All of the cores please – Dell R710 Xeon E5649 upgrade

I’ve been talking about this one for a while but finally picked up a pair of Xeon E5649 CPUs (2.53GHz with 6-cores).  I kept going back and forth between the E5649 and the X5670 – the main difference is 2.53 GHz vs. 2.93 GHz, respectively.  The other difference is an 80W TDP (which is what the E5530’s are rated for) and a 95W TDP.  So, in theory, the X5670’s could use more power.  Would they?  That depends on the load, really.  But, with the E5649 being the more power-conservative way to do it I thought that 2.53GHz is plenty fast for a lab while still adding 24 vCPU to my ESXi host.

Another option for low-power 6-core computing is the Intel Xeon L5640 but at 2.26 GHz it’s a little too low on horsepower for me.  I’ve been using 2.4GHz E5530’s and it’s performed fine, so I figured 2.53GHz 6-core Westmere-EP units should perform fine as well.  The E5649 is actually a more recently released model than the X5670 (Q1 2011 vs Q1 2010) so it should have a little more development under its belt which is probably how they got the 6-core 2.53GHz package down to 80W TDP.

This upgrade wasn’t due to running the E5530’s out of steam or anything – that setup still resulted in 16 vCPU in the host.  But, I figure now that I have 144GB of RAM in the system I should back it up with as many cores as I can.  The largest amount of  RAM I allocated to my VMs is usually 4GB, but that means I could feasibly support about 30 – 34 VM’s with 4GB of RAM so long as I have enough cores to go around and now I should!

Some other cool features of the Westmere-EP architecture is a reduction of die size down to 32nm (from Nehalem 45nm) as well as the AES-NI instructions for hardware based encryption which should come in handy for OpenVPN tunneling.

Please note that all work involving the handling of the CPUs is performed on an anti-static mat – use caution when handling static sensitive devices.

Here’s how the upgrade went – the new CPUs arrived brand new unused out of an Intel tray:

Xeon E5649 (new tray!)

Xeon E5649 (new tray!)

Next up, I pull both ATX power cables from the rear of the server.  If you’re having a NOC do this work remote, it’s always a good idea to turn off the PDU ports if you have them configured.  A lot of people don’t bother with this step.  Once the cables are out, press and hold the power button for 10 – 15 seconds to drain “flea” power (residual voltage stored in the capacitors on the mainboard):

Drain "flea" (ew) power

Drain “flea” (ew) power

Just an image showing the system with the PERC6/E (hooks up to an MD1000 with 15 1TB disks), Intel Pro/1000 VT Quad Port 1GBe NIC, and PERC6/i hiding down there.  I may upgrade  to an H700 controller some day:

R710 PERC6/E and Intel Pro/1000 VT QP

R710 PERC6/E and Intel Pro/1000 VT QP

Next up, lift the memory duct cover off and unclip the heatsinks and pop them off.  You can see that these E5530’s were never removed/replaced, the original thermal compound is in place:

Old Xeon E5530 CPUs

Old Xeon E5530 CPUs

Plop the E5530’s back on the tray – we’ll clean them later:

E5530 next to E5649

E5530 next to E5649

Squirt some Goo-Gone on the original heatsink compound and let it sit for 30 seconds or so and it’ll start to dissolve – wipe it off with clean rags/towels:

Heatsink compound removal

Heatsink compound removal

After I clean the Goo-Gone gross gray crap off I wipe it down with a microfiber rag wet with Acetone:

Clean heatsinks

Clean heatsinks

I wiped down the clean E5649 with a towel damped with Acetone just to remove any oils.  I then applied thermal compound (Arctic Silver 5) in a small line at the center of the CPU – the pressure of the heatsink will spread it adequately:

E5649 with Arctic Silver 5

E5649 with Arctic Silver 5

Clean off the original CPUs with the same method as the heatsinks we cleaned earlier so we can pop them up for sale or store them for later:

E5530's cleaned up

E5530’s cleaned up

It’s always a good idea to boot into the BIOS to make sure that the new CPUs are detected.  Please note that you must have your BIOS upgraded to a version that supports the Westmere-EP revised CPUs!  If you are running an old or original BIOS and your system shipped with 5500-series CPUs then your system will not accept the new 5600 CPUs.  I am running the latest available BIOS for the R710 (6.4.0):

E5649 in R710 BIOS

E5649 in R710 BIOS

Then you just boot up into ESXi and check to make sure you’ve got all your logical CPUs available – in this case it should be 24:

24 Logical CPUs in ESXi

24 Logical CPUs in ESXi

And the real secret to great-performing ESXi host is Pure Storage:

Pure Storage

Pure Storage

Now my R710 host is about maxed out in terms of CPU (at least in terms of power I am willing to consume!) and memory.  This host will be hooked up to an MD1000 with ~11.8TB usable and iSCSI/NFS to a Synology DS1513+ with ~16TB usable.  That should keep the setup running for a long time to come!  I don’t think I’ll ever put 288GB of RAM in this thing unless it gets real cheap… which it doesn’t seem likely, but you never know!

Once I get more hours on this setup I’ll check the temperatures and  power draw to compared to the original CPUs.  The E5530s used about 220-240W while VMs were running but mostly idle.  I’ll let the Arctic Silver 5 compound get situated and then pull some power figures.

Thanks for reading!

Author: Jon

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Jon,

    Do ‘Pure Storage’ produces regular USB sticks?
    What is special about that USB flash drive (Pure Storage)?
    And how do you monitor if that USB flash is dying?

    Regards,

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