I don’t have room for a couple of rackmount servers anymore so I was thinking of ways to reduce the footprint and noise from my servers. I’ve been very happy with Supermicro hardware so here’s my Supermicro Mini-ITX Datacenter in a box build:
- Motherboard: Supermicro X10SDV-F
- CPU: Xeon D-1540 (embedded on motherboard). 8 physical cores (16 including HT cores)
- Case: Supermicro CSE-721TQ-250B
- Fan: Noctua NF-A6x25
- HDDs: See my hard drives for ZFS post.
- Memory: Crucial 32GB Kit (16GBx2) DDR4-2133 ECC
Supermicro X10SDV Motherboard
Depending on your compute needs, you’ve got a lot of pricing / power flexibility with the Mini-ITX Supermicro X10SDV motherboards with the Xeon D SOC CPU ranging from 2 cores to 16 cores! Here’s a few options:
- X10SDV-2C-TLN2F – Xeon D1508 2 cores @ 2.2GHz @ 25W TDP (7-year life)
- X10SDV-4C+-TLN4F – Xeon D1518 4 cores 2.2GHz @ 35W TDP (7-year life)
- X10SDV-6C+-TLN4F – Xeon D-1528 6 cores 1.9GHz 35W TDP (7-year life)
- X10SDV-TLN4F – Xeon D-1540 8 cores 2GHz @ 45W TDP (global SKU)
- X10SDV-16C+-TLN4F – Xeon D-1587 16 cores 1.7GHz @ 65W TDP (7-year life)
A few things to keep in mind when choosing a board. Some come with a FAN, some don’t. I suggest getting it with a fan unless you’re putting some serious air flow (such as with a 1U server) through the heatsink. I got one without a fan and had to do a Noctua mod (below).
Many versions of this board are rated for 7-years lifespan which means they have components designed to last longer than most boards! Usually computers go obsolete before they die anyway, but it’s nice to have that option if you’re looking for a permanent solution. NAS that’ll last you 7-years isn’t bad at all!
On the last 5 digits, you’ll see two options: “-TLN2F” and “-TLN4F” this refers to the number network Ethernet ports (N2 comes with 2 x gigabit ports, and N4 usually comes with 2 gigabit plus 2 x 10 gigabit ports). 10 gbe ports may come in handy for storage, and also having 4 ports may be useful if you’re going to run a router VM such as pfSense.
I bought the first model just known as the “X10SDV-F” which comes with 8 cores and 2 gigabit network ports. This board looks like it’s designed for high density computing. It’s like cramming dual Xeon E5’s into a Mini-ITX board. The Xeon D-1540 will well outperform the Xeon E3-1230v3 in most tests, can handle up to 128GB memory, two nics (this also comes in a model that offers two more 10Gbe providing four nics), IPMI, 6 SATA-3 ports, a PCI-E slot, and an M.2 slot.
Cooling issue | heatsink not enough
The first boot was fine but it crashed after about 5 minutes while I was in the BIOS setup…. after a few resets I couldn’t even get it to post. I finally realized the CPU was getting too hot. Supermicro probably meant for this model to be in a 1U case with good air flow. The X10SDV-TLN4F is a little extra but it comes with a CPU fan in addition to the 10Gbe network adapters so keep that in mind if you’re trying to decide between the two boards.
Noctua to the Rescue
I couldn’t find a CPU fan designed to fit this particular socket, so I bought a 60MM Noctua.
This is my first Noctua fan and I think it’s the nicest fan I’ve ever owned. It came packaged with screws, rubber leg things, an extension cord, a molex power adapter, and two noise reducer cables that slow the fan down a bit. I actually can’t even hear the fan running at normal speed.
There’s not really a good way to screw the fan and the heatsink into the motherboard together, but I took the four rubber things and sort of tucked them under the heatsink screws. This is surprisingly a secure fit, it’s not ideal but the fan is not going to go anywhere.
This is what you would expect from Supermicro, a quality server-grade case. It comes with a 250 watt 80 plus power supply. Four 3.5″ hotswap bays, trays are the same as you would find on a 16 bay enterprise chassis. Also it comes with labels numbered from 0 to 4 so you could choose to label starting at 0 (the right way) or 1. It is designed to fit two fixed 2.5″ drives, one on the side of the HDD cage, and the other can be used on top instead of an optical drive.
The case is roomy enough to work with, I had no trouble adding an IBM ServerRAID M1015 / LSI 9220-8i
I took this shot just to note that if you could figure out a way to secure an extra drive, there is room to fit three drives, or perhaps two drives even with an optical drive, you’d have to use a Y-splitter to power it. I should also note that you could use the M.2. slot to add another SSD.
The case is pretty quiet, I cannot hear it at all with my other computers running in the same room so I’m not sure how much noise it makes.
This case reminds me of the HP Microserver Gen8 and is probably about the same size and quality but I think a little more roomier and with Supermicro IPMI is free.
Compared to the DS380 the Supermicro CS721 is a more compact. The DS380 has the advantage of being able to hold more drives. The DS380 can fit 8 3.5″ or 2.5″ in hotswap bays plus an additional four 2.5″ fixed in a cage. Between the two cases I much prefer the Supermicro CS-721 even with less drive capacity. The DS380 has vibration issues with all the drives populated, and it’s also not as easy to work with. The CS-721 looks and feels much higher quality.
I’m pretty happy with the build and despite it’s small size it can house a lot of computational power. 8 cores (16 threads) and up to 128GB memory, and even up to 18TB of data. With VMware and ZFS you could run a small datacenter from a box under your desk.
I should be posting some ZFS benchmarks on this build shortly.