From Earlham Cluster Department
Intel, specifically Stephen Wheat, recently donated about 60 2U Intel servers to the LittleFe project. They are engineering samples (and are clearly marked as such) which were used for a customer demonstration. The motherboards and CPUs are pre-production units.
- 2U cases, very butch with a dual hot-swappable power supply module (only one is populated), 5 case blower fans and space for 6 drives plus a slimline DVD/CD and floppy module.
- Extended ATX form-factor dual CPU motherboard, pre-production. Only supports SATA drives, no ATA/IDE or SCSI. There is no identifiable model number on the motherboard but there are markings that I think would allow us to track-down a manual from Intel.
- Non-standard DVD/CD cable and interface (marked as such).
- 2 3.2GHz dual core CPUs, pre-production. I think they are Xeons but without an actual model number it's hard to tell.
- Slimline DVD/CD drive.
- No memory, it only takes ECC modules which currently run about $200/gigabyte.
- No disk drives.
LittleFe Design Issues
- Large, the extended ATX form-factor would just fit in our current Pelican case if mounted horizontally in a modified aluminum frame.
- Tall, with the CPU heat sinks we will need about 2.5" OC vertical spacing which means we could fit at most 3, probably 2, motherboards per unit. With 2 boards we would have an 8 core LittleFe unit.
- Heavy, the heat-sinks and motherboards weigh about 10 pounds for 1 motherboard, 2 CPU/heatsink assemblies, and 2 1 gigabyte memory sticks (even they are heavy, they include heat sinks).
- Cooling will be a challenge, the CPU/heatsink combination expects 3 case coolers worth of air, or 6 with 2 motherboards. Case coolers are high velocity fans that draw a significant amount of power and emit a lot of noise.
- Due to their weight, horizontal orientation, and heatsink mounting the motherboards will require significant support, given their design the way to do this is by slicing the bottom off the 2U case and then mounting that to our plate. This could be done with a reciprocating saw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reciprocating_saw).
- Non-standard interfaces such as the CD/DVD will complicate support.
- Expensive memory.
Extended testing, Intel's engineer said that some of the boards are likely to fail after 12-24 hous of run-time.
My take is that we would be better off trying to find support (memory, disk, network fabric, space, electricity, management) to set-up the reliable sub-set as a fixed cluster for curriculum design/development and educational use by NCSI/SC Education community than we would be trying to build LittleFe units out of this hardware.
Stephen said there was a strong possibility that another batch of slightly more production machines might become available during Q1 2007.
- Emails from Stephen and Paul with background on the machines in Earlham/NCSI/Intel-Donation.