What I started with isn’t what I ended with
I started off really trying to stay close to budget. When I realized I needed to go over by a bit (storage, mostly), and that not all of my parts would even be here in the calendar year (the M.2), I started to wonder if I got the parts that I should have. This is what I started with.
It was a reasonable build that stayed close to budget, and I was pretty happy with it.
When reality kicked in, this is what I ended up with. That’s all of last year’s budget, and half of this year’s budget. And trust me, I could have figured out other stuff to buy, too.
The CPU went from the i7-6800K to the i7-6850K
The motherboard went from the X99-A to the X99-E
Filled up the ICY DOCK with 6 SSDs (but I would have done this anyway)
Got a 1TB M.2
Threw in an 8TB SATA drive for backups
Added a bunch of case fans (seriously, this thing could terraform a small planet)
Downgraded the graphics card (who cares, right?)
Upgraded the power supply from a 550w to an 850w
Most of the changes didn’t add a significant amount to the price. The M.2 was the real killer.
Feeling a little weird
I started thinking about other options. If I knew how badly I was going to go over budget, I probably would have built this from the get-go. Not that I’m at all unhappy with what I ended up with, of course. But I could have made some cool tweaks.
The main difference here is the motherboard. I would have bought the X99 Pro (on purpose, this time), and nabbed a second 1 TB M.2 — though I’m not sure if I would have put together an M.2 RAID, or created TempDB drives on it for my SQL VMs. The world may never know.
Other differences: the RAM would have to change to be compatible, but I’d keep the same amount. There’s an incompatibility warning on the page for 128 GB of RAM, but Asus documentation says it’s supported. I sent a note into the site owners, but they haven’t updated it yet. This is also the same board/RAM combo that Stack Overflow devs use, and I’m like 50% sure their computers work.
What I imagined myself doing is plugging this thing into one of my laptop monitors, and borrowing a keyboard and mouse from another setup to do the initial install and config. After that, I’d just remote in to do my stuff.
That didn’t quite go as planned. For some reason, this thing didn’t work with a laptop monitor. When I plugged it in, the monitor just ignored it, the way I ignore Surgeon General warnings. I ended up having to do the initial install and config on my livingroom TV.
Yes, 55 inches of Windows installer is a bit odd.
I also didn’t take into account little hiccups, like a BIOS update needing some config changes, adding an External switch in Hyper-V breaking networking, etc. There’s a lot of little tinkers you have to do, and moving this back and forth between my office and the livingroom TV is just stupid, especially when my kid is trying to watch cartoons hit each other with hammers.
So now what?
With everything built, it was time to get things installed. Word of warning, if for some reason you buy the X99-E, you can’t run Windows Server 2016 on it, as of this writing. I mean, you can, but it can’t figure out which driver to use for the Ethernet port, which is a deal breaker. Intel drivers wouldn’t even install; they’d say there were no Intel devices on board to use. Heh.
Using my favorite system info tool, Speccy, here’s the system summary. For some reason it isn’t showing the RAM as being overclocked, but it is. Weird. Whatever.
And of course, CPU-Z shows things spinning at the speed of light.
Doing some wheel kicking is in order. I need to start setting up my VMs, which aren’t just for SQL. I need a domain controller with AD and all that. It’ll also be time to start parting ways with some of the stuff I work with on my laptop.
Thanks for reading!
Brent says: in the company chat room, there’s a running joke about our desktops being more powerful than a lot of production SQL Servers. Granted, the total cost on this is up over $4k, but with 128GB memory and several terabytes of insanely fast solid state storage, it’s still a screaming deal.