Return to Level1Techs.com

Dual Xeon, NVMe, and RAID?

I’m trying to get a rig built for my company that has some specific hardware requirements from software but I would love to take advantage of the speed of NVMe for our OS drive. I was looking at buying a set up that had this for a hardware configuration:

  • Dual Intel Xeon Silver 4210R

  • Windows 10 Pro for Workstations

  • 64GB 4x16GB DDR4 2666MHz RDIMM ECC Memory

  • M.2 2TB PCIe NVMe Class 40 Solid State Drive

  • RTX 3090

I would like to add four 10GB drives for a RAID solution. My IT guy says that it can’t be done because “the hard drive controller for m.2 cannot also control large sata drives or vice versa.” Is he right?

What type of hard drives are you going to use - SATA or SAS? Are you going to be connecting these directly to the motherboard (which you do not mention) or using a separate card?

There are some bandwidth limitations on many Intel boards because the M.2 SSD and the on-board SATA all go through the chipset to the CPU. This may be what your IT guy is thinking about. It should physically work, though. If you want to avoid this bottleneck you can use a NVMe SSD PCIe adapter (like an Asus Hyper X or one of the cheaper unbranded things), or use a RAID card.

But I suggest you check out the block diagram for your motherboard first.

1 Like

Thanks for taking the time to reply with your thoughts.

SATA or SAS?

I was thinking SATA but I have no experience with a build like this as I’ve only put together gaming computers and if any of them have had RAID I’ve always done that via software. The hardware configuration mentioned in my OP is just something I found on a retailer’s website that fit the CPU, GPU, and RAM recommendations that are needed for a couple of programs we will be using.

Are you going to be connecting these directly to the motherboard (which you do not mention) or using a separate card?

I didn’t mention this because I do not really know. If the motherboard has enough SATA ports available I was thinking about just plugging them into the motherboard. I’ll reach out to the retailer to try and get more information on what motherboard is included. As far as using a separate card, I wasn’t planning on it but if I have to I will.

Would this be something that I could build myself? I don’t really know anything in the realm of Xeon processors and their hardware limitations or where to go to get a part list that I could just give to our PO department to just buy the hardware.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to respond with your perspective. I appreciate it.

I expect any workstation class dual Xeon motherboard will have enough SATA ports for what you want. But the quality of the RAID implementation will vary.

I had great fun building a dual Xeon workstation last year from parts off eBay, but it did involve a lot of research. Things like their physical size can catch you out, and there is always the issue of finding validated ECC memory to go with them. So as a personal project I can recommend it. However, you want this for your business.

So my suggestion is that you:

  1. Confirm that you really need sustained full NVMe performance and full RAID array performance at the same time.
  2. If you don’t, then the bandwidth to the CPU issue shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. If you do, then check with the supplier how the drives are controlled. If there is going to be a bottleneck, then it can be solved by either by specifying a separate RAID controller, or by using the NVMe SSD through an PCIe card.

I also suggest that you order it rather than build it yourself as it is for business purposes and I am getting the impression that you are not confident about building it.

It’s not that I’m not confident if I had to build anything myself. I’ve just only ever built gaming PCs so this level of hardware is new to me. I was looking at having my company buy a built unit that had the bulleted specs above from Dell and then just picking up four sata drives to throw into it after the fact,

Once again, thanks for taking the time to correspond. I appreciate it.