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We're repurposing some old servers and need to put new RAM in them. There's a disconnect between the quote I'm getting from our usual supplier and what it seems like things should cost. (This is kind of an ongoing thing.) I'd like to know if, as more of a development guy than an admin guy, I'm just missing something. Wouldn't be the first time (but it wouldn't be the first time I'd pushed back on a similar point and been right, either).

The servers are old HP ProLiant DL380 G4 machines. The supplier is quoting us £275/2GB module of PC2-3200 DDR2 RAM, so bringing a server up to 4GB (which is all we really need) would be £550/machine.

But a quick check at crucial.com, walking through their selector and choosing that specific server model, tells me a two-pack of 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 modules for £125 should do the trick at less than a quarter the cost. Edit: Yes, it's ECC, and yes, it's registered. Specifically, the link above tells us it's "DDR2 PC2-5300 • CL=5 • Single Ranked • Registered • ECC • DDR2-667 • 1.8V • 256Meg x 72". Edit: And as pipTheGeek points out, scan.co.uk has a very similar price (£140) on the Corsair-branded equivalent. (All of these are ex-VAT.)

The overview specs on the DL380 say "PC2-3200R DDR2", the quick technical specs say "Six PC2-3200R 400MHz DDR2 Sockets". It's my understanding — and apparently Crucial's — that I can run the PC2-5300s in the machine, albeit at PC2-3200 speeds.

So am I missing something? Is Crucial's stuff (which I've used for years without any trouble whatsoever) consumer-grade or dodgy or whatever in some way that makes it genuinely worth paying four times as much for something special? Or is the supplier being pedantic and sourcing PC-3200 RAM (which has to be relatively hard to find these days) because that's what the DL380 specs say, failing to consider that PC-5300 should work just fine? Or are they right that we shouldn't put PC-5300 stuff in the machines?

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It's my understanding that the "R" in PC2-3200R stands for registered, so you need to ensure that's what you buy. If Crucial is so confident that what they're selling is compatible get them to back it up with a money back return policy. –  John Gardeniers Oct 28 '10 at 23:41
    
@John: Thanks. The Crucial RAM I linked to is indeed registered, and they do have a money-back policy. –  T.J. Crowder Oct 29 '10 at 6:09

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

pc3200 is DDR (one). PC5300 is DDR2 which is NOT compatable, it has a different connector and works on a different voltage. Before you decide if your supplier is charging too much you need to find someone still selling DDR which is going to be more than DDR2.

EDIT: Just checked on scan.co.uk, a 2GB stick of ECC registered DDR400 (aka PC3200) is £128. If your server requires non registered or non ECC then it will probably be cheaper.

EDIT after OP's comment: Trust the spec sheet then. In the consumer space there was no overlap between the clock speeds of DDR and DDR2, sadly this isn't the case for servers. Again, looking at Scan you can get a 2GB stick of DDR2 400Mhz for £82 (my previous price was wrong, woops).

I'm not a server admin, but I think your supplier is trying it on. You are correct that higher rated DDR2 will run happily at a slower speed. I would be cautious before buying generic RAM, but Crucial is a pretty big name. I wouldn't imagine you to have any issues with their RAM.

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...and see what effect its going to have on any warranties / maintenance agreemets you've got for the hardware! –  symcbean Oct 28 '10 at 16:27
    
See, this is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking might be the case. But the ProLiant's spec sheet says it has DDR2 slots, not DDR slots, and the overview page says "PC2-3200R DDR2". Just added that to the question. –  T.J. Crowder Oct 28 '10 at 16:36
    
My bad, the question read "PC-3200" when it should have read "PC2-3200". Just caught that. Fixed. –  T.J. Crowder Oct 28 '10 at 16:38
    
Answer updated after mix up over DDR / DDR2 has been sorted. –  pipTheGeek Oct 28 '10 at 16:41
    
Cheers, sorry for the mix-up. –  T.J. Crowder Oct 28 '10 at 16:44

Sounds to me like the supplier is trying to earn too much. I remember the same thing with Dell Blades - the reason I stil dont have them.

They quoted 4 times the Kingston rate. They justified that with 4 hour on site replacements. I told them I could buy 2 sets of RAM (note: we talk og 64gb here) and would have on site in 5 minutes, as the on hands technicians in the hosting center could do it, too - and it would STILL be HALF as expensive. And that ssumes I keep a full 64gb replacement on site, which makes little sense.

Some vendors are just sometimes totally bonkers with their pricing.

Nowadays I bguy SuperMicro stuff barebone and get good components (well, CPU, discs, RAM) from regular shops. The saved money keeps some spares on site.

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Tyan together with Chieftec cases also works great. –  Hubert Kario Oct 28 '10 at 17:46

I'm something of a HP server geek and I can assure you that Crucial P/N: CT850337 is the correct part, they are £124.99 each before VAT and will work just fine.

Although some manufacturers memory is better made and less likely to kill your server, in the same way as a delicious sangwitch from one shop might be better than from another less tasty outlet, they both do the basic job perfectly well.

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Cheers, glad to know I'm not just missing something obvious. –  T.J. Crowder Oct 29 '10 at 7:50

In theory, you buy the ram for prod machines that are under a service contract from the maker, under the one neck to squeeze theory. This is expensive. But, if not critical, sure, buy Crucial, it should work just fine, it just might make HP less than thrilled if you have an issue.

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Thanks. The supplier isn't HP, but they may well be buying through some HP-approved intermediary (hence the cost). Technically the machines are under some kind of service agreement, but I don't know that it's HP's any more (they're over five years old). –  T.J. Crowder Oct 28 '10 at 17:43

It's entirely possible that the RAM your supplier is selling is ECC RAM, which is more suitable for servers that need to never, ever crash. Likewise, the cost goes way up.

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The Crucial memory I linked to is ECC. Specifically, it's "DDR2 PC2-5300 • CL=5 • Single Ranked • Registered • ECC • DDR2-667 • 1.8V • 256Meg x 72" –  T.J. Crowder Oct 29 '10 at 6:11
    
And the cost does not go way up just for ECC. More expensive is not way up. I was just buying 32gb ECC Kingston memory for about... 1400 USD. –  TomTom Oct 29 '10 at 6:24

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