DELL POWEREDGE 1650 Hardware

  • Hi all,
    My miniITX motherboard just died (2 weeks out of warranty!) and I am looking for a new firewall box. I have come across a DELL POWEREDGE 1650 server and was wondering whether all the hardware is supported. NICs, RAID, DUAL CPU's etc.

    I see that the RAID should be supported,25.0.html as the dell perc 3/di is listed. Will it make use of the 2 x CPU's?

    Your assistance appreciated!  :)

    The details of the server are:
    model: DELL Poweredge 1650
    2048mb memory installed
    processor 1: intel 1.266GHz 512kb cache
    processor 2: intel 1.266GHz 512kb cache
    bus speed: 400MHz
    On board RAID U320 for disk redundancy
    2 X 18.4 gb hard drives 10000 rpm wide ultra 160 scsi80 pin HITACHI DK32DJ-18MC
    2 x network interfaces - gigabit 10/100/1000 NICs
    embedded perc dell 3/di controller
    2 x redundant power supplies

  • Do not fully know the answer as I do not know how to tell whether it is using both processors but we are running 1.2 rc3 on a 1650. The RAID is set up to put both disks out as one volume so my two 15G scsi disks appear as one 30G volume. And it never seems to get beyond 5% processor usage - so I guess it is using both processors.

    We put in an additional two port Intel network controller so are running 4 interfaces and have had no problems at all - web interface responds quickly and traffic flows freely.

  • It should use both CPUs. When installing pfSense to the hard drive it asks a question about the kernel you want to install. The choices are something like single CPU, SMP or Multi-CPU, and a devlopers kernel. Make sure you choose the SMP / Multi-CPU kernel and the it should work.

  • Thanks for the info guys. Might be the way to go then.  ;D

  • Another possibility is a new Dell PowerEdge T105. These are very keenly priced AMD based entry level tower servers that are far from shabby. The only problem you will find with them is that they only have a single NIC - if you need to expand that, budget for a suitable PCI-Express NIC. If you're happy to use VLANs, which may well be the easier option these days especially with 802.1q capable switches now so cheap, you'll be ready to go with the single NIC.

    They are sometimes on sale for quite crazy money - a few weeks back, you could have a complete unit in the UK for less than £200 including VAT and delivery, so long as you were happy with a 1 year warranty. I would have bought one for pfSense if I didn't need a rack mount box.

    The only thing is that they won't work with pfSense 1.2-RELEASE - you'll have to use the images here (click) until 1.2.1-RC and eventually 1.2-RELEASE is available. The reason for this is that the hardware is too new to work with FreeBSD 6.2-RELEASE; these images and the eventual 1.2.1-RELEASE are based on FreeBSD 6.3-RELEASE.

    I have no personal experience of using one of these boxes with FreeBSD or pfSense, but they have received favourable mentions on the FreeBSD mailing lists.

    If you want rack hardware, I'm using the pfSense image I just mentioned on a PowerEdge R200. This is a fairly simple single chip Intel 1U rack mount server. It doesn't have redundant PSUs or hot swap hard disks, and if you want remote management, it uses the older DRAC 4 generation rather than the current DRAC 5 even though it's a pretty new design. I like DRAC cards - they make 'console' work with a server so much easier, but you may rather share the cost (they give you remote monitoring, a console in your web browser as well as floppy and CD emulation from your desktop).

    If you want redundant PSUs and the like you could look at the new R300 or the 1950 III, but these are much more expensive boxes. I have a 2950 III (2U version of the 1950 III) as my main server in a pretty high end configuration (dual 2.66GHz quad core Penryn Xeons, 8GB RAM, 6 bay hot swap SAS hardware RAID - with 2 x 300GB 15krpm SAS in RAID 1 and 4 x 1TB 7200rpm SAS in RAID 5, DRAC 5 management, redundant power supplies, dual Gigabit Broadcom NetExtreme II NICs on the motherboard) - but it's noisy and expensive, as well as having far more horsepower than most will need in a firewall. There aren't many firewall applications that need 8 processor cores or the big SAS hardware RAID setup in my 2950 III!

    The 1650 you mentioned should be a perfectly decent machine, if a little elderly. A T105 or R200 will be almost certainly be much cooler, quieter and use less power - but it's up to you.

    The PERC should be no problem at all - that should be an amr(4) device in FreeBSD (the latest SAS PERCs are mfi(4) devices). Dual processors - no problem, just use the SMP kernel. The redundant PSUs need no special OS support.

    The only thing to watch is that, for the sake of redundancy, you really should run the hard disks as RAID 1, which means you will only have 18GB of hard disk space. That's enough for a firewall - but it may be a little tight if you want to run packages that need plenty of disk space. U320 SCA SCSI disks are still readily available, but they're much more expensive than SATA disks; 147GB 15krpm U320 SCA SCSI is about the same price as a 1TB SATA drive in the UK at the moment - for a firewall you could drop to 10krpm for a little cost and energy saving.

  • Following up on David_W's closing paragraph, you should NEVER run a firewall/server/any critical host with concatenated disks (such as the so-called RAID0).  Doing so doubles the chances that you'll lose the entire server - it'll only take the failure of a single disk to kill the host.

    Oh, and the 1950 is a nice little box, does come with a lower power configuration and runs FreeBSD just fine ;)

  • Thanks guys. I checked out the R200 and R300 and a new unit is around $1,700 AUD. A little expensive for my home pfsense box. Does anybody know if I can simply remove a CPU from a 1650 and make it single CPU. Or will I need to put another module in the CPU socket when it is removed?

  • Why worry about the second CPU? If you aren't running an SMP capable kernel, it will just be ignored. (At the moment, my R200 is running from a LiveCD with a uniprocessor kernel; it has a dual core processor, so one of the two cores isn't being used).

    Removing a CPU on many older servers means that you need a processor terminator card to go in its place - and getting hold of one of those for an older server might be hard.

    My only concerns about the 1650 is the size of the disks and the age of the hardware. You really should use RAID 1, which means you'll have an 18GB partition; you will know from your existing setup whether this is large enough or not. Adding SATA hard disks would be impractical - you really would need to go with U320 SCSI SCA drives, which, as I said, are not cheap, even if a pair of 73GB 10krpm units will suffice.

    The 1650 will be approximately a 5 year old machine. It's very unlikely that there's any warranty remaining - if there is, it will be measured in months rather than years. Parts do wear out - capacitors in PSUs dry out and fail, also fans and hard disks can die of old age (another reason to consider replacing the hard disks).

    If there's a backup battery on the RAID controller, assume that it's bad unless you know it's been replaced in the last two years - whilst even 'new' batteries may not be that good because they could have sat on the shelf for a while. There again, RAID 1 is fine without a backup battery - just make sure that the caching is set to write back rather than write through, so that power to the RAID controller's cache memory doesn't have to be maintained when the server is powered down.

    I did think that the R300 would be too expensive. Is a minimal R200 configuration still too much? If so, and it has to be rack mount, you're out of options with Dell; the R200 is usually the lowest cost rack mount server they offer.

    However, if a tower server will do, the T105 is much cheaper - I managed to specify a perfectly fine sounding T105 on the Dell web site for less than AUD 1000 including GST and delivery. I chose the T105 in the Small Business store, with the 2.0GHz processor option and 2GB hard drive, both of which add little to the cost, also 2GB of RAM and a DVD-ROM. That's nowhere near as cheap as I have seen these units sell in the UK (AUD 1000 is just shy of GBP 500; I have seen a T105 of similar specification go for just over GBP 200), but it's still not too expensive.

    To put that into context, a Seagate ST373207LC, which should be a suitable 73GB 10krpm hard disk for the 1650 assuming that the 1650 has hot swap drives (you should check in any case - if it's not hot swap you probably need an ST373207LW) is AUD 240 here (click). You'd need two of those to make a new 73GB RAID 1 for the 1650; I would be wanting to replace the hard disks in such an old server simply from a reliability point of view even if 18GB is enough. In other words, you could easily throw AUD 500 at the 1650 just by replacing its disks. The rest of it would still be 5 year old hardware - and whilst it theoretically has more redundancy than a new T105 or R200, with the age of the 1650 hardware, a new server might be more reliable in the medium term, as you have to remember that there are non-redundant components in any server, and the supply of parts for machines of this age is likely dwindling. Power consumption may well be lower with a new server as well.

    It's all a balancing act. An R300 is overkill - we run a small business from home and the R200 was the most that we could justify for our firewall. My R200 hasn't got as much redundancy as some rack servers - there's no RAID, for example. During the R200's lifetime, I may install an SSD in place of its main hard disk when SATA SSDs become affordable; the alternative would be to buy a SAS 6/iR card and use that to run RAID 1 on the pair of SATA hard disk that are fitted, though that means sacrificing the only spare expansion slot as I've already lost one slot to the DRAC 4/P management card.

    In truth, the R200 is overkill even in its current configuration. I got the whole unit including the remote management card for around the equivalent of AUD 1000 as part of a large purchase including the 2950 III - I have an ongoing relationship with a Dell account manager and typically pay rather less than the web site price when buying computers. A 1950 III is definitely overkill (don't try to price it - it will be more than the R300, though it's true enterprise level hardware and an excellent machine). An R200, which is cheaper than an R300, sounds as if it's too expensive.

    However, you might get more for your dollar buying a new T105 now rather than a 1650, especially if you're going to replace the 1650's hard disks anyway. You will only get a 1 year warranty with a T105 (certainly in Europe an R200 has a 3 year warranty) - but you'll almost certainly not get a 1 year warranty on the 1650.

    You can't put non-OEM parts on rack mount servers - most parts are specific to the particular server range in question and even parts like fans can be oddball items on rack servers. I suspect there'll still be parts around for the 1650 for a while, but parts from Dell will likely be expensive, whilst the supply of parts in the 'clearance' sector is likely to be drying up. Certainly in the UK you can get 8th and 9th generation Dell server parts often for silly prices (I have seen a DRAC 5 card, which is around a GBP150 option new, being sold with all the cables for GBP30), but I've not seen many 6th generation parts available via these routes.

    I have a July 2003 vintage Dell Precision 650 workstation, which is still my main desktop PC. It was specified so highly when I bought it that, with a few modest expansions along the way, I'm only now beginning to feel its limits. I'm trying to hang on until the next generation Intel architecture comes out, likely around the end of this year, which should be a huge leap forwards; I'll then buy a new workstation, probably running Vista 64 bit.

    I extended the warranty from 3 to 5 years - Dell gave me a good offer to do so, and I've had my money's worth out of the extension (a new motherboard because one serial port blew - I could have coped without the port but with a warranty I might as well get it fixed, also a refurbished graphics card because the bearings on the fan died). However, the extended warranty ends in about six weeks' time, and I'm then on my own - if there's any significant hardware failure, the machine is really scrap because the supply of parts from Dell has dried up. I could start messing around buying a similar machine on eBay and transplanting parts, but there comes a point where it's just not worth it; I'm throwing money away on obsolete hardware.

    So much has changed over this time frame - serial interfaces have pretty much taken over (SATA rather than IDE, SAS rather than SCSI, increasingly PCI Express rather than PCI/PCI-X, AGP is obsolete as graphics cards are now PCI Express), dual core processors are the norm and quad core are affordable, Vista still has rough edges but many have now been worked out and 64 bit operating systems are gradually becoming mainstream. Power consumption is much lower on new hardware - the 130nm Xeons are power hogs compared to modern processors - the latest 45nm Penryn Xeons have outstanding power consumption figures.

    The venerable Precision 650 is still a good machine, though it has now reached the point where a new consumer grade desktop would likely beat it on many tasks despite the Precision's 15krpm SCSI hard disks. I would likely be significantly more productive on new hardware with better memory bandwidth (I'm a heavy Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom user).

    I mention all this because I fear that the 1650 is too close to my Precision 650 - getting beyond what can reasonably be supported, even on a DIY basis.

    I hope there's something in there that is helpful.

  • Great post David_W!  :)

    I am with you in that the hardware is aging. Its just my budget that matters.  ;D The reason for removing the second CPU was just to save on power. I have come across a few Dell 2650's which seem OK. How does this spec stand up and can I remove a cpu without having to add another card to replace it?

    My main server is an IBM x3550. I think the IBM x series are top machines!

    Anyway how does this sound for a 2650?

    model: DELL Poweredge 2650
    2048mb memory installed
    processor 1: intel 1.800ghz 512kb cache
    processor 2: intel 1.800ghz 512kb cache
    bus speed: 400MHz
    On board RAID U320 for disk redundancy
    2 X 36.4 gb hard drives 10000 rpm wide ultra 320 scsi model SEAGATE ST336706LC
    2 x network interfaces - gigabit 10/100/1000 NICs
    embedded perc dell 3/di controller
    2 x redundant power supplies

    I have done a bit of checking and these machines could quite easily be 5+ years old anyway. Back to the drawing board.

  • Hi again guys….

    What would be the compatibility of a board like this? My via mini ITX worked fine.

  • For me, the question is whether you have any idea why your original mini ITX rig failed.

    Some mini ITX hardware is not really what you'd call enterprise grade - relatively cheap cases designed more for low noise than the best possible cooling and laptop style power supplies. That's not to say that the boards are bad - they're usually made to the highest possible standards. However, inadequate cooling will kill any motherboard and processor soon or later.

    Before buying my R200, I priced three options - ALIX, mini ITX and the R200 (I dismissed other more expensive Dell rack mount servers on cost grounds). I ruled ALIX out fairly early on - rack mount cases aren't cheap, and it doesn't have enough power for Snort.

    When I started to price mini ITX, even using the sort of case that you'd use for a typical living room PC rather than a rack mount case, I got so near to what I eventually paid for the R200 whilst having to accept a slower processor and less memory than in my R200. However, I had no parts lying around I could have used for a mini ITX machine apart from a 2.5 inch hard drive, whereas you've got a complete rig albeit with a dead motherboard / processor. (I should also add that the relative price of Dell servers compared to mini ITX parts may be different in the UK to Australia).

    That particular mini ITX series sounds reasonable - though it would seem wise to find an actual board (as the NICs chosen can determine its suitability for pfSense) and maybe start another thread.

  • Whoa!  You guys are using some serious hardware for a little "home" router…

    I've just set up a Gateway P2-266Mhz with 128MB ram (had to upgrade from 64MB moving from m0n0wall to pfSense!).  Then wireless-g PCI card for the Access Point, a T100 NIC for WAN, a T10 NIC for Opt.

    It keeps up well - still faster than the DSL line feeding the WAN.

    This pc was headed for the scrap bin, you can get slightly newer machines for basically shipping off Ebay, or look up Craigslist (sometimes even in the "free" section).  Stripping out the excess cards, drives, etc and the power consumption is way down (probably 15-25watts based on a similar machine I checked while running desktop OS, though I'll have to check this unit).  Also consider underclocking the CPU to save on power and heat.


  • Yep…I ordered a VIA motherboard and CPU combination. 1.5Ghz CPU with total max power consumption of 20 watts. I already had a notebook hard drive and 1Gb DDR2 RAM.

    I also got a 4RU rack case with adequate cooling. So shouldn't use much power at all. In winter I could disconnect most cooling fans in the case no worries.

  • About the Dell PE T105 suggested by David_W, i posted this feedback :,10674.0.html



  • Another option is a "consumer grade" Inspiron.  I'm in the states, and the 530 is often VERY cheap.  I got the small form factor case, popped three extra intel NICs in it (standard size, one PCIe, two PCI, I just removed the brackets to make them fit :-).

    Note:  1.2 did not seem to like the built-in Intel NIC, but the 1.2.1 releases are working fine.


  • @val123456:

    Another option is a "consumer grade" Inspiron.  I'm in the states, and the 530 is often VERY cheap.  I got the small form factor case, popped three extra intel NICs in it (standard size, one PCIe, two PCI, I just removed the brackets to make them fit :-).

    Note:  1.2 did not seem to like the built-in Intel NIC, but the 1.2.1 releases are working fine.


    Niiiiice :P !!! I checked this right now, and it seems nice !!! Thank you for the advice !

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