I am currently using a HP mini tower PC as my XCP-ng host, and I want to upgrade it to a power-efficient, rack mount server.
I am split between Tom’s setup from his Asrock Ryzen 9 October 2022 video or keeping with an Intel setup. I am thinking of the following hardware as an alternative:
AsRock Rack E3C252D4U Micro ATX Server Motherboard LGA 1200
Intel Xeon E-2336 Rocket Lake 2.9 GHz
There is not a massive difference in cost when I buy the parts in the UK, but I appreciate that the Ryzen 9 5900X has 12 cores instead of 6 on the Xeon. I am also comparing the TDP of 105W vs 65W with the Xeon being the lower-powered version.
I will be running XCP-ng connected to a Synology NAS via 10Gbe network with a second backup XCP-ng host in the pool, which is a very old 1U Dell PowerEdge R220. The R220 will also have a 10Gbe connection to the NAS, but will be left powered off and only turned on to run specific VMs when I need to maintain the primary server.
As for the VMs I am running, I am running XenOrchestra, a few Ubuntu 22.04 servers with services like Roon Core, Home Assistant and then a UniFi instance where I have about 25 sites being managed. Not running anything process intensive.
Any suggestions, ideas or feedback would be really welcome.
Do you plan on future proofing at all or are you only wanting to buy for what you want to use it for right now? I started off with a super micro server with Truenas (freenas back in the day) with 15TiB usable and thought I’d never use all that space. Well, my home lab started to grow and so did my VM count on a dell server I acquired later on for free.
All of that to say it depends on what matters most to you. If saving a few watts of power is most important then go with the chip that has a lower power consumption. Otherwise if you think you will expand in the future like I did then adding some more horsepower will save you in the longer run.
What makes this difficult is the HP mini does a really good job at the moment, it has a PCIe 10Gbe card in it and, with the VM’s running in the background, only uses about 15W of power (on 240V). The issue is I only have 2 slots for RAM so nearing capacity, but the i5 processor is hardly utilised. Something Tom showed in his video as well.
My challenge is also around processor technologies as I have zero experience of Ryzen and what to Pros or Cons between Intel or AMD really are from a XCP-ng point of view?
The Ryzen will have 24 “cores” presented to XCP-NG so it might be worth having if the prices are the same. Can you buy a higher performance processor in the Ryzen line and just upgrade if you need more cores later?
The Xeon is pretty limited in that family, maximum is 8 cores (16t) so it may depend on what you are doing.
Is this a home lab or a production system? If just for a lab, have you looked at used servers? I recently bought three HP DL360p Gen8 servers for $200 shipped. These came with 20 cores (40 threads) and 128gb of RAM in each. This is more “powerful” than my production system.
For production I had to cut costs (but still three servers), and processor was the first thing to cut down. I went with an Intel Scalable with 10 cores (20t) and 2x64gb memory so I could expand later. I can expand this up to 20 cores (40t) and more RAM than I know what to do with. Right now all my servers can run on a single host without too much issue sharing the processors, useful for when updates to XCP-NG are happening or if a host fails.
As far as RAM goes, buy the biggest modules you can afford, this leaves slot available for upgrade later. And always buy in pairs so you can interleave the performance, most real servers prefer at least a pair of modules, but still will run on a minimum of 1 module per processor. ECC or Registered DIMM might be required on some server boards, I’m not sure how much of a penalty you might pay for using non-ECC type of RAM, I haven’t run any of my servers on “normal” RAM in a very long time. The error correcting RAM can make things much more expensive, again why I bought used servers for my lab. can’t afford newer hardware for my lab. The servers for my production system were $1600 each (new), compared to the $200 each for my lab.
If you buy used, I would say that Xeon E5-XXXX V2 is a minimum, anything newer (V3 or V4) would be better. This comes from having some problem running Windows Server VMs on older Xeon X5650 processors, those problem went away after the change to the Xeon E5-26xx V2 that I have now. This was Server 2022 with the latest patches, something in a newer patch made it unstable on the X5650 after more than a year of running fine. I just moved those old servers on to a friend for cheap and bought the HP Gen8.