Lenovo ThinkServer TS140 – My Very First Home Server

Yay! Just moment ago, I made my first step into the whole new world – I bought a Lenovo ThinkServer TS140 70A4 entry level server from eBay. Must mention that the specs seem a bit crap but I will work it out as soon as get this machine delivered.

In fact, I’ve been watching these Home Server for a while now. My first choice was HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8, a light weight and nice lovely case mini server. I knew that it’s a more advanced version of N54L, which uses AMD CPU. Well, it was one of the option but I wouldn’t be bothered with AMD CPU due to its complexity in server industry (I haven’t known any of the large enterprise uses AMD CPU in their production environment). It’s OK to use N54L as a File Server.

Back to my first choice, I admit that MicroServer will do the job in a home lab as I am planning to use it as a test server or GNS3 server running under Linux (Ubuntu and Debian are my most favourite). However, there are only 2 memory slots (with 16GB of maximum RAM) on the motherboard so it would be a problem if I need to run more than one OS using VMware ESXi virtualised environment (I am keen to give Windows Server 2012 a shot, just for entertainment purposes at this stage).

So I changed my mind to ML310e, which is also Gen8 server from HP. The major difference is, ML310e supports up to 32GB of RAM, which is fantastic. Now the problem is, where to get it? There is very limited source for purchasing a server in Australia, either from eBay, Gumtree (Don’t think it’s a reliable option), or from suppliers. Most of the suppliers are extremely expensive and the local eBay sources are the same, and it’s beyond my budgets (say approximately $1,000 – a very tight budget indeed). As a result, I have tried Amazon and Newegg, but I quickly realised that Amazon does ship most of the server grade product to Australia – it’s a pain. Newegg seems to be better but they only ship parts to Australia (I am planning to buy some ECC RAM from them, and it’s cheaper than Australia resellers.). When I almost made my decisions to build a system myself, I found a cheaper solution – Lenovo TS140!

It’s not the end of the story actually. The problem is, ML310e supports E3-1230 V3 series CPU, but TS140 seems to have biased views of CPU upgrade (some of the motherboards support E3-1230 V3 series but others are not). My idea was, I can buy a lower end server with a low spec of CPU, then I can swap it with “higher end” ones. Due to the natures of the Lenovo TS140, I got quite frustrated quickly. There is a huge performance differences between E3-1225 V3 and E3-1231 V3, also the E3-1231 V3 is a Haswell refreshed CPU, and it can be upgraded to more powerful candidates.

Not until today, I found a deal on eBay, who sells dirty cheap (just $340 in AUD) TS140 server. It comes with i3-4330 dual core processor and 4GB of RAM (will be replaced sooner or later). The TS140 is a solid-built machine. It is said that the gross weight will be exceeded 13KG. My idea is just buying more RAM, a better CPU, and some hard drive (RAID-1 is preferred) to make it work. I could even resell the crappy i3 CPU on eBay to recover some of the upgrade budget. It could be used as a File Server when it’s retired – a much better quality and budget media server!

I have linked the data sheet from Lenovo website and can’t wait the machine to be delivered from States!