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  • Dell R730XD Homelab Build - Part 1

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    I've recently purchased a used Dell R730XD from eBay (item listing: ) as the price was too good to pass up. I got it to replace one of the more dated servers I use at home, but I ended up throwing this server into a colocation service.

    The server is a 24-bay SFF (2.5 inch) form factor and came with two E5-2650v4 processors. These are 12-core processors with a base clock of 2.2 GHz. This will give me around 52.8 GHz of CPU. The server also comes with 32GB of DDR4 memory which I upgraded to 320GB. The backplane in the R730XD's allows for 24 2.5" SAS/SATA drives, but the last 4 slots (slots 20-23) in the R730XD actually also support U.2 NVMe drives (see here for details). Don't believe anyone that tells you that they just work out of the box with SFF or LFF versions of the R730XD, you do actually need a NVME enablement card for both versions. I purchased (eBay Link: this one ) through eBay with these (eBay Link: non-dell Mini SAS cables ). This specific server also came with a NIC that had four 1Gb ports. I ended up adding another PCI-e NIC 10Gb network card, specifically, this (eBay Link: Intel X540-T2 ) that I got from eBay. The riser on these servers allow for up to 7x PCI-e slots and it is coming with 2x 750W hot-swappable power supplies, iDRAC8 Enterprise and a H730 Perc RAID controller (datasheet for RAID controller).

    My initial goal was to get this server fully planned out and configured. I added two used (eBay Link: Micron M500 960GB SSD's) in the two rear bays of the server in a RAID1 configuration to run Proxmox. I thought about installing ESXi here and it seemed like people are pretty evenly split about installing ESXi on SD cards nowadays. The Dell R730XD has a Dual SD Flash Card Reader Module (part number: PMR79)  that would make a great bootable for the ESXi installation. Starting with vSphere 7.x, VMware is no longer recommending this option due to write endurance issues with SD flash. The main issue with SD cards on SD flash controllers is that they are extremely prone to silent corruption. You should use a third-party script to check the health of the SD cards (read John Nicholson's blog post about this here) if you do this. It looks like this happened to m any people after they upgraded to ESXi 7 and now, both Dell and VMware (see here) no longer recommend installing ESXi on SD cards on new servers. This isn't just limited to people that forgot to move the host logs off the SD cards.

    For storage, after getting the NVMe enablement kit, I purchased and installed four (eBay Link: Intel P4510 1TB U.2 NVME SSD's) into the server. I also installed six spinning (eBay Link: 2.5" Seagate 12G SAS drives) into the server to use in a RAID for backup storage. I also installed a (eBay Link: 3.2TB Samsung MZ-PLK3T20 PCI-E) card from eBay for decently fast storage that is rated for an ungodly amount of writes.

    Part 2 will touch on installing proxmox, configuring storage and networking.