Please Note: This article is incomplete, I’m still gathering information and editing this article
If you are in the market for some raw horsepower for your operations and aren’t concerned about warranties, support, ect. then the Dell CS24-SC might be for you. They have been all over Ebay for the past few years for absolute steals, but nobody seems to know that much about them except for their great price/power ratio. I have two of these little monsters running my development stack with the possibly of adding more in the future. So what can you expect from a Dell CS24-SC, well this is what I have discovered.
If you browse the internet for CS24’s you will find forum articles explaining that the CS24 is a custom build with no support. What I have discovered is that (according to a salesperson at xbyte.com) Dell made at least 10,000 of these servers for FaceBook. Yep that’s right, You can own a part of FaceBook history. FaceBook liquidated these servers when they upgraded to a more recent generation of Dell Servers.
Drivers can be sketchy but honestly I have not found a need for them right now. I run ESXi on these servers and it is running perfectly. Everything seems to be pretty stock, nothing that Windows or ESXI can’t recognize at this point from what I have noticed. Even the NICs, RAID Controller, and PCIe Riser work right out of the box with every OS I have tested. (See the ESXi Section for a small-ish problem).
Processor(s):Two Quad-Core Intel Xeon L5420 2.5GHz 12MB L2 Cache 1333Mhz FSB LGA775
Motherboard:Dell Model S45 based on Intel 5100/ICH9R chipset with ASPEED AST2000 on-board graphics
Memory: up to 24GB PC2-5300P Registered
Hard Drive(s): Up to 4 Hard Drives on an LSI Logic Raid Controller. (2TB Max) Sorry guys no 4TB Support that I’ve seen. Please let me know if you have a solution
CD/DVD: Not sure if you can add one but I have never seen a CS24 with a CD Drive, No Floppy Drives
NIC(s):Two Gigabit Ethernet Ports, + one Ethernet port for baseboard management controller (Seems to run on 10/100, not gigabit)
Operating System: Varies, rarely ever comes with one
Power Supply: Single 400W (No Dual Power Supplies)
Form Factor:1U Rackmount
PCIe:1×16 PCI Express 1.1 (maybe 2.1?) Slot on a Riser Board. You can use it for small graphics cards, Network Cards, and other goodies
I run ESXi 5.1 on my servers and it is important to note that I was not able to get ESXi 5.5 installed on these servers. VMWare dropped support for a lot of different server models in 5.5 and I think the CS24 has some compatibility problems with the installer. Rob Willis wrote up a great article with the fix for 5.5. I use the Free Version of ESXi and write my own scripts for cloning and migrating. If you want help please email me
UPDATE March 2015: I have been using the VMWare standalone converter for the past few months for migrations between my ESXi Hosts and have stopped using custom scripts as they are slower and prone to error.
BaseBoard Management Controller (BMC) and BIOS
Rob Willis has a great page for the BMC and BIOS here: http://robwillis.info/2014/05/dell-cs24-sc-bios-bmc-v2-5-firmware-download/
I have heard of people using this manual and taking it’s information with a grain of salt: Original Site or My Mirrored Version (faster) I believe this manual is used more for instructions regarding the motherboard, but not the Raid Controller or anything else. There is no official manual that I have encountered for these servers, and again because they are a custom build there probably isn’t one so if you need to look for manuals for similar mainstream Dell models. You might also have success with the Dell C1100 User Manual.
This one bit me recently (Read more) but here is the Raid Controller. It has 3 supported Raid Configurations: Raid 1 (Called an IM Volume), Raid 1E (Called an IME Volume), and Raid 0 (Called a Stripe Volume). Know that raid 0 (Stripe Volume) will completely die if a single hard drive in the array fails!
You can have a max of 4 Drives. You can have multiple Raid Volumes on the LSI Controller.
Update: According to the BIOS Firmware changelog, version S45_3A25 of the BIOS supports 4TB Drives. Perform the BIOS update if you intend on using any drives bigger than 2.0TB
Please comment with your SC24 ideas, experiences, problems, etc. I want to improve this guide so that we can all have better stacks! Thanks to those who already have!