Truly quiet Supermicro 826/836/846?

Tacocat

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Nov 23, 2015
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Hey guys,

I would love to convert all of my random computer equipment into 19" rack format to make it easier to manage and hopefully require a bit less space.

As I live in an apartment with very limited space for equipment I would need to keep the rack/cabinet in the living room and as a consequence of that whatever I put in it need to be as quiet as possible if it is going to be an option (WAF basically).

I've been looking around for rack chassis options but I've basically narrowed it down to any of the current Supermicro models 826/836/846. I don't have huge storage demands so the 12 disks might suffice for the forseeable future. It basically boils down to features (PSU, backplane) and noise level.

I (think I) would like to have a backplane with expander for ease of use and 826 and 846 are both available with SAS3 expander backplane. The 836 however is only SAS2 if I want the SQ PSU. Other options with SAS3 are the 1k and 1.2k titanium PSUs which I don't know the noise levels of. Considering I would want to keep this case around for a bunch of years would it be stupid to not go for SAS3?

I'm not too worried about fan noise as I will be getting one of the SQ PSUs (920W or 1280W) and there seem to be plenty of chassis fan hacks around. What I am worried about however is noise generated from the HDDs as they are hard mounted to the drive sleds. Compared to the rubber grommets in my current NAS consumer case it makes sense they make more noise. Question is how much? (I'll be putting 5400rpm WD Red in it for now).

Rough pricing for new chassis here in Sweden:

- SC826/920SQ/SAS3 €990 $1230
- SC836/92oSQ/SAS2 €1050 $1300
- SC846/1280SQ/SAS3 €1470 $1820

Cheers :)
 

BLinux

cat lover server enthusiast
Jul 7, 2016
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honestly, these days I rarely notice the noise from hard drives, even 7200 RPM SATA drives are pretty quiet to me. before you worry about that kind of noise, i would say that you're going to notice the fan noise before you even hear the hard drives.

also, about backplane... there are upgrade paths. So even if you get a SAS2 or "A" or "TQ" backplane now, you can upgrade later. I wouldn't worry about SAS3 unless you plan to use SAS3 SSDs. If you're planning to use spinning drives, you don't even need 6Gbps (SAS2/SATA3), other than to handle larger HDD.
 

Tacocat

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Nov 23, 2015
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Hardware/software raid? SSD caching?
Zfs?
I'll be running virtualized FreeNAS under Proxmox (or ESXi) for now. Supermicro X11 mATX + E3-1240v5 + 64GB + m1015.

Edit: SSD is a good question and why I'm not sure about how many bays I would need. Right now the 2x2.5" hotswap bays in the rear would suffice for OS/VM storage but as prices hopefully start coming down for SSD storage I might want to add more. Good point!

Would like to add 10Gbit SFP+ as well soon as I have a switch that supports it.

honestly, these days I rarely notice the noise from hard drives, even 7200 RPM SATA drives are pretty quiet to me. before you worry about that kind of noise, i would say that you're going to notice the fan noise before you even hear the hard drives.
Ok, that sounds reassuring. :) I'd hate to spend that amount of money and not be able to use it.

Anyone else have feedback on noise levels from hot swap mounted drives?

also, about backplane... there are upgrade paths. So even if you get a SAS2 or "A" or "TQ" backplane now, you can upgrade later. I wouldn't worry about SAS3 unless you plan to use SAS3 SSDs. If you're planning to use spinning drives, you don't even need 6Gbps (SAS2/SATA3), other than to handle larger HDD.
Yes, I'm aware that it's possible to upgrade the backplane (at a cost). As I will be buying them new I get to pick backplane and that's why I'm wondering if I should go with SAS3 to future proof it somewhat.

SC826
+ SQ PSU
+ SAS3
+ cheapest
- Only 12 bays

SC836 #1
+ SQ PSU
+ 16 bays
- SAS2

SC836 #2
+ 16 bays
+ SAS3
- 1k/1.2k PSU is not SQ, unsure about noise level

SC846
+ 24 bays
+ SAS3
+ SQ PSU
- expensive
 

i386

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Mar 18, 2016
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What I am worried about however is noise generated from the HDDs as they are hard mounted to the drive sleds.
With zfs you will reduce the seeking noise once ram/l2arc cache is filled. (That's what I was thinking of with "SSD caching").

I bought a 836b with "A" backplane two years ago becuase it supports full profile add on cards (for cheap iodrives & hbas/controllers from ebay :D), tower coolers (=quiet system) and has many drive bays.
Nowadays I would buy a 846 and the fastest expander backplane available.
846 becuase of drive bays, support for larger coolers and full profile aic. Expander backplane becuase 8gbyte/s is more than enough for spinning rust (and if you need performance you will use nvme devices anyway).
even 7200 RPM SATA drives are pretty quiet to me.
:(
I have a 836 full with 6tb deskstar nas and when I have workloads with a bunch of random reads/writes they are louder (actually it's likely "more anoying") than the system fans. Hate that seeking noise.
 

Tacocat

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Nov 23, 2015
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Thanks for your input i386! I'm leaning toward the 846 despite the extra cost for the reasons you outline as well.

Looking forward to having server grade hardware at home finally!
 

BobbyB

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Dec 26, 2016
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Is your primary concern consolidation of systems into a rack or noise levels? I know, both, but in what order? :)
Loudness is very relative and what might be noisy to one person might be perfectly acceptable to another. I'd not expect to keep any normal rack server with spindles less loud than a consumer multi (6+) NAS unit, at least not noticably. See how much of the noise the fan(s) do and how much the current drives, at night when its very quiet.
Some ideas to consider
-will your consumer disks survive in a large system like the 846, with 24 spinning drives in an unit? Vibration etc having an effect on lifetime.
-do you truly need 24x 10-14TB drives? Sure you might have 2-6TB old drive that you want to reuse, is it worthwhile keeping them and not getting less, new, helium drives? 8TB drives are sub 200E these days every day and 10TB WD RED are hitting 250E if one looks for deals and waits few weeks. If I learned anything over the decades, it's buy IT equipment for home what you need and not what you might need, would save a lot of unneeded expenditure. Check your needs and be honest, but perhaps you do need it due to 4/8K video etc.
- large enclosures have their benefits with slower spinning chassis fans, but will you have enough airflow for the HBAs and 10GBE NICs? They tend to run quite hot
- do you want to rack audio equipment in same rack? So next/close to TV/projector?
- some dedicated office corner where the printer etc can be is ideal, along with desk, keeping the rack out of audio range, mostly as far as possible from the sofa
- considered a sound insulating rack like the APC netshelter CX? Costs an arm, kidney and both legs but are supposed to be great (no first hand experience, if I ever find a 18U one sub ~700Eur it's mine)
- co-location for the server anywhere an option perhaps? If internet pipe is big enough, why not for most cold storage and keep a SSD NAS at home for important data. 2TB SATA SDDs aren't expensive anymore.
- SM CS825s are super cheap even in EU, used, take 8x3.5" caddies and you can add 4x 2.5" slots for SSDs. Not a bad deal, saw one with PDU, TQ backplane and without PSUs in Germany for 110E just a day ago on Ebay. Add a PSU, second cheap one for failure and you are set for now. 80mm fans are bit louder but maybe tollerable if swapped with the green ones (info around on forums which ones).
Again, sound is relative to each person and I would expect similar or slightly louder noise floor than the existing NAS unit even with all considerations taken. Large spinning rust arrays are simply noticable for me in a quiet room, as are fans. Consolidating several units is always great, but again a benefit for 2 small, cheap CS825s instead of a new 836/846, allowing to split workload and tinker.

I personally find the 740W Plat PSUs (non-SQ) plenty quiet, but then again I'm surrounded by a PC with three radioators and 14fans right next to me and not bothered by the whirring sound. It sure would bother me during quiet scenes while watching a movie, in the living room, at night, however.
There is no right answer when it comes to pleasing the wife with servers in the living room :D
 

Tacocat

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Nov 23, 2015
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Is your primary concern consolidation of systems into a rack or noise levels? I know, both, but in what order? :)
Loudness is very relative and what might be noisy to one person might be perfectly acceptable to another. I'd not expect to keep any normal rack server with spindles less loud than a consumer multi (6+) NAS unit, at least not noticably. See how much of the noise the fan(s) do and how much the current drives, at night when its very quiet.
You mean I can't have both compact and quiet!? :'( :D

To be honest excessive noise would be a deal breaker for sure. It's hard to beat the setup I'm using now since it's much smaller (only 2x HDD) and in a consumer chassis with rubber mounted disks and slow running fans.

Some ideas to consider
-will your consumer disks survive in a large system like the 846, with 24 spinning drives in an unit? Vibration etc having an effect on lifetime.
-do you truly need 24x 10-14TB drives? Sure you might have 2-6TB old drive that you want to reuse, is it worthwhile keeping them and not getting less, new, helium drives? 8TB drives are sub 200E these days every day and 10TB WD RED are hitting 250E if one looks for deals and waits few weeks. If I learned anything over the decades, it's buy IT equipment for home what you need and not what you might need, would save a lot of unneeded expenditure. Check your needs and be honest, but perhaps you do need it due to 4/8K video etc.
I'll be using 6x 8TB new WD reds along with the two 4TB WD reds from the old nas so they should be up to the task. I don't expect storage needs to exceed this for quite a while but I also don't want to buy something that exactly fits my current needs as they may change.

Some spare trays are also nice for the day you want to upgrade as you can add a new set of disks in the same chassis. Consider current need would be 6x drives with room to add another similar sized pool in the future. That's 12 bays. Then consider I might want to add a smaller pool of SSDs for faster, shorter term storage. That might be another 4 bays or so. Now you've potentially filled 16 bays.

Rack chassis:
+ Compact
+ WAY WAY easier cabling
+ Being able to re-organize existing equipment (FW, switch) and future servers in a compact, consistent way
+ Bays for days
- Expensive
- If it's too loud no matter where I put it I've wasted €1400 and still need to re-do everything

Consumer chassis:
+ Quietest option, no question
+ Cheaper
- A huge mess to setup power and SATA connectors for 10+ drives in cramped consumer cases
- Hard to get consistent cooling for drives
- Much less compact if you consider other potentially rackable equipment as well as future servers
- Will not support expansion of HDDs

It's all a gamble.

There is no right answer when it comes to pleasing the wife with servers in the living room :D
No kidding! :D
 

halfelite

Member
Oct 10, 2014
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I made my SC846 as quiet as I could get it. Unless you are sitting next to it you don't really hear it but it took a lot of work and a lot of parts to be found. Things that made a huge difference.

Removed stock screaming PSU and replaced with the 920p SQ model this was a huge difference. I originally planned to modify the case to take a desktop PSU but changed my mind

Next I removed all the stock fans and brackets I had to do some modifications and drilled holes but I swapped all fans for Noctua fans with PWM this was another huge impact while you can control the stock fans with PWM they still moved a lot more air then I needed.

I also removed the plastic air funnel thing as I put a board with an I3 with stock intel cooler so did not need to pull the air over the CPU.


Sitting about 3 feet away it hits under 45db if you are right on top of it its around 50db
 

halfelite

Member
Oct 10, 2014
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That is a nice way of doing it. Wish I would have known it fit. I modified the stock fan rack and the back of the case to mount the noctua fans
 

Tacocat

New Member
Nov 23, 2015
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As an update to this I managed to cram 8x 3.5", 2x 2.5" into a Fractal Design R5 case to start running badblocks on the drives.

For a consumer case it has a decent setup of fans and drive bays but drive temps are still between 32-36 degrees with the 2x 120mm front fans running full speed. It's nowhere quiet enough in this configuration and I'm worried I cannot turn the fans down much without affecting cooling too much.

I saw this thread on reddit and would not be opposed to similar modding myself. Making a quiet Supermicro SC846 build - a short overview of my 100 TB file server (homelab xpost) • r/DataHoarder
 

Orm1server

New Member
Jan 29, 2019
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Hey guys and gals, been reading thru this for over a month and finally adding to it. I know this is old thread but I created a 3d print to convert the center fan array in a cse846 to (3) 120mm fans and it doesn't require any additional holes. It's also designed to be pieced together meaning for smaller print beds. Just thought since you all helped me I can share the love. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3384281

If this deserves to go elsewhere in forum please let me know or move it.

Thanks,
Steve
 

Sittingmongoose

New Member
Apr 8, 2019
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Hey guys and gals, been reading thru this for over a month and finally adding to it. I know this is old thread but I created a 3d print to convert the center fan array in a cse846 to (3) 120mm fans and it doesn't require any additional holes. It's also designed to be pieced together meaning for smaller print beds. Just thought since you all helped me I can share the love. SUPERMICRO CSE846 120MM CENTER FAN ARRAY (FOR SMALLER PRINT BEDS) by krashkart

If this deserves to go elsewhere in forum please let me know or move it.

Thanks,
Steve
Thanks for this! I was just texted my friend about making one of these!