A few weeks ago when I got back from vacation, I noticed (couldn’t help but notice) that one of the fans in my main server was making nasty dying ball berring noises. The computer room/library is down the hall from our bedroom, but it was still anoying.

So, first step was to take down the machine and figure out which fan it was. This server is a dell sc1430, made back in 2007 (yes, it’s a 6 year old server, but it’s done great over the years). Happily, it noted that “MEM” fan had gone out of range, so I knew that was the one to replace. This is a fan that sits over the memory sticks and next to the CPU(s). I looked and saw it was a normal 92mm fan. Off to amazon to order new one.

A few days pass, new fan arrives. First problem is that the old fan has these really weird rubber connectors instead of anything like screws. I later figured out that you can pull on them and get them to come out, but at the time I figured that they were put in place, so I cut them off. Much grunting and pulling and I got the old fan out and new fan in. Only then did I try and connect it. Bad move. Turns out that the fan I got was a ‘3 pin’ which is pretty normal, but the dell wasn’t 3pin at all. ;( So, then I did my second bad move of the enterprise and put things back and went off to order another fan without actually looking closely to see what the connector was.

A few more days pass, next new fan arrives. This time I check the connector first off. It’s a ‘4 pin’ fan, which was what I thought this machine actually took. Turns out that it’s not a ‘4 pin’ but a dell special ‘5 pin’ one. 🙁 Looking for a more specific fan leads me to ebay and a used one from this same model of machine.

Final new fan shows up. Take things down, check old and new fans… they are the same model, pins, etc. Plug in new fan and… nothing happens. Plug in old fan… nothing happens. Something seems to have gotten broken on the connector on the MB or something in the firmware. ;( Now, this server does operate without that fan being there, but the bios sees it’s not turning and to make up for it cranks every other fan in the machine to 100%. This makes it a good deal louder than the dying fan was. 🙁

Now, when I got this server, I actually got two of them. The idea is that I would run test instances on one and production on the other, and if production died, I could just move drives over. So, I could do that now, but the machines have diverged over time. I would need to move memory, drives, network cards, etc over and then have no test machines. So, I decided to do what any self respecting geek would do: go shopping for new servers.

Digging around on the net, my requirements were: cheap. Ability to run lots of virtuals (so mem and cpu). Ability to reuse my existing sata drives. Good linux support (it goes without saying). This all pointed me to dell sc1100’s (or really CS24-ty’s). These were ‘cloud’ servers (1u) that dell made a few years ago by the thousands for large cloud computing places. They were designed to have tons of memory and cpu and not much drive space, but there’s a model that had space for 4 sata drives. These things are crazy cheap. I picked up 2 from ebay (it had free shipping, no tax) for about $590/ea. They have no drives (great for me), 72GB mem (yes, thats right, 18 4gb sticks), and 2 hex cpu xenons (24 virt ‘cpus’).

The new servers showed up yesterday and it didn’t take me long to set them up and transfer drives and network connections from the old ones. The only hiccups I ran into were: a SSD on my test box, won’t quite connect right in the sata bay on the new server. I’ve ordered an adapter for it and the boot drive (an old 250GB sata) in my test box is throwing smart errors. I ordered a replacement for it.

Now I need to clean up my library/server room and give away/sell the old stuff. 🙂