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For my work I use a lot of data. When trying to work with this data this is generally speaking loaded into the RAM. I want to upgrade my current 64GB RAM desktop as it simply does not cut it anymore. This means I will have to upgrade to DDR4 or to a server set up in either DDR3 or 4. As such a switch is costly to begin with (as it involves switching out processors and the motherboard it seems like I might as well go big. Upgrading to 128 GB seems like a temporary fix.

I was thinking of upgrading to a 512 GB DDR4-2133 set up. This would mean that I have to switch from a regular desktop setup to a server setup as no regular motherboard supports this kind of RAM (to my knowledge).

As this would be the first server I ever build I was wondering if there are certain things I need to be aware of. What are main differences compared to building a desktop ? Can I do without for instance a GPU ? Are the cases for servers significantly different in fan set ups or way I can interface with them ? Does a motherboard supporting 2 CPU's and 16 RAM slots require me to fill both CPU's to be able to use the full RAM ?

I was thinking about using:

ASUS Z10PE-D16 WS, socket 2011-3                                          x1
Corsair ValueSelect 16 GB DDR4-2133                                       x16
Intel® Xeon E5-1620 v3, 3,5 GHz (3,6 GHz Turbo Boost) socket 2011-3       x2
Samsung 950 Pro, 512 GB SSD                                               x1
Toshiba MD Series, 6 TB HDD (SATA 600, PX3013E-1HR0)                      x1

PSU probably 850 Watts                                                    x1
Watercooling CPU                                                          x2
Case fans                                                                 x?
Server case                                                               x1

Apart from the above mentioned questions: Any recommendations as to replace parts by cheaper, but performance wise similar products ? Anything I am missing that I will definitely need ?

  • Have you considered using GPUs? You'll crunch a lot faster. What is your budget? – Andy Jun 14 '16 at 15:55
  • GPU on a database server? Are you sure that the db product/version you are using actually takes advantage of a GPU (on SQLServer it may depending on the version and other things.) On most machines the biggest bottleneck is I/O which the GPU will have no effect on. You may end up spending major money on very elegant hardware that goes unused. Buy more M2 SSDs. You may also look into RAIDing the Toshiba hard disks. – benjamin moskovits Jun 15 '16 at 17:02
  • Welcome to Hardware Recommendations. Could you give us more details as to what you do with the data, what kind of performance you are looking for and what your budget is? I'd recommend splitting the question into individual parts later. – timuzhti Jun 16 '16 at 9:19
  • I think what you're looking for is called "workstation main board". Also note that you can probably run a 2CPU main board with a single CPU but this will likely reduce max usable RAM – SEJPM Jun 19 '16 at 8:43
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What are main differences compared to building a desktop ?

There isn't much differences between servers and desktops. For instance, Xeon CPUs are not always better than "simple" standards i7 (for instance, the Intel Core i7-6800K is a bit better than the E5-1620 and cost only 440$). But, they are designed to be able to run on a multi-CPU configuration. So if multi-CPU is what you are looking for, yes go on Xeon. The E5-1620 is kind of old now, why not consider going for E5-2640 v3? Less expensive and a bit better.

Can I do without for instance a GPU?

Becareful, Xeon processors do not embed IGP (like other Core iX does). So no, if you go for Xeon, you'll need a GPU. As said benjamin moskovits, if you goal is a database, just take the less expensive and it will do the job. Something like Nvidia Geforce GT740 should be ok.

Does a motherboard supporting 2 CPU's and 16 RAM slots require me to fill both CPU's to be able to use the full RAM ?

This is an interesting question and I really don't know (even if I'd say that yes, it can). But why bother using a 2sockets motherboard if you do not us them?

Any recommendations as to replace parts by cheaper, but performance wise similar products ?

I noticed two things:

  • As a general advice, do not go for low cost/value select RAM. Especially for some kind of critical use (I guess) such as a server. Valueselect tends to fail more quickly than other.
  • I can see that you intend to use watercooling. From my experience, the extra-cost of watercooling isn't worse it. You'd better save the money for better high-end standard CPU fans.
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  • Might be good to note that with the modern Xeons, 'E3', 'E5', and 'E7', mean exactly the same thing as the desktop i3s, i5s, and i7s; the higher you go the faster the CPU is. – AStopher Jul 3 '16 at 22:19
  • Well, for the Xeon I don't know, but always considering "i7 because it's better" is wrong. To simplify: i3 and i5 have to cores, but the i5 can turboboost (dynamicly overclock). Then, i7 comes better than i5 only because of its 4 (or more) cores. But if you do not consider using massive multi-threading, going for a better i5 (by better I mean a better single-core performance) is wisely. For instance, a lot of gamers use high end i5 instead of middle-range i7, for same price. Because appart from some games (ex. BF4 multiplayer) most of the games do not need 4 cores. – ailurus Jul 5 '16 at 11:33

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