I have seen numerous posts on Reddit’s Home Lab subreddit from users looking for a small, quiet, low power home lab server. Well folks, this is the machine for you. Be aware, this machine is rather pricey. For the last year or so, my primary home lab goal was to consolidate all of my home lab resources into this lovely little box. This has now changed as I am back to expanding my lab. Please see my home lab rebuild post, Homelab Rebuild – Part 1 – Intro.
This system is very quiet and sips around 50-60 watts of electricity. To top it off, this machine seems to handle anything and everything that I throw at it. The machine I purchased was a Supermicro SYS-5028D-TN4T case and a Supermicro X10SDV-TLN4F motherboard.
The CPU, a Xeon-D 1541, on the Supermicro X10SDV-TLN4F motherboard is soldered on. What this means is that it is not up-gradable or changeable. At the time, I chose to only outfit it with 32GB of RAM. The system is capable of supporting up to 128GB of RAM. That being said, DDR4 2133 ECC is relatively expensive. The kit I went with was the Kingston ValueRAM KVR21E15D8K/32I – this included 2x16GB sticks of RAM. I already had all of the drives I was going to use for the time being. My boot drive is a 512GB Samsung SSD, with a second identical SSDs for some small VMs. I have 2x2tb drives for my BlueIris setup and 2x2tb for my backups.
Inside Supermicro Home Lab Server
At first, I was rather skeptical if this chip would actually handle things like, Plex, BlueIris, ManageEngine, Untangle and all the other applications that I was running. I was coming from a multiple R710s and other, larger, more powerful systems.
Intel Xeon D 1541 Specs
The Xeon-D 1541, surprisingly, packs quite a punch. I have had no trouble with this machine running all of my applications. The only time this system balked at me was when I initially converted over to BlueIris. BlueIris is a great piece of software, however, if not configured properly, it is a bit of a resource hog.
The system is overall very quiet. Using the Decibel X Pro app on my iPhone (about $5 on the iTunes store) I decided to shut off all of my other equipment and see just how noisy this Supermicro mini was. It clocked in at around 55-56 decibels. Which, according to Noise Help, is somewhere between a running refrigerator and an air conditioning unit. For me, this is very acceptable. I would venture to guess that if you swapped the rear fan and CPU fan with Noctua fans you could probably get it even lower.
Supermicro Small Home Lab Server Noise Reading
As an OS on this server, I initially wanted to go with ESXi. I am, after all, a VMWare kind of guy. However, this machine has an on board RAID controller. The on board Intel RAID controller is just software RAID. It will not pass through to ESXi and ESXi will not see anything attached to it. Given the cost of the machine, explained below, I decided not to purchase an additional RAID card at the time. Plus, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to learn something new. I opted to install Windows Server 2012 and configure Hyper-V. This was something very new to me. I have only dabbled with Hyper-V in the past. Most of the environments I work with are VMWare based. So far, it has worked out very well.
Cost wise, this system is not for the faint of heart. The case/motherboard combo cost $1,224.99, the RAM cost 297.99 and shipping cost me $36.84, all for a wopping total of $1,559.82. This price did not include any drives. I saved a few bucks because I already had the 4 drives to stick in the unit, plus two additional 512GB SSDs. If you have almost $1,600 to spend, and you want a very quiet, low power, powerful home server, this is the machine I would go with. I’ve been running it for almost a year and it has been rock solid.
This post will be focusing on the Cisco 2960G Switch I acquired in my post titled “Homelab Rebuild – Part 1 – Intro“. Here I will be working on configuring the switch. This includes adding a VLAN for my WAN connection, adding ports to the VLANs and setting up a management interface.
Creating VLANs on a Cisco 2960G switch is a pretty straight forward task. You will need a Cisco WS-C2960G-8TC-L Switch and a USB to Serial Converter. Putty, or your favorite serial/SSH client, will also be needed. This tutorial assumes you already know how to connect to your switch using Putty.
First off, we need to enter configuration mode on the Cisco 2960G Switch. To accomplish this, type: “conf t” and hit the enter key.
Create VLAN5 – this our WAN VLAN. Type the command “vlan 5” and hit enter. Give your VLAN a name. In my case, VLAN5 is used for my WAN connection, so I gave it the name of “WAN” – you do not have to type name twice. I goofed on the first attempt. I wanted WAN in all caps. Then type “exi” or “exit” and hit enter.
Create VLAN25 – this is our management/production VLAN. Type “vlan 25” and hit enter. Again, give your VLAN a name. Type “name Production” and hit enter. Exit VLAN 25.
Change the host name
Also, while we are in config mode, lets take a moment to setup the switch’s host name. You do this by entering the command “hostname SW-ACH-WAN” and hitting enter. You will now see the switch’s host name change.
After creating our VLANs, we need to assign switch ports to them. Otherwise, they are just VLANs. You can issue the command “show vlan” and the switch will show you all of the VLANs present on the Cisco 2960G and which switch ports are assigned to which VLAN.
In the screenshot above, you can see all eight ports are assigned to VLAN 1. You can also see we’ve created VLAN 5 with the name of “WAN” and VLAN 25 with the name of “Production”.
To assign ports to these VLANs, you must again enter config mode by typing “conf t” and hitting the enter key. Then, you need to enter each interface. Enter an interface by typing “interface gigabitEthernet 0/#” – Where the # is, is the port number. So, “interface gigabitEthernet 0/1” and hit enter.
Next, type “switchport access vlan 5” – this allows the switch port to access vlan 5. Then add your description by typing: description “Modem Uplink” and hitting enter. Finally, exit the interface you are working on and proceed to the next.
The table below gives a good break down of each port that I am using, what VLAN it is on and the purpose.
This port is where I will plug my Spectrum modem into, thus being my modem uplink on VLAN 5
Uplink to ACH-FW01
I will plug the physical NIC on HOST01 that is assigned to my firewall, ACH-FW01 into this port so that it can access the WAN connection.
Uplink to ACH-FW02
I will plug the physical NIC on HOST02 that is assigned to my firewall, ACH-FW02 into this port so that it can access the WAN connection.
This will connect the switch to my Dell switch stack so that I can manage the WAN switch from my production network, VLAN25.
Since we are using VLAN 25 to access our management network, we need to assign it an IP Address. We do this by entering the VLAN as an interface. So, enter the command “interface vlan 25” and hit enter. You will now be in the interface config mode. Next, type the command “ip address 192.168.25.4 255.255.255.0” and hit enter. Be sure to use your IP addressing scheme for your management network. The 255.255.255.0 is a /24 subnet mask.
Saving the configuration
Now that we have configured our switch, it is time to save your running config. If you do not save the running configuration, all of the changes will be lost when you reboot the switch. To save the config, type “copy run start” and hit enter.
Some good reference reading can be found right from the manufacturer, in this case it is Cisco. You can check out this article regarding VLAN configuration on the Cisco 2960G switch.
The first tasks I am tackling in my home lab rebuild is to upgrade the Intel Xeon CPUs in my Dell R610 hosts. I am removing the existing Intel Xeon E5520s in one, and Intel Xeon E5504s in the other and upgrading to Intel Xeon L5630s. As a result of going with the Intel Xeon L5630s, my power usage should, hopefully, be a bit lower. Upgrading the CPUs is a pretty straight forward task.
Removing the Dell R610 heat sinks and CPUs
The first step we must take is to remove the heat sinks and old CPUs. The heat sinks are the first to go. They are held in place by two metal levers that are clipped under a clasp on each side. Press down on the blue plastic piece at the end of each metal lever. Slide it out from under the clasp and lift it up. Once you have done that on both sides, the heat sink will now come off.
If the CPUs are still good and you might reuse or give them away, take care to clean off all of the old thermal paste. This way they go into the appropriate packaging clean.
Removing the CPU is a similar process to removing the heat sink. On the CPU socket, you will find a metal lever that is also hooked under a clasp of sorts. You will need to gently press down on the lever and slide it away from the clasp/hook. Once out from under the hook, allow the lever to go upward gently. It will be under pressure so be sure to keep a finger on it so it does not spring back and hit something.
Pull back the metal ring around the CPU and remove the CPU. Be careful not to damage any of the pins on the socket when you remove the CPU.
Cleaning the Dell R610 Heat Sinks and Applying Thermal Paste
Now that the heat sinks are off and in your hands, wipe off any thermal paste that remains on them. We will replace it with fresh thermal paste. Take a cloth and lightly dampen it with some rubbing alcohol. Then take the cloth and wipe the bottom of each heat sink. This will take the residue of the old thermal paste off and allow the new thermal paste to transfer the heat from the CPU to the heat sink better.
There are many different types of thermal paste to use. The product I have been using successfully is a product called Super Lube. It is a silicone heat sink compound. A tube of it will run you around $7-8 on Amazon and should last you a long time. You don’t need much of it.
Re-installation of CPUs – Dell R610
Grab your new or replacement CPUs and unpackage them.
I am using the Intel Xeon L5630 CPUs. They are a lower power CPU and are fairly cheap. I believe I paid around $5-6ea on eBay.
Install your new CPUs carefully. The chips have two half circle notches cut out of them. One on each side. These notches line up with little plastic pegs within the socket. This keeps the chips aligned properly. They act as a key so you cannot put the chip in backwards.
Next, place the chips in their sockets. Fold the metal ring around the top of the chip and take the metal lever and push down. Slide the metal lever under the clasp/hook. The lever will have some pressure on it but you should not have to force it. If you have to force it, chances are you’ve installed the chip backwards.
Once the chips are installed, take a small dab of thermal paste and put a very thin layer on the top of each chip. This does not need to be very thick nor do you want gobs and gobs of thermal paste on there.
Once you’ve applied your thermal paste, you can go ahead and re-install the heat sinks. Next, place one on each chip. Push down on the metal levers. Finally, lock the levers in place under the hook/clasp on each side.
Now that you’ve successfully changed out both Intel Xeon CPUs in your Dell R610, you can power it up and enter the BIOS and confirm that it sees both CPUs.