Category Archives: Technology

Quiet down your homelab!

Hey all – some of you following my blog might already know that I have a few different Dell PowerConnect switches I use for communication on my home network.  I’ve been using a Dell PowerConnect 5424 that replaced my PowerConnect 2724 (the 2724 didn’t support 802.3ad or SNMP, amongst other things).  While the 5424 performed great and supported LAGs for my NAS, it had only a couple open ports remaining and was quite noisy.  I scored a Dell PowerConnect 5448 from eBay for only $40 and although it satisfied my having only a couple remaining open ports, it definitely did not help on the noise front as the 5448 has three fans while the 5424 has only two.  On top of that, the 5448 I purchased was especially noisy.  So, I sought out to solve that issue as well!

In the video below you can hear me ramble on about how to replace the fans in the PowerConnect 5448 – I apologize in advance if the video is especially rambly:

So, that definitely helped!  But while I was replacing the three fans in the 5448, I also replaced the two fans in the 5424 and as you can imagine, two quiet fans are more silent than three.

So, it’s pretty easy to do this modification.  As a disclaimer, I wouldn’t recommend doing this to a switch that is going to have all its ports packed and under heavy load.  The CPU under the (small) black heatsink gets pretty warm even under moderate use.  That said, I don’t feel that running these slower, lower cfm, quieter fans will jeopardize the operation.

When you first open your switch you’ll identify the fan ports easily as the fans are clearly plugged into them:

Dell PowerConnect 5424 shown
Dell PowerConnect 5424 shown

The only caveat is that the 24-port model (5424) will have pretty long cabling on the stock Delta fans.  So, if you’re using the Sunon KDE1204PKV3 fans like I am using, you’ll have to extend the wires.  The 48-port versions do not have this issue as the mainboard spans the entire 19″ enclosure.

Fan wires extended
Fan wires extended

When extending the wires just cut off the old fan wiring long enough to reach and tie the wires together as needed.  You’ll connect the red wire to the red wire, the black wire to the black wire, and the blue wire to the yellow wire.  Make sure you use some heatshrink before soldering and fasten the wiring place using the stock wire post as show above.

Dell 5424 no fan error
Dell 5424 no fan error

If done properly, you’ll be able to power up the switch with the new fans, barely hear them run, and will have a green power and fan status light.  That’s all there is to it!  Now you can put either switch in the same room as where you might work with minimal noise.  It will still move adequate air as demonstrated in the second video above, but will make it much more pleasant to work near.

Hope everyone finds this useful!  Here is a link to where I bought my fans from – for the 5448 you will need to re-pin the connector (easy with a small pick).  Don’t bother buy the fans pre-configured for Cisco, etc.  They Cisco-specific fans are just the normal ones re-pinned for almost double the price!


Going International!

A bit tongue-in-cheek but semi accurate.

ObsCanadaI’ve recently picked up a new server and it’s in Canada.  The part about it being outside of the US is purely coincidental, but its worth posting about for a couple reasons.  As anyone who follows me knows, I have a decent “home lab”/small business VMware ESXi cluster going.  It’s comprised of (2) Dell 2950 w/ dual Xeon E5450 (one 2950 is a spare that is only powered up for HA purposes) CPUs, and (2) Dell 1950 also w/ dual Xeon E5450 CPUs.  All of the machines have 32GB of RAM.  Some have internal storage but all point to about 4.5TB of provisioned datastores (with 11-12TB remaining unallocated yet) on a Synology DS1513+ using iSCSI:

vCenter ResourcesWith 71GHz available and 96GB of RAM, it seems like my setup is pretty robust.  However, one thing slipped through the cracks.  This past Sunday one of my ESXi hosts (one of the 1950s) inexplicably rebooted.  I was actually just logging into a DC early Sunday morning to check something and saw the famous Windows “this server restarted unexpectedly…” message.  Hrmph.  Right then, I jumped into my Observium portal and saw BridgetownESX3 had an uptime of like 45 minutes.  Uh oh.  The weird part – I never received any alerts about this.  Then I realized…  my SMTP service was running on my secondary domain controller which was on BridgetownESX3 at the time… which was down… which was unable to send out the alerts!  Doh!

A co-worker recently picked up a virtual private server on Cloud at Cost and had no complaints so I happened upon a 50% off coupon and ordered one of their $35* VPS (1 vCore, 512MB ECC RAM, 10GB SSD, 500GB monthly x-fer over a dedicated IP) – the asterisk is there because I said $35 – not per month, just $35.  Done.  Fixed price.  Crazy right?  On top of that, I had 50% off – so for $17.50 one-time I have a dedicated Ubuntu LTS server.  Best part?  It’s off-site and resilient.  So, after deploying Ubuntu and patching it up, changing credentials, etc., I setup OpenVPN and created another instance on my OpenVPN server and now have the cloud VPS on my network via VPN.

This opens two capabilities – I now use the box (appropriately called BridgetownSMTP) as a mail relay, and at the same time I run a simple script every 5 minutes on the server via a cron job that tries to ping my domain controllers and router.  If the router replies but the domain controllers do not, it sends an email that my VMware environment may be down.  If both do not reply, it sends an email that the VPN and VMware environement might be down.  Pretty neat!  Even though I monitor everything via Observium, I do not get alerts through that.  I do get alerts through vCenter but only if my SMTP relay is available.  Since my SMTP server was a DC on a host that just had an HA failover, it never sent the email.  Now I will be able to get notified if something goes down and it only cost me $17.50!

So – go check out Cloud at Cost – so far I have been happy and so has my co-worker who is using one of their bigger offerings.  You can only install Linux distro’s on their smallest 3 plans.  In order to get Windows installed you need to go to at least their smallest “Big Dog” plan.  Again, you can do this per month or you can simply pay once.  I will feature Cloud at Cost in another post shortly since I want to highlight their offerings and how they make it possible… but for now I am pretty pumped about having a reasonably priced off-site VPS with a full resilient infrastructure behind it for cheap.


Finally, above you see that ESX3 is up only 2d 15h while ESX2 is up 15d 20m.  Whoops.  You’ll also see that BridgetownSMTP is up 2d 22h – that’s the Cloud at Cost VPS.  I didn’t hesitate to figure out a solution!

Enjoy guys hope someone finds a deal at Cloud at Cost!

Dusty ol’ Pro/1000 VT

So in an effort to increase throughput on my ESXi hosts I’ve picked up a few of these Intel Pro/1000 VT quad port adapters.  I am going to throw them in my desktop temporarily to make sure that they work and install properly, but I noticed something funny on this adapter:


Something tells me port #3 wasn’t used very much – LOL

So, here’s hoping it works!  I will give an update once I have them installed and cabled up.  I’ll be using one port from this adapter and one integrated port on the servers for the data network, then the remaining integrated port for iSCSI, and the remaining 3 ports on the Pro/1000 for iSCSI as well.  Should work out reasonably!