At this point, I’ve had the server up and running for several weeks. One of the Not Lawlors told me about a game called Genshin Impact that he thinks I’ll like because I LOVE Breath of the Wild. I’ve already played it through a few times so I was definitely interested. The system requirements are, per this Not Lawlor, not very high. On another front, I have sorted out that Plex “hardware transcoding” refers to some sort of GPU being present and made available for Plex to use. With this information in-hand, I set about figuring out the smartest and most-economical way to begin my Gaming VM journey.
The Not Lawlors helped me to narrow down my right-now graphics processing needs and we found a refurbished NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB with a warranty for under $200. That same card is listed as a minimum system requirement for Genshin Impact and Plex requirements are well below that. My thinking was that if I can’t get the Gaming VM to work, I can give the GPU to Ubuntu for Plex to use for transcoding. I could have found something cheaper for Plex, but I couldn’t use it as a Gaming VM test. Hopefully, it will have a long, happy life with Plex who will never ask more of it than it can give!
I am smart enough to realize that my PowerEdge T640 is missing some required hardware to be able to support GPUs. I initially decided not to get the GPU kit when I bought the server knowing that I could add it later. Now, I need the GPU Power Interposer Board (PIB) (part X7C1K) that connects to the power supply to power the GPUs and the GPU Power Cables (part DRXPD) that plug into the PIB and graphics card(s). I also noted that the original GPU upgrade kit on the Dell server configuration page had Server Mid Fans (part 6KK42) and redundant external fans (parts K22DD & 8DF31). Again, I decided to hold off on buying any unnecessary hardware until I could get what I already had working. Besides, the GPU had a fan, that should be enough for testing, right? So, along with the GPU, I also placed an order for the PIB and the power cables. I found a kit with the PIB and 4 cables for under $100 from ebay.
PIB and GPU installation day!
I’d like to take a moment to thank Dell for their YouTube presence. While their video soundtracks get quite annoying, I’ve found the videos themselves to be immensely helpful!
Thanks to the videos, the installation of the PIB and GTX 1060 went smoothly. I went to power the server back up and that is where the trouble starts. I thought the fans were loud before?!! That was NOTHING compared to what happened when I powered the server up this time. I am pretty sure they were going at 100%. It wasn’t long before the light started blinking amber. After a few minutes, ESXi wasn’t booting so I went to OpenManage and saw that fans 3, 4, 5 & 6 were missing or installed incorrectly and the OS could not boot. Those fans (the server mid fans mentioned above) are apparently required in order to have any GPU installed. Dell doesn’t care if it is for testing, or not! So, I power down the server and order the mid fans. I am now in about $300 for GPU supporting hardware.
Server Mid Fan Installation Day
This was easy. Took all of 2 minutes. Powered up the server and after the initial brief loud fan noise, the server is almost inaudibly quiet. Amber light is still blinking. But, ESXi lives! I am confused because the amber light is still blinking even though the server is running (and very quietly)! OpenManage is switching between redundant fans missing and fans are redundant, but consistently complains about fan r ext missing. After some more digging, it seems as though the PowerEdge expects the external redundant fans to be installed when supporting GPUs. It still works fine without them. I am reluctant to buy them because the server is so quiet now and I don’t want it to be loud, again. So I am going to postpone that purchase for a little later once I can prove that my Gaming VMs work. I just plan to closely watch the temps during my tests. The external fans will add about $200 cost, which would bring the total for GPU support to about $500. Once I put those fans in place, I still will be saving about $600 over what Dell was wanting to charge for the GPU kit at the time of purchase.
It’s so quiet!!!!!