Thoughts on building a silent home storage and virtualization hot swap tower server

kibibyte

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Apr 17, 2021
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Linköping, Sweden
I'd like to build a more powerful home server with hot swap. (What I have now is a Xeon E3-1226 (4c/4t) and 8 GiB RAM in a first generation Fractal Design Define. The reason that I have a separate server box in the first place is that I thought storing all documents on a server and accessing them through Samba/NFS would facilitate dual booting compared to a local file system that both Windows and Linux could work with, but I've been using Linux (Debian) exclusively ever since.) But there's a bunch of compatibility aspects that are making me dizzy, so I'm wondering if I could get some

I don't think I have the room, nor the need, for a proper rack, but I could possibly use a 4U RM chassis on my shelf, as long as it's quiet enough.

I think I want to build around an EPYC 7002 series CPU, even though Ice Lake has just come out and the motherboard options are fewer.

There aren't awfully many (midi)tower hot swap chassis to choose from. I've basically found two:
  • Supermicro SC743-*-SQ series
    • 4U wide, one rear 92 mm fan and two middle 80 mm fans (but with room for four). I hear that it's "really quiet" but shouldn't a chassis with 120 mm fans generally be even quieter?
    • Available with a couple different SAS/SATA backplanes: SAS-743TQ (6 Gb/s, I assume) with 8 SATA connectors, SAS3-743A (12 Gb/s SAS 3.0) with two MiniSAS HD connectors, and SAS3-743A-4N (well, I think this one has to be purchased separately). Like A but four of the bays also support U.2 with OCuLink connectors, but do they support PCIe 4.0 speeds?
    • I don't like that the PSU mounting holes aren't standard ATX, but I guess the PSU is of high quality and will last for a long time.
    • The newest model comes with a modular PSU. A 1.2 kW PSU is ridiculously overpowered, but it's an 80+ Platinum one. There are other models with
  • Chenbro SR107 Plus
    • 5U wide, one rear and two middle 120 mm fans.
    • Available with two different backplanes (SATA or Mini-SAS HD connectors), but both supporting 12 Gb/s
    • I'm going to have to import this from Norway (to Sweden), it's not going to be that cheap, and I'm not sure which backplane it comes with.
  • Initially I was looking at Silverstone CS380, but it seems that its airflow design sucks. There's also the CS381, but I think it's a little too compact for my taste (and too many screws).
Motherboards. All of these have 2×10GBase-T Ethernet:
  • Supermicro H12SSL-NT
    • With two SlimSAS x8 ports, both of which can be configured to serve 8 SATA or 2 NVMe drives. I'm just a bit worried that this motherboard will have the same problem that wrote about in another post, that bays that are empty at boot will be disabled until the next boot. No SATA DOM ports.
    • I'm unsure if the sideband pins of the SlimSAS connectors are used, or if I have to use the SGPIO connectors, which is not an option with the SAS3-743A backplane.
  • Supermicro H12SSL-CT
    • With Broadcom 3008 SAS controller. I don't think I'll buy SAS disks (I'm content with enterprise SATA disks), but hopefully it will at least avoid the problem mentioned above.
  • ASRock Rack ROMED8-2T
    • Very positively reviewed by STH. 8 SATA ports via 2 Mini-SAS HD connectors, as well as 2 OCuLink.
  • ASRock Rack ROMED6U-2L2T
    • As a µATX board, trades two PCIe slots for another Mini-SAS HD for SATA as well as three SlimSAS x8 (instead of the two OCuLinks), giving all the storage options I could possibly need. In contrast to ROMED8-2T, this also has three SGPIO headers, but that won't help me except with the TQ backplane.
The ASRock Rack boards each have one (5-pin) SMBus header meant to be connected to a backplane. The SAS-743-TQ backplane and the Chenbro backplanes all have an I²C header per four bays. Would it be possible to get them to work together on some level (connecting both backplane halves together; it's a bus after all)? Or should I forget about being able to light up the error LEDs? There's another SMBus header as part of the AUX_PANEL1 header, which could perhaps be used. Why are there so many SMBus headers for different purposes and with the pins in different orders?

Speaking of AUX_PANEL1, that seems more standard than the JF1 header the Supermicro motherboards have. I've no idea if their chassis have a single monolithic connector that you plonk down on JF1; the manual only says "designed specifically for use with Supermicro chassis".

So I'm leaning towards going all Supermicro for the best chance of everything working together, and also because it's easier to get hold of, but on the other hand I don't want to be locked in to one vendor if I want to keep the case in the future. Do you have any experience of this, or what would you do?

For the CPU heatsink, I was planning on using Noctua's SP3-specialized ones, but then I realised that they blow sideways, so I'll probably have to go with Supermicro's 4U heatsink even in the Chenbro case, where a larger one would fit.
 

uldise

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Jul 2, 2020
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i think you should stay on Supermicro to avoid compatibility problems..
if you wanna bigger fans, then look at 747 series too.
i have one CSE-743TQ-865B-SQ, but modded middle fan wall a bit and placed 3 120mm Noctua industrial fans. since i have not a very big load all the time, i removed rear fan at all - it was so loud - much louder than my 3 Noctuas. now box is nearly silent at idle, and with moderate noise at load..
 
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tuatara

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Mar 2, 2016
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+1 to uldise's advice to stick with Supermicro.

FYI - I've just listed a CSE-747 super cheap in the sale section. It has the 1400 W SuperQuiet power supplies already and could be modded with quieter chassis fans.
 

i386

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Mar 18, 2016
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I hear that it's "really quiet" but shouldn't a chassis with 120 mm fans generally be even quieter?
It depends :D
Are the 120mm fans spinning at the same rpm? Then no.
Supermicro SC743-*-SQ series
I would recommend the 745 series. It uses the same psus like the rackmount chassis (eg 920-sq psu), allows redundant psus (or psu + battery pack).
(And I think the cabling is little bit easier than the 747, especially with dual cpus where the second cpu is near the rear fans.)
SAS3-743A-4N
, but do they support PCIe 4.0 speeds?
I think they should support it.
I've ordered two of these backplanes, but I don't have any pcie 4.0 mainboard or ssds yet.
All of these have 2×10GBase-T Ethernet
I started to like sfp+ and it's faster variants since I got my first connect-x2 nic. I think it's better because you could use dac cables for short distances and fiber for "long" distances and "scale up" to 40GBE and faster ethernet in the future (with fiber infrastructure) :D
 

kibibyte

New Member
Apr 17, 2021
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Linköping, Sweden
i think you should stay on Supermicro to avoid compatibility problems..
if you wanna bigger fans, then look at 747 series too.
The listed models all have two rear 80 mm fans, though, but on the other hand the middle fans are 92 mm. They are also much more expensive, with 2 kW redundant PSUs.
i have one CSE-743TQ-865B-SQ, but modded middle fan wall a bit and placed 3 120mm Noctua industrial fans. since i have not a very big load all the time, i removed rear fan at all - it was so loud - much louder than my 3 Noctuas. now box is nearly silent at idle, and with moderate noise at load..
How did you do that? Could you also please tell me what the connection to the front panel looks like? If it's like the server we got at my workplace, it's ribbon cable, and I should definitely not try to put a non-Supermicro motherboard in a Supermicro chassis. The reverse probably has a bigger chance of success.

After a closer look at the Chenbro backplanes, it looks like they do support SGPIO and that I²C is only for reading temperature and fan speed. We'll see if I get a reply from their tech support.
 
Last edited:

uldise

Active Member
Jul 2, 2020
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How did you do that?
it's a full DIY variant - with a metal saw removed all unnecessary parts from fan wall, drilled new holes for fan screws. in places where there are not possible to drill new hole, just tied two fans together. 3x120mm all together side by side fits just fine.
Could you also please tell me what the connection to the front panel looks like?
i'm not sure about this - but if i remember correctly, this is old style without connector..
can't access this server at the moment..
 

kibibyte

New Member
Apr 17, 2021
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Linköping, Sweden
Could you also please tell me what the connection to the front panel looks like? If it's like the server we got at my workplace, it's ribbon cable, and I should definitely not try to put a non-Supermicro motherboard in a Supermicro chassis. The reverse probably has a bigger chance of success.
Apparently I can simply buy this if I need to split such a connector into individual connectors that can be used with a non-Supermicro motherboard.
 

sth

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Oct 29, 2015
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Did I miss where you listed how much storage and/or drives you needed? If you need 24 x largeTB disks then you have no option but to go with a bigger server case, but honestly I have so much stuff rammed into the silent Cs831 is ridiculous. 6 HGST 16TB, 4 HGST SS530s all SAS3 12gbps connections via a LSI 9405. Fanless hardware transcoding with a Geforce Quadro 2200, 256GB of RAM and a 12c Xeon-d 2100 CPU. Unless you need lots of spindles, dont rule out he smaller chassis if silent is important.
 

kibibyte

New Member
Apr 17, 2021
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Linköping, Sweden
Did I miss where you listed how much storage and/or drives you needed? If you need 24 x largeTB disks then you have no option but to go with a bigger server case, but honestly I have so much stuff rammed into the silent Cs831 is ridiculous. 6 HGST 16TB, 4 HGST SS530s all SAS3 12gbps connections via a LSI 9405. Fanless hardware transcoding with a Geforce Quadro 2200, 256GB of RAM and a 12c Xeon-d 2100 CPU. Unless you need lots of spindles, dont rule out he smaller chassis if silent is important.
I'm not seeing myself needing more storage space than I can fit in the cases I listed. I'm not really going for a Plex server or the like, just a general file and virtualization server. Maybe an embedded processor would suffice for my needs, and maybe I'm limiting my options too much by deciding on AMD EPYC.
 

sth

Active Member
Oct 29, 2015
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With some more details of your processing expectations, and storage needs, we could advise re chassis. 4U chassis are big, heavy and noisy so if you dont need the capabilities, its probably worth considering other options.