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2 Systems, $7000+, 12 hyperthreaded cores

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April 30, 2009 4:27:53 AM

Ok, here's the deal. I had a P5W-DH Deluxe motherboard die on me recently, so I got to thinking that I can either replace the board or I could just go out and fulfill my wildest dreams (angel on one shoulder, devil on the other). In any case cost wasn't a huge concern for me, but I wanted to get great parts that will last for the next few years and will make me truly experience some of the best that's out there. Speed/mutlitasking performance/fault tolerance/reliability are all important to me, and I really wanted to go all out while getting good value for the $.

Given the challenge, this is what I decided to do:

1) Build a powerful gaming system with screaming OS/game performance while still having enough space to store downloads without worrying about losing a hard disk.

2) Build a powerhouse Mid-Tower ATX server which can provide native VMWare ESX/ESXi support running 10+ VMs concurrently using an onboard RAID controller to provide hardware RAID 5 with solid performance while presenting terrabytes of storage for archiving my media collection. Did I mention dual processor server motherboard and 8 hyperthreaded cores?

I'm a Systems Architect for an IT Outsourcing provider, so I expect that I'll use both of these systems heavily to educate myself on technology I haven't had that much time to play with. I'll probably be running most every enterprise MS software along with Linux and CA client management applications which I'm responsible for as part of my day to day job.

My current case is reusable, as is my existing DVD burner and floppy drive. I have a number of SATA drives in my current case, but I'm choosing to go new and sparkly.

Now on to the good stuff.

The GAMING rig

1x CoolerMaster Centurion 532 case - (My current case, modified with a couple of additional 120mm fans)

1x CORSAIR CMPSU-1000HX 1000W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail - 1000 watts of clean power.

1x Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor - Retail - Chose this as the best processor value and overclocking will put it above the Extreme Edition in performance.

1x Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 120mm SSO CPU Cooler - Retail - I don't think core i7 cooling gets much better than this.

1x ASUS Rampage II Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail - Maybe not the cheapest on the block, but ASUS boards are great and no one can deny that this is a quality board.

2x OCZ Platinum 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail - 12GB is definitely overkill, but I plan on using my system for a lot more than gaming. Although my ESX server will be doing most of my VM work, I could see running a VM or 2 from time to time on this system to test things and I like having headroom.

1x LG Black 6X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 6X BD-ROM 4MB Cache SATA Internal Blu-ray Burner 6X Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD-ROM Drive Model GGW-H20L - OEM - It's Blu-ray and it burns everything. Nuff said.

1x Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH160G1C5 160GB SATA MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - Retail - Solid State disk for quick boots, great reads, and game installs.

1x OCZ OCZACSSDBRKT Solid State Drive 3.5" Adaptor Bracket - Retail - Must has bracketses!!!

2x Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive - OEM - 1 TB RAID 1 for pagefile/media storage/OS images and backups

1x SAPPHIRE 100251SR Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB 512-bit (256-bit x 2) GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail - I know it's not the king of the hill anymore, but I like ATI and I can crossfire 2 of these down the road if I need more performance. A single 4870 X2 will run most everything at 1920-1080 resolution (which is what I'll be using).

2x LG W2453V-PF Black 24" 2ms(GTG) HDMI Full HD 1080P Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 50000:1 w/ Smart Package - Retail - 2 of these 24" beauties running side by side as an extended desktop will be awesome. Running games at true 1080p on one monitor while having apps up on the other at the same time will be awesome.

2x TRIPP LITE 10 ft. DVI Dual Link TMDS cable Model P560-010 - Retail - Great monitors, but no DVI cables makes me mad.

1x Logitech Z-5500 505 Watts 5.1 Speaker - Retail - Solid 5.1 performance in a reasonably priced package. Replacing my current 2.1 speaker set will be awesome.

1x Logitech G15 104 Normal Keys 29 Function Keys USB Wired Standard Gaming Keyboard - Retail - One of the best gaming keyboards and not a bad normal use keyboard either. Win/Win.

1x Logitech MX Revolution Black 7 Buttons 2 x Wheels USB RF Wireless Laser Mouse - Retail - Great gaming mouse.

1x i-rocks IR-5400-WH USB 2.0 Card Reader - Retail - Cheap card reader.

The VMWare ESX Monster

1x COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GP Black SECC/ ABS ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail - Probably the nicest Cooler Master mid tower case

1x Athena Power AP-P4ATX95FEP 20+4Pin 950W Single EPS-12V Server Power Supply - Retail - Solid ATX server PSU

2x Intel Xeon E5520 Nehalem 2.26GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 80W Quad-Core Server Processor - Retail - 8 Physical cores, 16 Virtual cores, yummy.

2x Noctua NH-U12P SE1366 120mm SSO CPU Cooler - Retail - I don't think core Xeon cooling gets much better than this.

1x ASUS Z8NA-D6C Dual LGA 1366 Intel 5500 ATX Server Motherboard - Retail - Dual Xeons in a standard ATX case? Yes please.

3x Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Registered DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) Server Memory Model KVR1066D3S4R7SK2/4GI - Retail - 12 GB of ECC/Registered server memory for stable performance for all those VMs.

1x Adaptec 2258100-R PCI-Express x8 SATA / SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) 5405 Kit Controller Card RAID levels 0, 1, 1E, 5, 5EE, 6, 10, 50, 60, JBOD - Retail - A hardware SAS controller that does hardware RAID 5 and is on the VMWare ESX Hardware Compatibility list? Check!

1x HighPoint Int-MS-1M4S SFF-8087 to 4 SATA Fan Out Cable - OEM - No SATA Fan Out Cable with SAS Controller makes me mad!

1x Athena Power BP-SAC3141B HDD internal backplane - Retail - Internal 4 drive backplane with hot plug support for SATA drives.

4x Western Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive - OEM - RAID series drives for hopefully long life in a 3TB RAID 5 array.

1x Lite-On 16X DVD burner (from my existing case)

All plugged into:

1x APC BR1500LCD 1500VA 865 Watts 8 Outlets BACK-UPS RS - Retail - Decent home grade UPS for steady power.

I just placed the order today (minus the SAS fan out cable wich was on backorder), so I should start getting parts over the next few days. I'll probably post a few pics or update this thread with my experiences as I move along with this build, but I'm really excited about this planned build and hope things go as smoothly as I imagine they will. I have plenty of experience building systems, but I've never tried to do a homebuilt ESX box before. I've also never had my hands on an i7 before, so I'm very excited to see how this thing does once it's up and running. I'll look to post pics once I get this together.

I'd like to thank those who offered comments in my earlier VMWare ESX server build thread where I discussed my first ideas for the server build.

Comments/Criticism welcome!
April 30, 2009 7:38:58 AM

Any chance you might throw the 4870X2 and Vista on the server board and test a game or two? We occasionally get someone through here that wants a high powered cad WS and gaming machine rolled into one. (Or similar)

I've seen a few things that indicated the chipsets aren't that different, and I'd like to know if it would be stable.

Both builds look great btw. My only criticism is that you should upgrade your gaming case while you're building and get the CM HAF or such.
April 30, 2009 8:44:12 AM

You can drop one of those kits of ram in your gaming build, 12gb is overkill, really all you need for gaming is 3gb. Give this article a read: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/memory-module-upgra...
On top of that, I am pretty sure that if you go over 6gb of ram on the i7's you can't go over 1333mhz, the memory controller can't handle it, and you don't need that obscene amount of memory bandwidth anyways.

And I think since you are going the SSD route and don't seem to be bothered by price, I would get two OCZ Vertex SSD's in raid 0 (those intel SSD's are good, but overpriced, even for SSD's):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Otherwise your builds look good. I don't know anything about Server PSU's, so cannot comment on your choice there, but Athena isn't typically a brand that is highly recommended for regular desktops.
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April 30, 2009 9:58:37 AM

put the 4870 X2 in the server build and run FSX on it :) 

I'd like to see how FSX would run on 16 threads out of a possible 32.
April 30, 2009 10:36:02 AM

pick two Intel X25-M's of just 80GB and put them in RAID0. Should be a nice boost, for free. :) 

Please remember that your 12 virtual cores will not improve performance of single-threaded applications (like most games).
April 30, 2009 10:48:05 AM

Proximon said:
Any chance you might throw the 4870X2 and Vista on the server board and test a game or two? We occasionally get someone through here that wants a high powered cad WS and gaming machine rolled into one. (Or similar)

I've seen a few things that indicated the chipsets aren't that different, and I'd like to know if it would be stable.

Both builds look great btw. My only criticism is that you should upgrade your gaming case while you're building and get the CM HAF or such.


Sure, I'll test performance on the server board once things are up and running. It might be a bit because I'm going to be waiting on a backordered cable, but I'd like to get some pics up and post build results as I tweak things out. I could get a higher end case, but full tower cases are just so big and my Cooler Master case has served me well. It's not a bad looking case either, so I figured I'd at least get things built in there. If I have issues with temps or anything, I'll likely spring for a full tower (probably the HAF).
April 30, 2009 10:58:26 AM

sub mesa said:
pick two Intel X25-M's of just 80GB and put them in RAID0. Should be a nice boost, for free. :) 

Please remember that your 12 virtual cores will not improve performance of single-threaded applications (like most games).


I was initially just going with a single Intel 80GB SSD drive, but they went out of stock as I was building my wish list. I updated to the 160GB drive, but couldn't see myself springing for 2.

I'm not really expecting the cores to improve single threaded performance, but having 16 virtual cores available for ESX server they will get utilized. In the gaming rig, I expect to be able to run at near full speed gaming on one monitor while doing plenty of other stuff on the other. I can work from home often enough that being able to have a VPN connection open and do work on one screen while having a game running on the other would be a lot of fun.

I know it's still going to be overkill for most, but hey, aren't we all enthusiasts?
April 30, 2009 11:30:41 AM

The OCZ Vertex Series SSD's are a much better value I think than the Intel ones. They have very fast and comparable read/writes and are like a couple hundred bucks cheaper for the same size.
April 30, 2009 11:39:27 AM

even better are the EX series as they best the intel's with 260MB/s and 200MB/s Read/Write speeds.
April 30, 2009 11:58:06 AM

Helloworld_98 said:
even better are the EX series as they best the intel's with 260MB/s and 200MB/s Read/Write speeds.
Those seem like some gratuitous figures...

OCZ Vertex Series OCZSSD2-1VTX120G 2.5" 120GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) (Newegg)
Sequential Access - Read: Up to 250 MB/s
Sequential Access - Write: Up to 180MB/s Sustained Write: Up to 100MB/s
$425.00

Intel® X25-E Extreme SATA Solid-State Drive 64GB (Google Shopping)
Up to 250MB/s Read Speeds
Up to 170MB/s Write Speeds
$835.00

I think the OCZ vertex is a much better buy.
April 30, 2009 1:18:12 PM

I second the Vertex drives. I was going to spring for the Intel, but I found that I could get more storage and performance from a RAID 0 of vertex drives. I'll also feel a lot less guilty when it comes time to replace once SATA 3 hits.
April 30, 2009 4:43:41 PM

Why do you guys only think in terms of MB/s? That's not that important if you're going to use it as a system drive; IOps is more important.



This might be a nice comparison for actual performance, though i cannot guarantee these numbers are correct ofcourse. Still, you should not look to MB/s for performance, but instead to IOps and real applications. It could still be that a RAID0 of two Vertex make a better drive, but you should know that modern SSDs already use internal 'RAID0' because they have multiple channels that can operate in parallel. The Intel X25-M has 8 channels i believe. So in the future new controllers will come out with even better performance. Just don't look at MB/s too much, enough is enough. IOps is what makes your computer go either fast and smooth or be jerky and slow to respond.
April 30, 2009 6:33:01 PM

sub mesa said:
Why do you guys only think in terms of MB/s? That's not that important if you're going to use it as a system drive; IOps is more important.

http://www.pcper.com/images/reviews/670/pcm05-os.jpg

This might be a nice comparison for actual performance, though i cannot guarantee these numbers are correct ofcourse. Still, you should not look to MB/s for performance, but instead to IOps and real applications. It could still be that a RAID0 of two Vertex make a better drive, but you should know that modern SSDs already use internal 'RAID0' because they have multiple channels that can operate in parallel. The Intel X25-M has 8 channels i believe. So in the future new controllers will come out with even better performance. Just don't look at MB/s too much, enough is enough. IOps is what makes your computer go either fast and smooth or be jerky and slow to respond.


I wasn't looking at MB/s :)  The Intel SSD's offer insane IOps compared to most other drives yet the vertex has proven itself to be very capable at much lower prices!

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3535&p=...

I had considered going intel for a while, but I could get more storage, better MB/s, and similar over all performance with a RAID of Vertex drives. The scaling from 1 to 2 drives is phenomenal, beyond that you'll need a dedicated hardware raid card which is mucho bucks!
!