We are still running some 11th Generation Dell PowerEdge servers in our DC and some of the virtual machines were having some performance issues. We considered completely replacing replacing the servers, but found that the CPU load was very low most of the time.
The bottleneck for the database application running on these servers was disk related and we felt that a boost in performance in this area would bring the performance back to where we needed it to be. We decided to put an Intel P3520 NVMe SSD into two of the machines. This card, although not top of the range in terms of performance, has a great price/performance ratio and should be much faster than the existing drive array.
The specification of the server we put them into:
Dell PowerEdge R510
2 x Intel XEON X5670
PERC H700 1Gb (For Hard Drives)
VMWare ESXi 188.8.131.5250593
Here is the card in the server PCI slot:
VMWare recognised the card no problems, but I also installed the Intel NVMe drivers, which boosted the performance a bit. I haven’t done extensive performance testing but I can tell from using the applications hosted on the machine that it is much quicker.
Disk Benchmark with the Intel P3520 NVMe ssd:
And for comparison the 8 disk SATA array on the PERC H700:
So overall adding the Intel SSD provided a significant boost in performance over the existing array, which is now just there for redundancy, the application performance has boosted much more than the performance metrics above signify.
You would have thought, that adding a USB 3.0 PCI Express Card to provide USB 3.0 capability to a Dell Poweredge Server would be easy, and it turns out that it is quite easy really, but there is a lot of confusion about the subject.
No internal power connectors for a USB 3.0 PCI Card
The problem that most people come up against is that nearly all of the USB 3.0 cards require either a SATA power cable or a 4-pin Molex connector to enough power to drive host powered devices.
Many of these cards require additional internal power to drive host powered devices, such as portable USB drives etc. The PCI card itself, in terms of the chip-set will function just perfectly without the additional power.
The problem is that all of the Dell Rack mount servers I have seen have no spare power facility inside the machine so you cannot easily satisfy the extra power requirement. I spent quite a long time trying to figure out a way to provide a SATA power connector on a Dell Poweredge R310 before I realised I was wasting my time, you just don’t need to.
So what if you want to use host powered devices that require the additional power? Easy, don’t power them off the host!
Many of the USB 3.0 cards list the extra power requirement as optional, and while it would be nice to connect it, it just isn’t practical. It is far easier to connect the working USB 3.0 card that you have added to an externally powered USB 3.0 Hub and let that provide the power required to your USB devices.
Having said all of the above, I was able to power a portable USB enclosure with a 2.5″ 7,200 RPM drive installed no problem.
Here is the Startech USB 3.0 card installed inside the Dell PowerEdge R320:
Installing a USB 3.0 Card into a Dell Poweredge R310
So, for the sake of clarity I will list the kit that I used that worked well for me.
The reason that I selected this particular Startech kit is that it is UASP compliant which gives USB 3.0 optimal performance. As you can see from the screenshot below, both the drives I connected with these enclosures were detected as UAS compliant:
Please note that I ran these tests on Windows Server 2012 r2, which has native support for UASP devices, I don’ think Windows 7 has this capability.
I did some really basic testing by copying some data out to the both the external 3.5″ Seagate drive and also to the external Intel SSD. I was pretty impressed by the performance. This server only has SATA drives internally so I wasn’t expecting to break any records:
The Seagate hard drive topped out at around 75MB per second, which is well below USB 3.0 capability, but still significantly better than USB 2.0 and not too shabby.
The Intel SSD was probably limited by the internal drives on the server, but still managed to write at around 130MB per second, which is really quick.
Having read quite a lot of forum posts on how to add USB 3.0 to a Dell rack server I expected to come up against more difficulty, but it’s actually a ten minute job.
As per the comments, I have also purchased several of the HighPoint RocketU 1144D 4-Port USB 3.0 PCI-Express cards and although they are more expensive, it is a superior product to the Startech kit. Thank you to Chris for suggesting it. Highly recommended