on the HCL. Kevin would know more but Dell, HP and Lenovo have been pretty good there, and of course the white box guys like Supermicro. We've been very happy with the Dell and HP servers we have. 

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At this pricepoint if budget is a concern I'd lean heavily towards a whitebox server. Go with something that supports newer components and get a bit more life from the system. Also not having to sort out support contracts for software/firmware updates is a huge plus.

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A long time ago, Dell and HP stopped allowing the use of your own HDD's.  HP was first, Dell followed suit.  Something something, offer better support.  But it all comes down to profits IMO.  back then the 250/500GB drives were 5X more expensive than off the shelf stuff.  Wanted to live on the edge with a 2TB drive, you'd pay over $1k for it vs $300 at your local Frys retailer.  It had to be purchased from them, or their branded ones, and there was microcode in them that allowed them to work. Granted this was circa 2005 or so, so things could have changed.

It was at that point, I got angry with both of them for different reasons.  PERC cards caused me to lose data, and HP just made server purchasing difficult with all the tiny little boxes of pieces I had to install (e.g. RAM, CPU's, fans, etc)  

Personally for a home environment, you can something like a supermicro system and build it out, and know that you wont be locked into a particular vendor for some upgrades if any.  You may also be able to find some used CAD/CAM dual xeon desktop towers too.  The towers typically shave a few hundred dollars off over a rack mount unit.  They are not as loud too.

Edited by mitchm3

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