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IBM X235 MOBO upgrade?

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May 9, 2010 3:31:24 AM

I have 4 x235 IBM servers all purchased new from IBM in 2004. Two have never been powered on other than initial out-of-the-box testing to ensure they were not DOA. The other two are in use with Server 2003. All have 2 Xenon dual core 3.2 chips, 6gb DDR (which 2003 can't even see) and six 147gb hot-swap SCSI drives running off a servraid6+ card.

I'd like to move to server 2008, but I'm starting to wonder about the life of these boxes. Quite simply, nothing has ever failed. We haven't lost a minute to downtime other than scheduled upgrades/maintenance during off-hours. My preference would be to just keep using the boxes until they die (after all, I have two more sitting in cold storage just ready to go). BUT, I would really like to get away from the SCSI drives and also move to a motherboard that would allow the use of quad-core chips and DDR3 memory.

So my question(s): Is any of this possible? If so, at what cost? If so, is it worth the money or should I just ditch the x235 boxes and look for something new (which I simply cannot bring myself to do)?

Thanks for any ideas.

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May 9, 2010 3:59:01 AM

If you want to upgrade the motherboard, you will need new CPUs and RAM, so you would have to throw out the CPU chips, motherboard and old ram. You also said you wanted to replace the SCSI drives. Then, of course, you might also need a new power supply because of modern power requirements. At this point, the only thing you have not replaced is the case. So... how is that different from buying a new system?

Basically, it's just a "build it yourself" project. And I can tell you that building your own servers can be less costly than buying them prebuilt.

By the way, the reason server 2003 cannot see all 6GB of memory is because you installed the 32-bit operating system. 32-bit can only support up to 4GB of memory (2 to the power of 32 bits) minus the reserved stuff for system. 64-bit can support thousands of TB of memory (2 to the power of 64 bits).

If the servers are powerful enough to do the job though, and all you want is server 2008, why don't you just buy 4 copies of server 2008 and install them on all four machines?
It's especially great that you have two completely unused servers as backups.
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May 10, 2010 2:53:33 AM

Thanks for the quick response Enzo. Glad to know I'm not alone in my belief that I'm better off just upgrading the box rather than buying new prebuilt (especially since I like the box and have the extra servers).

My concerns with re-building is that I'm not sure I can find power supplies that will fix as the boxes have two redundant hot-swap 600w psu's that slide into what appears to be a proprietary slot to make them hot-swappable and redundant. But at 600w, I'm actually thinking they will be just fine.

The next concern is finding a board that will fit the case - and I'd love to find a dual socket board. Again, the current board appears proprietary.

Finally, ditching the SCSI drives brings me to the next proprietary issue in that the current drives are all hot-swap and slide into a SCSI backplane. I have no idea how I would go about replacing the SCSI backplane with a SATA or SAS backplane that fits into the box. Then again, I could just go the route of non-hot-swap drives. It would likely be easier to remove the SCSI backplane and fit a cage to hold SATA or SAS drives if they are not hot-swap -- and still run a raid configuration. I've only had one drive issue since these machines were put in service - so hot swap may not be a real need.

Thanks for any more ideas/thoughts.

Oh yeah, I already have the serv2008 software & licenses, so I'm ready to go and eager to move to 64-bit!
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