Notes Homelab / Dell R730

Last update: — Initially published:
This following are raw notes, often lacking explanations. I share them in the hope of being useful to somebody and for future reference to myself. See here for more info.


See here for the list of drivers and updates for the R730.

What Version Notes
BIOS 2.15.0 🚨 Latest 2.16.0, released 2022-Nov-29, urgent. Details, Release Notes
iDRAC / Lifecycle Controller ⚠️ Latest, released 2023-Mar-10, recommended. Details
PERC H730P Mini ✅ Already on latest, released 2021-Jul-13. Details
Backplane Expander 2.25 ⚠️ Looks like there might be an update to 3.35, but not sure it’s applicable. Details
Power Supply 750W (PN: G6W6K) 00.24.6D ⚠️ Latest 00.30.C2, released 2021-Jul-14, recommended. Details
NIC X540 19.5.12 ✅ Already on latest, released 2020-Feb-14. Details

Table last updated: 2023-May.

Storage Expansion Options

A couple of random things I’ve learned while investigating expansion options:

  1. Dell offers two official expansion options, the others being bespoke and not officially supported nor endorsed:

    1. A “Mid-Bay 4-LFF Kit” with P/N 4FHR4. It supports 4 additional LFF disks and attaches on top of where the CPU and RAM slots sit. In order to fit it requires replacing the default CPU heatsinks with low profile ones (P/N 8K3F3), meaning CPUs get less cooling and run hotter. The bay replaces the cooling shroud, i.e. the black plastic funneling cover behind the fan bar.

      It’s probably the most appropriate way to fit LFF disks into the R730. But the kit is relatively pricey (~300-400€) and I haven’t found an easy way to source it. That’s more than I paid for the entire server so I won’t pursue this option.

    2. A “Rear Flex 2-SFF Bay Kit” with P/N 4CJTY. I’m not sure, but they might only fit the R730xd (sic, xd version). I could find a “Read Flex 2-LFF Bay Kit” with P/N YWTC2. Presumably same caveat re. xd model applies.

      This option isn’t interesting to me since I’m not looking at expanding SFF disks, I have enough free slots in the front bay.

  2. There are two SATA-2 connectors on the system board (between CPU1 and PSUs); one for CD tray, one for Tape Backup Unit (TPU). Beware, SATA-2, not SATA-3, meaning limited to 3 Gbit/s, which wouldn’t be a big issue for hypervisor boot drives on a RAID1. Both connectors can be used to connect ordinary SATA HDDs or SSDs.

  3. The chassis I have is 8-SFF (SFF = Small Form Factor, aka 2.5" drives), with the right bay enclosure empty. This is where an additional 8-SFF bay goes into for the 16-SFF model. It seems to be roughly the size of two stacked 5.25" bays and I’m still assessing whether it will fit two (hot-plug) 3.5"-in-5.25" hot-swap bays, so as to extend the default 8-SFF with 2 additional LFF disks.

    This would allow to build sizeable storage (e.g. 2x20TB RAID1) with fewer and cheaper disks than with LFF disks only. LFF disks are generally smaller in capacity and are more expensive on cost per TB; plus, more drives consume more energy, roughly 5 W per HDD while idle (meaning approx. 20€/year/disk idling with energy prices as of March 2023 in my location).

  4. The R730 cannot natively boot from an NVMe/PCIe drive. There is a project called “clover” to bridge this gap (as far as I’ve understood it’s a USB-booted image that initializes drivers and whatnot and then hands over booting from NVMe/PCIe. I haven’t tested it and won’t pursue this option for now, as I’m not keen on relying on potentially fragile workarounds for a server environment (no offense, haven’t tried it, just being cautious for now).

  5. There is an optional two-slot SD-card reader supporting built-in mirroring for redundancy. This is often used as boot volume, e.g. for ESXi. Additionally there is also an onboard USB slot within the chassis for usage as boot volume, though doesn’t support redundancy.

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