Repurposed CS24-SC – Home Server

2016-02-18 23.31.58

This is a Dell CS24-SC server, originally created for Facebook’s data centres in the US; or at least what remains one. The listing described the unit as faulty when tested, and included a pair of Xeon E5430 2.66Ghz CPU’s, but no ram or hard drvies. The  lister described it as “Will power on, but won’t start.” At £27 including postage, I figured I’d take the gamble. Suitable RAM was another £10, and everything else was at hand. What follows is an overview of my quest to repair it, and set it up as an upgrade to my underpowered home server.

Problem the First

Analysis: Yep. Definately broken. The problem: No CPU’s.

Sidenote

I have some trouble with the BMC (Baseboard Management Controller) as when left on automatic, it kept assigning itself to an IP used by another system in my home.

2016-02-22 22.11.03A surprisingly brief exchange with the seller had a pair of Xeon L5420’s (2.50Ghz) through the letter-box within a couple of days. I suspect they didn’t bother to check whether it actually contained the listed CPU’s when they aquired it. All I had to do now was fix the bent CPU socket pins.

This is an easy fix with a credit card, a pair of tweezers and some patience.

Problem the Second

I could turn the machine on. Hallelujah! But: the PSU isn’t putting out the right voltages, and thanks to the normally-useful “reboot on failure” feature, it quickly ended up in a loop of emergency shutdowns and startups. 7V on a 12V rail is apparently not enough to power a machine without it cutting out. Go figure. It’s nothing another PSU won’t fix, and I’ve rigged an ATX power supply up to power the motherboard and main CPU. The “undervolted” PSU that came with it (an Acbel FS6011) is running alongside, just about powering the second CPU and the propietary fan-controller and HDD backplane board. While not ideal, it works, and in the 6 odd months it’s been running in my basement, it’s not had any problems.

Unfortunately, the PSU made for this system is probably the most difficult part to replace. They’re few and far between, and the few I have found are from the US and the shipping hikes up the price.

Problem the Third

The backplane provided doesn’t detect Hard Drives inserted into the hotswap bays, even though it’s powering the fans just fine. While possible that it’s down to the PSU not putting out enough juice, some tinkering has led to the observation that the “drive in” LED will come on when a drive is put into the board and held there as a very specific angle. (Bearing in mind I had to dismantle the drive-section to learn this) After very patiently dismantling the section then running the machine while holding a drive and the backplane in this position, the possability that it’s just a power issue was ruled out.

In the meantime, the SATA connecter on the ATX PSU and one of the sata ports directly on the motherboard mean the machine can handle an HDD/SSD.Sidenote

Doing this without gloves: real precarious!

In the end…

It’s still better than my old Compaq Presario. I use it to test and run and webpages or applications that I’m working on alongtide a VoIP server, which the Presario coped with fine. The extra power is needed to run a private minecraft server, plus servers for whatever games I’m playing with friends, alongside utilities for for those games so players can look at maps and see who’s online.

Most of the information I got about this system was sourced from a blog post at A Rambling Geek. and form /r/HomeLab.

If you have any trouble ot questions with your own, feel free to comment or tweet @AMGitsKriss.

CS24-SC Specs

Form Factor: 1U Rackmount Server
Processors: Two Quad-Core Intel Xeon L5420 processors
Chipset: Intel 5100
Memory: Two 4GB ECC DDR2 DIMMs (8GB Total)
I/O Channels: One PCI-e 8x expansion slot with riser
Drive controller: Intel SATA controller ATA or AHCI
RAID Controller: Intel ICH9R RAID
Drive Bays: Four hard drive chassis capable of holding 2.5″/3.5″ SATA
Maximum Internal Storage: Up to 8 TB (Apparently there’s a BIOS update that raises this limit)
Communications: Two Onboard Intel 82567 Gigabit NICs, 1x Intel PRO 1000M Gigabit NIC for BMC

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