New build, different focus

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New build, different focus

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:57 pm

The gist of this is that I'm looking to replace my 4+ year old rig with a new one that's a little more optimized for running some Windows Server VMs than my current is. I've been upgrading piece by piece, here's what I'm running right now:

Intel E8400 (Core 2 Duo 3.0GHz)
6GB of RAM (couldn't make 8GB stable)
Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
Mushkin Chronos 120GB SSD (boot drive)
Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB, WD10EACS-00D6B0 (data)
MSI Radeon 7770 1GB
Antec P280
Antec NEO ECO 620W (overkill, but I got it on sale)

What's left is to upgrade the CPU, MB, RAM, and storage.

Virtualization is what's really been pushing my system lately, and it doesn't always hold up too well. Self-study MS exam VM usage, Microsoft test lab guides, and ESXi/vCenter testing. I'm currently usually not CPU bound, I do hit memory limits if I fire up too many, and things definitely slow to a crawl when two or more VMs are hitting the disk.

I plan on getting an i5, probably the 3450 since I'm valuing stability over anything else. I'll go for 16GB of RAM too (probably an 8x2 kit). What I'm most looking for advice on is what I should do for storage. I don't want anything too exotic (trying to be conservative) but I'd like a decent upgrade from what I'm on right now. I'd like to go up to 2TB of storage as well. Does a new WD Black, Blue or Green sound like the way to go, or should I consider doing a RAID 0/1 of RE4s, or the newly released Reds? My current storage drive will probably become a backup drive (1TB will probably be fine for some time). I generally go WD, but not particularly averse to anything (the only drive I ever had a problem was a 15GB Maxtor). I also value quiet a fair bit.

I'm going to be hitting up a Micro Center in the near future, so CPU will definitely come from there, possibly other stuff too. CPU/MB/RAM suggestions are appreciated too, though the storage is my real quandry.

Thank you for any thoughtful suggestions!
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:53 pm

I don't see why your Chronos SSD couldn't handle more than two VMs at once. Coincidence that your current limit is 2 VMs with a dual core processor? 16GB of RAM is certainly recommended in your situation.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:54 am

The $260 Core i7-3770 would be better for some VM applications, since it has hyperthreading and VT-d, but Micro Center offers unbeatable in-store combination deals with the Core i5-3570K processor that actually make it $10 cheaper than the $150 Core i5-3450.

$190 +tax vs. $230 Intel Core i5-3570K
$150 +tax -20MIR vs. $147½ -20MIR Asus P8Z77-V LK
or $140 +tax ASRock Z77 Extreme4
or $110 +tax Gigabyte GA-Z77-DS3H
or $100 +tax ASRock Z77 Pro3
-$50 vs. -$25 combination discount
========
$290+tax -20MIR vs. $352½ -20MIR from Newegg

$37 or $35 Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo

$120 or $115 2x8 GiB PC3-12800 Crucial BLS2KIT8G3D1609DS1S00 (DDR3-1600, CAS 9, 1.5 V)
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:44 am

The CPU is really just mostly idle. VMware workstation and others do resource sharing, so it's not really an issue. The real limiting things are RAM if I hit the ceiling, and then disk access. RAM is easy, but getting some fast storage in an economical way is what I'm really looking for advice on! I was leaning towards a couple RE4 drives in a RAID 0 (with backups, of course), but then the release of the Reds got me wondering if those might be a better way to go for that sort of setup (noise being a big consideration). Or just one big drive like a WD Black.

Thanks for the hits so far. Is there a link for the combo deal at Micro Center? I didn't see anything on their web page about it, but I could have missed it. Taking a vacation to Cape Cod in August, so we'll be hitting up the Boston store on the way back.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:51 am

The $50 discount for the Core i5-3570K and a Z77 motherboard doesn't show up on the web page any more, but it's still there when you add the items to your cart. The price of the motherboard in the cart will be reduced.

Could VT-d improve the disk performance of your virtual machines?
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:01 am

My biggest bottleneck with VM's is usually RAM, and insufficient RAM causes all the guest OS'es to hit their swapfiles which could be why your SSD feels like a bottleneck.
A second small SSD would be good too, because you lose performance if you have the VMware installation on the same disk as the one you are using for Guest OS'es.

I would look to pick up a used Bloomfield i7 and a LGA 1366 board, you can probably do this for under $250, and that's the cheapest way I can think of to get lots of RAM.
Slap 24GB of 1333 RAM in it and see if that does anything for you (Branded RAM is about $5/GB when you buy 4GB modules) If it doesn't satisfy you just relist the CPU and RAM for roughly the same as you paid for it, and make use of four of the RAM modules in an Ivy Bridge build, should you decide to go down that route.

If you don't mind having a non-standard case/motherboard you might find that offices are selling on old workstations such as the Dell Precision T3500, because most large companies devalue computer assets at 33% per year for easy accounting and Bloomfield is around the age at which those machines will start hitting the clearance market. Anything with a Xeon W3520 or higher will do, and that'll have an X58-based board with 6 DIMM slots.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Xeon_microprocessors#.22Bloomfield.22_.2845_nm.29
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:28 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:Could VT-d improve the disk performance of your virtual machines?


Not sure, I honestly don't understand what it does very well. Thanks for the tip on the CPU/MB combo.

And thanks for the recommendation Chrispy - my real goal is to get a system that can do this better, and it doesn't necessarily require anything bleeding edge like IB or even SB. I'll look into it.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:45 am

If you're wanting more memory, you should buy 8 GiB DIMMs, not lower-density 4 GiB DIMMs.
For a Z77 LGA1155 enthusiast motherboard, you would want 2 or 4 DIMMs.

4x8 GiB = 32 GiB of G.Skill or Mushkin PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333) goes for $170 = $5.31/GiB at the 'egg.
6x4 GiB = 24 GiB of G.Skill PC3-10600 goes for $120 = $5.00/GiB, which is only 6% cheaper per GiB.
3x8 GiB = 24 GiB of G.Skill or Mushkin PC3-10600 goes for $128 = $5.33/GiB.

If you need more than 32 GiB of memory, you'll have to go with the more expensive workstation line as Chrispy_ suggested. These are currently X79 LGA2011 motherboards and processors, but the older X58 LGA1366 stuff is still available.

Although I've spotted one X58 LGA1366 motherboard that allows 6x8 GiB = 48 GiB and another one that allows 12x4 = 48 GiB, most of them advertise a capacity of 6x4 = 24 GiB. You might expect better compatibility with newer memory if you went with the current X79 LGA2011 workstation choices instead of the old LGA1366 options. Many LGA2011 motherboards will support 8x16 GiB = 128 GiB of memory. 16 GiB DIMMs aren't very affordable yet at $10.63/GiB.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:29 pm

absurdity wrote:The CPU is really just mostly idle. VMware workstation and others do resource sharing, so it's not really an issue. The real limiting things are RAM if I hit the ceiling, and then disk access. RAM is easy, but getting some fast storage in an economical way is what I'm really looking for advice on! I was leaning towards a couple RE4 drives in a RAID 0 (with backups, of course), but then the release of the Reds got me wondering if those might be a better way to go for that sort of setup (noise being a big consideration). Or just one big drive like a WD Black.


The Reds are not the way to go. They rotate at lower speeds, and you want a really fast disk subsystem for hardcore VM usage. Ideally you'd just get a couple of SSDs and run the VMs off of them, and they may actually be cheaper when you start factoring in building a decent RAID system.

About the processor, get one with all of the VM bells and whistles, since this is a VM.

AMD is also worth a look, if you're going to step back from the latest stuff. The K10.5 and later K10 cores were pretty good for VM work. AMD skewed those processors towards server workloads, and they were better then Intel at the time.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:46 pm

I'll agree with avoiding Intel's K processors because they've had the IOMMU (VT-d) feature neutered and going with a second SSD.
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:43 pm

I had wrongly assumed that the i5-3450 had vt-d, but looks like I was wrong on that, it seems to have the same feature set as a K processor. Looks like if I stick with Micro Center, the i7-3770 would be the way to go (sadly no motherboard deal with that one, though).

An SSD may be the way to go, I have seen the 512GB m4's dip pretty low in price. I hadn't really considered it much because they are still quite expensive, even when marked down, but if prices continue to trend downward maybe they'll hit a spot that I'd go for. I could then either sit on my existing drive for other data, or buy whatever is cheap, since there's no requirement for speed there.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:55 pm

Here's a search of Intel's processor list:
http://ark.intel.com/search/advanced/?s ... e&VTD=true
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:12 pm

Wow, the 8GiB DIMMS have come down to more realistic levels now.
I have been struggling with board compatibility with Micron (Crucial) and Samsung modules though. Only have Dell's and Asus X58 boards to play with though, so it's a crappy sample size.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:12 pm

Just to circle back around, I'll be hitting MicroCenter this coming weekend for the final parts of my build. I've decided to go with the 3570k, not sure which board yet but I figure I'll decide once I'm there (which will likely take a while, and my wife will love me for it).

I looked into what vt-d is, and decided it's really not necessary at all for what I'm doing (and probably not necessary in any desktop chip). VMware Workstation doesn't even support it, and that's what I'll be working with.

16GB of RAM for now. I went for the Samsungs, which were only 4GB modules, but there was a deal on them, they're well reviewed, and low profile is nice. I've done all the math in my head of what my limits will be, and I don't think I'll ever be pushing it with 16.

I considered AMD chips old and new for a while, but decided I'd feel like I wasn't getting a real upgrade. It didn't look like they were going to out-perform my Core2Duo by much on single-threaded tasks, and while several cores would be nice, the 3570K will probably still come out ahead anyways, for my needs. I do still game too, so the benefits are clear there.

An i7, while nice, just didn't seem worth the extra cash. I can't really see a clear value for virtualization. If anything, it seems like things can get a little wonky depending on how your VMs get assigned to threads. At best, you'll see a performance bump that... probably isn't significant enough to see. The rule I've always gone by is that to notice a difference, you need at least a 20% increase in speed, and I don't think HT is going to do it. I'll save the money now, and spring for a decent sized SSD once prices settle down here. I've been tempted, but prices still seem to be dropping so I'm going to see where they go.

SBE was also a consideration, but to get any real benefit I'd have to go with one of the 6-cores, which are very firmly out of my price range (the bang for the buck starts getting pretty out of whack at that point, too).

I considered some slightly older Intel stuff too, but what it really came down to is that this is replacing a 4 year old build, and this once will likely need to last another 4 years. Aside from the obvious performance benefits, I'll feel like my money is best spent getting the 3570k, which really is a great value.

Thanks for all the suggestions, I look forward to getting this thing built!
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:53 am

Just wondering what the closest Microcenter to Burlington, VT is? I would highly suggest looking at their catalog BEFORE you go so that you can do some decent research on the motherboards they offer. The boxes and shelf labels don't tell you everything. Then you can select the store you'll be visiting to see what product availability is. That way the wife is happy and you don't have any regrets of your purchase.
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Re: New build, different focus

Postposted on Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:17 am

DPete27 wrote:Just wondering what the closest Microcenter to Burlington, VT is?

Boston, then Yonkers, then North Jersey.
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