R730 or 5950x?

I am thinking whether I should get a used Dell r730, or just upgrade my current machine to Ryzen 5950x.

Server seems to open so many possibilities, but yet 5950x is so tempting and lets you have everything under 1 machine + less noise & less heat.

I am looking to do some virtualization:

  • Eve-NG / GNS3
  • SecOnion / Splunk
  • Ubuntu / Kali
  • pfSense
  • Vulnhub machines
  • A few docker containers / Kubernetes/ Ansible / Portainer

I was considering Dell r730 for £980~ (2x Intel Xeon E5-2680 v4 @ 2.40GHz, 128GB ECC, 4x 1TB Samsung 870 QVO … ). It would give tons of power and could work as a small heater during coming winter months. Probably if I could search a little more on eBay I could find some other deals.

But then my current PC setup is due an upgrade too:

  • B450
  • Ryzen 2700x
  • 64GB
  • RX-580

It manages to run a few VMs just fine, before it starts choking and I need to start shutting things down. I don’t game much, thus I was looking to maybe keep the rx580, but upgrade everything else:

  • B450 → x570
  • Ryzen 2700x → Ryzen 5950x
  • 64GB → 128GB

Upgrading my PC would allow me to run bigger topologies, more VMs, faster Photoshop/Lightroom exports, saving on noise and power consumption too.

I was almost convinced to get 5950x, but then seeing some posts in here of how unreliable this CPU is, just made me reconsider things.

Depending on your B450 board, an upgrade to x570 is possibly not necessary - as long as you have a decent cooler (like a Noctua NH-D14 or a 360 AIO) the B450 should gladly support a 5950X.

64 GB RAM should be plenty for VMs, 8 GB and 2 cores / 4 threads per VM is pretty good and would allow for 5-7 full VMs. You also don’t need to run everything, everywhere, all at once, even though one or two VMs might be worth it.

The Dell will be hot and loud, for sure, and you might want to consider a Raspberry Pi for your always-on duties, but a 5950X + RPi should cover 90% of your bases already here.

The less power your home system can draw the better, especially now with energy prices soaring.

I have an R720 and 2 5950x systems (My gaming rig and my workstation for work). I’ve never had any problems with the 5950x in my workstation and only had a rare crash on the 5950x in the gaming rig when I was tweaking with volts in the bios and set them too low, otherwise its been rock solid.
If you are somewhere electricity is expensive I would just combine them both as you will save on in the long run but if all VM’s get heavy use such as the spunk vm I would look to offload them as depending on the usage could impact your performance on your system.

With a 10gb nic in the R720 the server very loud so if going 10gb on it I wouldn’t keep it in a room near your bedroom.

You should spend some time figuring out what exactly your bottle neck is. Could you give us some more info?

  • How many VMs are you running?
  • How much RAM are you giving to the VMs?
  • How many CPU cores are you giving to the VMs?
  • When running what cpu usage are you seeing (load average, and %CPU time + wait + steal from top or equivalent).
  • When running what is your RAM usage looking like?
  • What kind of storage do you have. HDD, Sata SSD, NVME SSD?

Old hardware like the Dell r730 can get you lots of cpu cores and RAM channels, but those CPU cores aren’t going to be as powerful as a modern cpu like a 5950x. Some workloads simply need lots of cores, some workloads are more dependant on the throughput of those cores. You should get a feeling for what you need.

I’d also do some experimenting by seeing if your VMs really need all the cores and RAM they’ve been given. VMs with many cores may block other VMs from running, leading to no VMs getting their work done, and CPU usage can shoot up.

Upgrading the cpu to either a 5900X or 5950X would basically be the cheapest option.
Which motherboard do you have currently?

There are of course also other options like threadripper.
However those options are generally expensive.
We basically need a little bit more info in what you needs actually are.

You’re comparing two totally different things and I like that.
I would suggest that having a Dell rack mount server is like keeping a lion as a pet rather than a cat.

When spinning up a VM for a spot of tinkering it’s far easier to use VirtualBox on your PC than to do one on a ProxMox server. Obviously keeping that running as a service is probably better on the dedicated ProxMox hardware.

The sort of thing you want to keep running all the time like PiHole or a web server or a file server really don’t need a huge lion of a hyperviser server. However when trying out the latest Windows 11 you probably do want to give it loads of CPU and RAM, VirtualBox on your PC is the answer.

I would suggest you get rid of that ancient slow outdated obsolete RYZEN 2700x and replace it with practically any 5000 series. I’m delighted with my 5900X. So much better in every way imaginable.

RX-580 is fine and will give you a lot more with your RYZEN 5000 series but be looking for GPU bargains, VEGA 56, 2.5 times the power is now £150 on some ebay listings, that’s half the price of a RX-580 last year.

If your B450 will do 128GB RAM then do it, otherwise don’t worry about it. I’m on 64GB and run VirtualBox and it’s fine. I was on 32GB and this was a problem.

What you could do is build a ProxMox machine from your 2700x, that’s what mine uses.

Remember you’re not going to be playing games on your ProxMox machine because it’s a terrible experience. Yeah I know Jeff Craft Computing does but it’s taken him 3 years to build a machine that can do so well enough to be proud of. You’re not going to be caning your VMs so you may as well make them quiet and reliable.