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Ode to the Dell C2100/FS12-TY

averyfreeman

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Feb 8, 2015
Messages
154
Okay, I figured that it was time for me to finally make a post about my preferred system along with reasons, justifications, pro and cons, etc. I have mentioned the Dell C2100/FS12-TY countless times and figured that it would be easier to simply have a single thread to point to. So without further ado here we go...

*** Disclaimer: These are just my opinion(s) and should be taken as such. This is not an "end all" definitive guide, but more along the lines of personal praise for a specific Make/Model. Consider it more of a "brain dump" and will/may be updated as I try to "fill in the gaps" :p

Okay, so like pretty much everyone else my journey began searching for a machine that pretty much "did it all"; but wasn't looking to mortgage my house for it. However, I wanted the ability to be able to "run with the big dogs" (well perhaps jog a distance behind them at least). In my endeavors I started out with a Dell C1100 (1U model) that was pretty cheap. Once I fired the unit up, I had an "oh crap" moment since it basically sounded like a jet engine at full blast constantly. In trying to find a way to quiet this beast down, I discovered that the main reason for the fans running so high was due to crappy BMC Firmware. So, luckily I was able to downgrade that to <= v1.7 and things were a lot better. Being a 1U it still would have trouble dissipating heat and the fans would have to spin up often (its way of reminding me that "psst.. I'm still here"). For that reason, along with the fact that it could only house 4 drives led me to look at the C2100/FS12-TY. Here is where my love affair began...

Before even considering this model there are a couple things you need to know right off the bat. Take these into consideration:
  • While Dell itself did sell the actual "C2100" model to the public, 99% of the ones you will see are the "FS12-TY" models
    • The "FS12-TY" were customized models sold under DCS "Dell Cloud Services" directly to specific customers who purchased a large amounts of them (think minimal order was like 10,000 units?)
    • There is also even more confusion since other names were thrown in like "Quanta" and "Sequoia"
    • I not had any issues with any of them thus far (maybe I am just lucky?)
  • You will not get any Official Dell Support for anyof these
    • These puppies are way out of any possible warranty
    • Again 99% of the one for sale are the FS12-TY which were sold directly to large customers
    • Well aside from the way older drivers, firmware that you can download for the C2100 from Dell
  • Documentation is limited/scattered
    • Not everything is clearly laid out and described thoroughly
    • While there is an official manual (from Dell) it lacks information on some stuff like what each jumper does on the backplane
    • While a bit annoying, I have pretty much been able to find out what I needed via forums and searches though
  • There is NO EFI/UEFI BIOS for this unit
    • What this means is that the MB does not do GPT so if you were thinking of having a 3TB Boot disk directly attached to the MB forget about using/seeing the full space (you will see ~1.9 TB)
    • Don't freak out... This does not stop you from using larger drives that are going through a HBA for FreeNas (I currently do and it sees all the drive space)
    • This does make it a bit tricky for VM Guest where you want a single drive over 2TB, but there are "creative" ways to get around that if needed
    • Yes, you can still run modern OSes like Win 10
    • I actually prefer this since it simplifies things for me
  • Watch your backplane
    • While most of the models come with a SAS2 backplane there is the chance you will get caught off guard and get one with a older SAS backplane with SFF-8484 connectors
    • Usually a tell-tale of this is that they are selling the unit with a Perc 6/i card
    • While I do have one of these backplanes, I never tried to see if it fully supports > 2TB drives (on my list to check out)
  • This is not the most environmental friendly unit; but it won't kill Bambi either
    • You can make it very very quite (more on that later) by ensuring the BMC Firmware is <=v1.7; so "Noise Pollution" is not an issue
    • As far a power goes, well it does have two 750W PSUs (can just use a singe if needed; but not recommended)
    • CPUs are available in a wide variety of TDPs (from 40 to 130) so that plays a big part on wattage
    • Average for 3 of my units (all fully populated w/12 HGST Drives) is ~211 watts each (post #29) YMMV
  • Certain "desirable" parts are gonna cost ya
    • 2.5" Hard Drive Trays, yes there is a variant that will take 24 x 2.5" drives
      • Fun fact, if you don't get the unit with the trays, expect to sell a kidney to pay for them
      • The real 2.5" trays are EXPENSIVE; like ~$26.00 each (yeah EACH)
      • I ended up paying about twice as much just for the trays ($700.00) as I did the for two barebone units I bought, but was initially looking at ~$1,500.00 for just empty trays.. (See story Here)
    • 3.5" Hard Drive Trays, are pretty cheap; while not dirt cheap they should not be considered a "show stopper"
      • Bonus, the 3.5" trays will take a 2.5" drive without any modifications or additional hardware needed
    • Hard Drive Tray Screws (Really?... Um yeah...)
      • Being a Dell, they of course made this a PITA; while not a major cost you can't just use any standard screw in the trays
      • Always a good idea to ask the seller to include the screws
      • I personally use just two screws in each tray (diagonally) to save on them
      • Worst case you can buy them online for ~$10.00/24 pcs (I believe those are the correct ones; will have to double check to be 100% sure)
      • Update (thanks to @kngpwr): You can get 100 screws from Amazon for a little over $8.00.
    • This model offers two specialized "mezzanine" ports that can accommodate certain hardware
    • One is for a "Perc H200" that will run you about ~$130.00on average
      • It is a "nice to have" since it frees up a PCIe Slot (which are 2 x 8 PCI Express Gen2)
      • Yes it can be cross-flashed just like the normal H200 (I use the "mezzanine" model mainly)
    • The other port is for an Intel Dual 10GB LAN
      • This puppy is really hard to find and usually too expensive (~$300.00 - $500.00)
      • It is best to either forget about this or wait and hopefully find it for a "reasonable price" if you really really want one
I learned that lesson the hard way, myself.

1U systems are loud af.

Unless super low power, I find anything under 3U runs too hot at an acceptable SPL to be reasonable for home use. It's my own rule of thumb I earned through painful trial and error.

My CSE-825TQ is the only exception I've seen to this rule, but Supermicro delivers pure engineering magic.
 

TECK

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2011
Messages
340
I have two L5640 processors installed on my FS12-TY. After installing 18x8GB sticks of PC3L 10600R-09-10-E1-P1 RAM, I can see only 96GB into BIOS. I have not installed yet FreeNAS, I'm just wondering why I do not see all memory?
 

averyfreeman

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Joined
Feb 8, 2015
Messages
154
I have two L5640 processors installed on my FS12-TY. After installing 18x8GB sticks of PC3L 10600R-09-10-E1-P1 RAM, I can see only 96GB into BIOS. I have not installed yet FreeNAS, I'm just wondering why I do not see all memory?
I had that (or a similar) problem on a board, one of the sticks wasn't seated properly and another dimm in a corresponding channel didn't register either as a result. Have you tried double checking all the seating, taking out & plugging back in, etc.?
 

TECK

Senior Member
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Jun 23, 2011
Messages
340
@averyfreeman I have the answer why I cannot use more than 96GB. The C2100 supports up to 144GB of Single-rank or dual-rank RDIMMs and up to 96GB quad-rank RDIMMs (two DIMMs per channel). My memory is 2Rx4 PC3L and 96GB run at 1066, while 144GB would run at 800. I don't know if is a good trade, less memory to faster clock?
 

averyfreeman

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Joined
Feb 8, 2015
Messages
154
@averyfreeman I have the answer why I cannot use more than 96GB. The C2100 supports up to 144GB of Single-rank or dual-rank RDIMMs and up to 96GB quad-rank RDIMMs (two DIMMs per channel). My memory is 2Rx4 PC3L and 96GB run at 1066, while 144GB would run at 800. I don't know if is a good trade, less memory to faster clock?
This is going to sound pretty black and white, but I'd say more memory for sure, clock speed doesn't really matter all that much

If you're into nuance, I suppose it depends on your application, but for a storage machine certainly clock speed is not that important IMO. Having tons of ram for ARC definitely helpful.

Same thing goes for containers or virtualizing - the more ram the better.
 

TECK

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2011
Messages
340
I checked my memory and is dual rank 2Rx4 PC3L. It should see it, I’m using 18 identical sticks. When I’m adding 3 more sticks into the appropriate bank, I get this error:

8D24EEA6-8ABC-4806-9876-5541EBA70DC8.jpeg


I looked at the C2100 documentation and inserted the 3 additional sticks into appropriate sequential banks. Anyone knows why I get this error?
 

Mirfster

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Oct 2, 2015
Messages
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I checked my memory and is dual rank 2Rx4 PC3L. It should see it, I’m using 18 identical sticks. When I’m adding 3 more sticks into the appropriate bank, I get this error:

View attachment 36574

I looked at the C2100 documentation and inserted the 3 additional sticks into appropriate sequential banks. Anyone knows why I get this error?
What exact Vendor/Make is the RAM? Also, have they been fully tested?
 

TECK

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Jun 23, 2011
Messages
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@Mirfster I tried every possible and impossible combination, the middle bank DIMMs are ignored. I’m losing 6 potential slots with precious memory. If I move the sticks from C0-C1-C2 bank into B0-B1-B2 bank (middle), they are not seen anymore. I even changed the motherboard, thinking it is defective. It has to be an explanation why the middle banks are not registering the memory.

Memory is not seen into B0-B1-B2 and E0-E1-E2 banks:

21BCA5E6-DB6E-4B76-84D0-6E80828758DF.jpeg


I can change the size of sticks from 8 to 16GB into any memory bank except middle ones, they are seen properly. As soon as I move or add any memory into middle banks, they are not seen by the system. I also played with the bios settings, no dice.

I’m using Samsung memory, tested with Memtest86. The sticks are good, if I shuffle them into working banks, they are seen without errors.

Samsung 8GB 2Rx4 PC3L 10600R 09-10-E1-D2 M393B1K70CH0-YH9

8C7C14B2-0FE5-455B-8BA9-BEB8A610394D.jpeg


I read the C2100 documentation twenty times, thinking there is a pin or something that disables the RAM, could it be because I use L5640 2.27 processors? I mean I’ve seen in the past speed being throttled from 1333 to 1060 based on processor type but never having the bank completely ignored.
 
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TECK

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Messages
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@Mirfster and others, what version of BIOS you have with all memory banks functional, is it 1.66 S99Q3B10? What dual processors you have installed with all banks populated?

D0D4E701-7B7C-47E1-A956-823179F1E5DB.jpeg
 
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Mirfster

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@Mirfster and others, what version of BIOS you have with all memory banks functional, is it 1.66 S99Q3B10? What dual processors you have installed with all banks populated?
Here is one that is running 128 GB of RAM:
1584644320165.png
 

Mirfster

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@TECK BTW, that is a super old version of BIOS you are running. I can't even find it listed here: http://downloads.dell.com/published/pages/poweredge-c2100.html. May also want to ensure BMC is updated (certain BIOS requires that the BMC is updated first), but it looks like you already have BMC 1.66.

For the record, I usually do 1.6 (ex. 1.66.65092 or 1.61.2527) and only up to BIOS version 16 (ex. C99Q3B16 or S99Q3B16).

I did briefly test the 3B25 version IIRC and while it ran fine I reverted, but don't actually recall why. /meh...
 

TECK

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Jun 23, 2011
Messages
340
@Mirfster let me upgrade to S99Q3B16. What is the difference between C99Q3B16?
Edit: I cannot find S99Q3B16 on the link you provided.
 
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Mirfster

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I cannot find anywhere S99Q3B16, does anyone has a link? Or is it safe to use instead C99Q3B16 and ignore the ROM id warning during installation?
I use the "C99Q3B16.ROM" for both the C2100 or FS12-TY. The reason that some may show as "S" instead of "C" is that the system may show as "Sequoia" somewhere. IIRC that is usually on the FS12-TY, not the pure C2100.

Anyways, I use a "FX.bat" (can't recall if I created it or if it was provided). The FX.bat simply leverages the "/X" switch to Don't Check ROM ID:
Code:
Afudos C99Q3B16.ROM /P /B /K /X


Thought that I had originally put that info in the thread, but if not I will update when I get a chance.

Hope this helps.
 

TECK

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Messages
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I updated to C99Q3B25 and the memory is still not visible. If I move the working memory into the middle banks, it gives memtest errors. Obviously the memory is good.
 

Mirfster

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I updated to C99Q3B25 and the memory is still not visible. If I move the working memory into the middle banks, it gives memtest errors. Obviously the memory is good.
Are you setting it in pairs? Like A0, A1, B0, B1 then D0, D1, E0, E1. You can reference the image I showed earlier which indicates which memory slots I used.
 

TECK

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Yes @Mirfster, I actually tried one sick first, A0, B0, C0, D0, E0, F0 (blue slots). B0 and E0 are disabled with memory errors. Yet, if I switch the B0 memory stick into A0 slot, it works. I'm losing my mind. :)
 

Mirfster

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Yes @Mirfster, I actually tried one sick first, A0, B0, C0, D0, E0, F0 (blue slots). B0 and E0 are disabled with memory errors. Yet, if I switch the B0 memory stick into A0 slot, it works. I'm losing my mind. :)
So what about in pairs like I mentioned?

For 4 sticks = A0, A1, D0, D1
For 8 sticks = A0, A1, B0, B1, D0, D1, E0, E1
 

BetYourBottom

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Nov 26, 2016
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@Mirfster Hey I sent you a message about an error I had way back and thought I'd post here about it as well. I start talking about it on page 8 here and I also have an old thread I can link you to.

I'm worried the error is going to reoccur due to some new drives I got that don't seem to have SATA2 legacy jumpers.
 

Mirfster

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@Mirfster Hey I sent you a message about an error I had way back and thought I'd post here about it as well. I start talking about it on page 8 here and I also have an old thread I can link you to.

I'm worried the error is going to reoccur due to some new drives I got that don't seem to have SATA2 legacy jumpers.
Replied, but in general I would suggest moving away from that backplane to either 9NXC7 (Expander Model, I use) or KFF57. May get me a KFF57, to experiment with, but seem parts (and the actual Servers) are getting rarer these days.
 

BetYourBottom

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Replied, but in general I would suggest moving away from that backplane to either 9NXC7 (Expander Model, I use) or KFF57. May get me a KFF57, to experiment with, but seem parts (and the actual Servers) are getting rarer these days.
Thanks for responding here as well as in the message.

For reference to anyone experiencing my issue, it's probably all due to the 3xSFF-8484 backplane that I have. Mirfster found a similar post that I didn't originally see here. It matches the issues that I experience with the drives, except he swapped the backplane while I forced my drives to SATA2 (I couldn't afford a new backplane on top of the server at the time).

I ordered a KFF57 because I could find it cheaper than a 9NXC7, also it was suggested in that thread that a SAS expander backplane might not play well with SATA drives and I've also seen the 9NXC7 requires special cables and not just standard SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 cables.

I'll update if this fixes the issue.

Now hopefully the RAM issue that I had initially doesn't come up at some point too :p
My MB/CPU combo didn't like DDR3L for some reason; I could run with a different CPU with my RAM no problem; I could run with my CPU and DDR3 non-low voltage. I ended up mixing the DDR3 (I had 2x8GB, not enough to run on) and DDR3L (8x8GB, what I bought) which forced the DDR3L to run at standard voltage and works without issue besides a message complaining about it.

UPDATE: I swear to god this thing is gonna give me a heart condition. I've started the burn-in testing using the SAS->SATA ports since the drives autonegotiate to SATA2 and they've hit 46C compared to the other drives at 40C. I guess I'm going to have to unquiet my BMC to get some higher fan speeds, good thing this thing is in an unused room.
 
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