Let's Hear It For Happy Accidents

So about a year ago I obtained for myself a Dell PowerEdge 1950 Generation 3 server for use in my basement as a ESXi sandbox plaything. One of the guys at work found it online and wanted one for himself, since the seller was selling them by the skid -- obviously off-lease equipment -- I decided I wanted in on it, too. It was less than $400 for a 2x4 core with 16GB RAM, two disk sleds and no disk. Clearly the basic minimum for ESXi -- enough headroom to start up a couple real VMs, plus a small fleet of "cattle" VMs that would get churned as I played around.

Well I recently started playing with CentOS 7 instead of CentOS 6, and the memory headroom for the VM load was on the server was just too tight. So it was clearly time to get more RAM, right?

I was lucky in that I had a Generation-3 server, which could take 8GB DIMMs instead of just 4GB DIMMs. So that gave me the option to expand to 32GB by either buying 8x4GB DIMMs (which would probably necessitate me throwing away the 8x2GB DIMMs I undoubtedly had already installed) or I could buy 4x8GB DIMMs instead, permitting me the ability to A) keep 4x4GB DIMMs for a total of 40GB, and B) upgrade in the future to 64GB with another 4x8GB purchase. Part of this equation turned out to be cost... which I'll get to in a moment.

So I went off to my friendly neighbourhood reseller and asked him for the RAM. Turns out that this is premium PC2-5300 — DDR2 667 MHz stuff -- not easy to come by new. And he came back with pricing around CDN$1K for the memory.

Well that's clearly out of the question for a hobby system. If I had $1K to spend I could buy one or two whole systems with 32GB of memory EACH on eBay. So that's not going to happen.

The rule for this stuff is, when in doubt, google. So I googled RAM for Dell PowerEdge 1950 computers, and found... Server Monkey, landing on this page. Through this page I learned all about memory configurations and generation types and everything else... looked at the pricing to get this upgrade done.

Option one would be 8x4GB for US$60 delivered.

Option two would be 4x8GB for US$85 delivered. That's a 50% premium for essentially the same immediate amount of memory, or in other words, a $25 premium for the ability to run slightly more RAM now and still have the option of going to 64GB later.

Those options are probably worth $25, so I went with option 2.

This is the part of the article where I tell you how wonderful Server Monkey was -- but really I can't gush too much. They took my money and shipped me what I ordered and it got here in a little over a week. The Canada Post guy who dropped it off at the door apparently did a ring-and-run, which would have perhaps been more disturbing if there was actually expensive computer parts inside... but since Jenn was home, it wasn't an issue.

And so, laboriously, I come to the point of the article. It turns out I had never opened the dust shroud of my 1950 when I got it, because when I did open it I discovered 4x4GB installed, not 8x2GB. So this means that instead of  having to throw away 4 DIMMs, I ended up being able to keep everything I had, so at the end of the process I have 48GB available.

(It does mean that I would have felt like an idiot if I'd ordered the 8x4GB -- yes it would have been cheaper, but I wouldn't have used half of it.)

I've powered it up and it all goes -- we're back in business.

Half again what I'd hoped for!
So let's hear it for happy accidents!