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Sunday, September 28, 2008

24-Core Linux Cluster in a $29.99 Case from IKEA

Update: Why Would Anyone Need a Computer Cluster?

For many applications such as real-time stock prediction algorithms or brain simulations, there is a need for extremely fast and massively parallel computing. My friend, Alex Nugent, and I needed some enormous computational power for some projects we are working on and wanted a cheap and elegant solution. We already built a handful of dual-core headless Linux boxes and added them to our local network, but we could see that adding more would not go too far because of space limitations. What we needed was a compact and efficient design with maximal core density. Rack mountable servers were quite expensive relative to a hand-built quad-core Linux boxes. We imagined there existed some kind of cabinet that would be perfect for housing a bunch of computers. Each host in the cluster would consist of the bare minimal of components for our applications with a main emphasis on fast processing and less on RAM and hard drive capacity. The enclosures for each host would have to hold a motherboard, power supply, RAM, CPU w/ fan, and hard drive.





I looked around on the Ikea website and after an hour, I pared down all possible furniture pieces to Helmer. About five minutes later, I checked out Digg, and the third story from the top was coincidentally about a guy in Sweden who built a Linux cluster into a Helmer cabinet. The very next day I received an IKEA advertisement showing Helmer on sale for only $29.99 from $49.99. At that point, I was sure that the Helmer cabinet was meant to be the future case our our cluster, and I picked it up the next day! The following is an illustrated guide to building your own 24-core Linux cluster in pictures.

Components:
(1) Ikea Helmer Cabinet $29.99
(6) BioStar TForce TA780G M2+ Motherboard $79.99
(6) AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black CPU $169.00
(6) Antec EA380 380 W Power Supply Unit $59.99
(6) Toshiba 80-GB Sata2 Laptop Hard Drive $49.99
(6) G-Skill 1GBX2 DDR2 RAM $42.99
(6) EverCool 50mm Case Fan $3.79
(6) 3-foot LAN Patch Cables $1.49
(1) 8-Plug Surge Protected Power Strip $39.99
(1) TrendNet 8-Port Unmanaged Switch $18.49
(6) Linux Operating Systems $00.00
Misc. Parts $20.00
----------------------------------------------------------
Total $2550.11

Component Layout
We wanted to keep Helmer's drawers as intact as possible in order to maintain a sound and stable finished product. Besides just looking clean and elegant, building each host into a single drawer organizes and modularizes everything nicely for future maintenance. I wonder if the Helmer designer at Ikea made the drawers exactly for this because the components fit inside perfectly without a millimeter to spare in some instances. The power supply, which is a 380 W full size ATX PSU sits flush with the top of the drawer. The micro-ATX mobo (motherboard) fits in the rest of the space with about a millimeter to spare from front to back and about a centimeter on the left side of the drawer. A regular 3.5 inch form factor hard drive won't fit in the remaining space next to the PSU, so we ended up going with a 2.5 inch form factor laptop hard drive. It fits almost perfectly with a few millimeters to spare. The distance from the CPU fan to the bottom of the above drawer is about 2.5 cm. All the cabling fits beautifully after we removed some of the unnecessary power lines from the PSU. Always take Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) precautions when handling any printed circuit boards or raw circuitry.

Case Cooling
Since the PSU fan blows air out the back of the drawer, we designed the rest of the cooling system so that air would move from the front and out the back. We made cutouts for the PSU and an additional 50 mm case fan on the back of the drawer, and we modified the label holder on the front of the draw to let air in. Holes were drilled to attach the PSU to three of the four attachment points and all four attachment points for the case fan. There is enough space between the PSU and the case fan for the LAN patch cable to exit. After a bit of trial and error the easiest way to cut the correct shapes in the back of the drawers is to use a cut-cut-score method. After you have the cutout pattern drawn on the sheet metal, you take a sheet metal snips and make two cuts on two sides of a triangle. For the third side of the triangle, score the metal with a razor blade and bend the metal back and forth along the score line until it snaps off. Repeat that until the entire cutout is achieved. The front air inlet port is very easy to create. Insert a hack saw blade into the label holder on front of the drawer and cut along the bottom edge to the other side. Bend the flap of metal back into the drawer.

Modifications
The power supplies we bought had a lot of extra power wires coming out of it than we needed and they took up valuable cooling space inside the case. We decided to cut all the wires we didn't need and toss them away. After cutting the unnecessary wires, you need to terminate the ends some way. We attached all similar-colored wires together and terminated the end with a wire nut. Make sure to screw the wire nut on very tight and also attach it with some electrical tape so it can't accidentally come off. If for some reason in the future, one of these wires escapes and touches the mobo or the case, the entire cluster could be fried! We also added a push-button power switch to the front of the case. Make sure to get normally-off momentary push button switches. You need to drill a hole for the switch in the front of the drawer, solder a wire to the switch, and attach a Molex connector to the other end of the wire to attach to the on/off jumpers on the mobo. Since the cluster is designed to be headless (no monitor connected, managed remotely), it's OK that it's impossible to connect external hardware to the mobo except for the LAN patch cable. Because of the tight quarters between the LAN port and the side of the drawer, we had to modify the LAN patch cable by removing the plastic cable wrapping directly behind the clear plastic plug with a razor blade so that the actual wires could bend 90 degrees after exiting the connector. Finally, you need to extend the length of the case fan wires using simple crimp-style wire connectors.

Final Steps
Before you put all the computer parts in each drawer case, you need to piece the computer together on a table and modify a few BIOS settings and install an operating system of your choice with an optical drive. Otherwise, after you have all the components in, it is a bit difficult to hook up a monitor, keyboard and mouse to the mobo because of the tight space. We adjusted the BIOS settings to enable the Wake-On-LAN feature, which I blogged about previously here. We installed Xubuntu on each host. While I'm sure there is a different flavor of Linux more appropriate for a headless Linux host, we went with Xubuntu because we're comfortable with it. If you have a suggestion of what OS would be better, please leave a comment. The only constraint is that we need to be able to run a Java program. After you have all the hardware and software modifications complete, put all the components into each drawer and into the Helmer cabinet. Connect each PSU and the router to the power strip and each host to the router. Plug the router into your local area network (LAN) and you have 24 cores more at your service!

While we have not yet quantified how "fast" our cluster is, we have been able to finish our computations roughly 24 times faster than one of our single core computers, which translates to an immense gain in productivity. That means, what would take 24 hours before can be accomplished in one hour. We still want to play around with some over-clocking, and we'll ramp up to that eventually. At idle speed, the CPU temps are are around 30 degrees Celsius. With all 24 cores at 100% load, the CPU temperatures stay at a nice and warm temperature of about 45 degrees Celsius. The air flow through the drawers sufficiently keeps the components cool, and at full tilt, you can feel a strong warm breeze come out of the rear of Helmer.

Other Thoughts
The idea of building a 6-host 24-core cluster in such a small space for such a low price tag of $2550.11 is very attractive not only for specialty applications, but also for businesses or educational departments looking to invest in a handful of servers. With Linux desktop and server operating systems such as Ubuntu forcefully emerging on the scene and taking away market share from Microsoft, people will inevitably embrace these faster, safer, easier and more elegant computing systems. That, in combination with compact, reliable, and inexpensive computer hardware will pave the way to better systems at any scale. I'm guessing that using Helmer cases and quad-core AMD processors, one could build the world's fastest and most efficient super computer at a fraction of the cost of the next fastest. Perhaps a "Helmer" will someday become a unit of measurement defined as "six computers in 2.65 cubic feet" or something like that.

Update: Check out the gallery to the right for pics of putting Helmer together. -------------->


67 comments:

Rafael said...

Cool a lot man!
Regards from Brazil!

Edward Nardella said...

Good work, how did you isolate the mother boards from the case? I would do one of two things, either use some sort of plastic sheet or put in standoffs.

Mike[WSB] said...

Nice set up, while im sure it might have required some extra elbow grease. If you had wanted too, you could have used the faceplate that comes with the motherboard to map out all the connectors to the side of the drawer. That way should you for some reason need VGA access you could pull the drawer out and plug right in without having to remove the motherboard.
Tin snips create less of a mess, but you probably could have used a router bit on a dremel to cut out the openings for the psu/fan and then file a little. A good wash to get rid of metal remnants would be in order. As for anyone wondering about what they appear to be using to keep the board from grounding out on the metal drawer, it looks as if they used the pink antistatic sheet that comes under your motherboard. Nice use of a cabinet!

Anonymous said...

Won't be more efficient to boot one box from HD and the rest as diskless ones through pxe/nfs?

A better use for the 6 HD would be to mount a raid on one node or to save power and noise removing all but one and at the same time enhancing realibility.

Knoppix allows booting remote diskless clients out-of-the-box but configuring any distribution with syslinux/dhcp/nfs would be just as easy.

Michael Francis said...

Hmm, I might be off the mark since I don't know what your application is, but wouldn't have been faster to port your application to CUDA and make a GPU power cluster? Or better yet buy a Tesla D1070 or two? It would have been small and efficient for sure. It might have been faster as well

Tim Molter said...

Yes, a cutout on the side of the drawer, with the face plate of the motherboard fit into it would be very handy. Without it you have to tilt the mobo up enough to plug the monitor, keyboard, and mouse into when troubleshooting. That and a cleaner cutout using a dremel tool or a scroll saw with a metal-cutting blade would take this to the next level. Mike was exactly right - we put the pink foam sheet that came packaged with the mobo underneath it for electrical and mechanical isolation. We thought about standoffs and even velcro, but since we're not moving the unit around too much, just laying the mobo and the harddrive in there seemed good enough.

Bostwickenator said...

Nice little machine there :). I would suggest that you use Puppy linux its a much smaller faster distro that happily runs in a 128mb ramdisk. But I must question the logic of building a big computer to run a java program. Write it in c++ or c# and you will see a massive improvement in speed, that will be worth the coding effort.

Anonymous said...

I would add leds to the front of each drawer... just to check if the motherboard power led is on/off..

Gilberto

Anonymous said...

Personally i'd dump X and the desktop environment, and go for a cli only system - they tend to be incredibly light, and any spare ram goes into cache anyway.

Anonymous said...

I Would have to agree.. why java? you should see a good performace gain writing your application in C/C++ and using OpenMP + MPI.

and as someone else recommended i'd configure a linux distro without a gui (maybe leave one with some form of gui as your main node) then there will be less ram/cpu cycles going to waste.

dwave said...

Bostwickenator,
Puppy is optimized for size and the packages it is built with are tinkered with beyond recognition. Using a system like this in a productive system used for serious development will create a lot of problems. I would stick to basic debian or redhad/centos, everything else will just add a lot of necessary work.

Anonymous said...

I wish this Java / C bollocks would finish. With a decent modern JIT the speed differences are negligible. Do some benchmarks.

Anonymous said...

We don't need to hear about your ivory tower benchmarks :P

Anonymous said...

cool project. I'd be careful about trusting the anti static foam to insulate the mobos from the bottom of the drawers, they're supposed to be conductive http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antistatic_bag

Anonymous said...

"I wish this Java / C bollocks would finish. With a decent modern JIT the speed differences are negligible. Do some benchmarks."

not in processor intensive programs

Tim Molter said...

Thanks everyone for the suggestions on improving efficiency - just what I was hoping for. I wasn't aware of pxe or other diskless boot methods, and it makes sense to reduce the number of harddrives. Using a barebones Linux distro without a GUI is also something we'd like to do. Any headless distro recommendations?
Porting our application to CUDA and making a GPU cluster, would not have been "faster" at this point since we're using the cluster as an extension of one aspect of our custom Java Eclipse RCP Application. But building a GPU cluster in the future is not out of the question, and would be fun to try next!

phillips321 said...

you do realise that xubuntu is debian based?

why dont you just use a server install of ubuntu (i.e. no front end).

xubuntu comes with loads of bloat that you dont need, gimp, openoffice, etc...

Download Ubuntu alternate or ubuntu server, they'll both allow you to customise a headless box plus you know both will work as your already using xubuntu.

Anonymous said...

U could do some power saving/ space reduction by going with a thumb drive, that is if your apps are all about CPU ;)

Anonymous said...

> Using a barebones Linux distro without a GUI is also something we'd like to do. Any headless distro recommendations?

You should have a look at the Debian Live-Helper project. You can configure and build custom debian images for cd, usb, hd, netboot,... and it's easy as pie.

s.

Mark Esler said...

This is quiet amazing. Can you give a little more info on how you manage it or the real life applications of this?

Tim Molter said...

Yes, here's a little more info on how you manage it and what some real life applications would be:

Why Would Anyone Need a Computer Cluster?

MendicantMonkey said...

If you are already comfortable with Ubuntu, I find their JeOS flavor to be ideal for building mininal servers: http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu/serveredition/jeos
It's optimized for VM usage, but it works pretty well where I've applied it for minimal disk installs.

Tim Molter said...

MendicantMonkey, I looked into JeOS, but it looks like it is only offered in 32-bit at this time. But hopefully they'll release a 64-bit version soon.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know how much power it uses.

daz said...

Another interesting point other then cost of power would be how much noise this thing creates???....

Tim Molter said...

I wish I could quantify the power consumption, but I don't have the necessary equipment right now. I'm sure it's not cheap to run, and that's why we have added code to our software platform to automatically boot up and shut down Helmer between cluster sessions. As we think of building more Helmers, we're going to need to look at power consumption closely and see if the use of more efficient but more expensive processors is justified. As far as noise, I can't quantify that either, but when I turned Helmer on for the first time I was surprised how quiet it was. I expected it to be louder with the six 50mm case fans. I have an old Dell desktop computer, and Helmer is about 2 to 3 times as loud. We moved Helmer to the laundry room with the rest our our servers. Sorry I couldn't give you a more exact answer than that.

bmc said...

You can continue to use (x)ubuntu. Just remove the xubuntu-desktop package with apt-get or aptitude.
This will uninstall all the desktop clutter and won't need much effort.

- The selection of the packages on the cd and the packages selected for standard installation is the only difference between ubuntu, ubuntu server, kubuntu, xubuntu and so forth.

In short terms: Just uninstall xubuntu-desktop, make sure all graphical clutter gets removed and you got yourself a cli-only/headless distribution.

bye!

Anonymous said...

I think you should have used Intel's Q6600.

Tim Molter said...

anonymous, >I think you should have used Intel's Q6600.<

Could you please explain why?

Tim Molter said...

bmc, Thanks!

theBigFatGeek said...

I is a very neat layout. I used an Ikea kitchen cupboard for my cluster, but it is rather large (10 Dual Core CPU's) and I prefer your overall size. All my machine are however PXE booted from my main machine (the only one with a CD-Rom and HDD) using a very nice project called DRBL (on Sourceforge)

It basically configures a boot image based on the main machine's OS (linux of course, I run Ubuntu 8.04) and allows each machine to PXE boot from the main machine with exactly the same configuration.

You can decide to boot it with or without GUI, I use no GUI on the nodes, and it comes with some useful management scripts to control and configure the nodes.

It is very simple to configure and the only requirement is to have a dual network card on the main machine. The machines are all connected through a gigabit switch.

Jaap said...

I always wanted to play with a cluster (mostly for rendering). The IKEA case is a very nice fit, I especially like the number of nodes and the portability.
While trying to cut cost, and increase power efficiency (it's about 0.20/kwh in .nl) I want to power 6 nodes using 2 or 3 power supplies. (and only a single HDD)

I'm trying to get close to 95% load on the power supplies (don't know the TDP of the cpu's yet) for better efficiency.

But I found one small "challenge": almost all (cheap) power supplies that have a "bronze 80 plus" efficiency rating draw in the air from the bottom of the supply, that now will be stuck to the bottom of the steel drawer.

Tim Molter said...

Hi Jaap,

Thanks. The fit and portability are definitely awesome. We transported this across the country in the passenger seat of a car with the seatbelt on and the drawers taped shut. Good luck with your project! Please let me know when you've got it built because I would love to see how you make it more power efficient. The PSUs that we used are bronze 80 plus certified. I wasn't aware of the challenge of finding them with a fan on the back, but thanks for pointing that out.

thebigfatgeek, Thanks for letting me know how you set up your cluster. I think that's a very good idea and I will look into that for the next cluster.

Anonymous said...

Because both processors have pretty even specs and price. But the Q6600 can overclock to 3Ghz without a problem.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that although the Phenom that you used has 100Mhz advantage, the Q6600 has 4 times the cache (2x4MB cache).

John-Belgium said...

very nice little build ...
after i have seen this and the helmer case ...
i gonna build one to...
i have read the comments here and there are some good points..
one said use thumb drives... i just ask meself (and all of you)what size of thumb stick do you need?
i also read a post about one power supply for 2 are 3 motherboards... it can be done but i thought that de better power supply's interact with the motherboard ... am i wrong here?

Jaap said...

I found a bit more time to look around for hardware. I have made the choice to go for efficiency, at the expense of a slightly higher price. The nodes will most likely be AMD Phenom X4 9350e, with 2x2GB DDR2 1066 memory. About 125W/node, so I will use 2 "bronze" power supplies in total.
(This will mean I can only switch off 3 nodes at a time.)
I'm still searching for a motherboard: Micro ATX AM2+, 4xDDR2, (8GB max) 1Gb-nic, (cheap :-)).
dual-port network cards turn out to be very expensive, so I will probably add a couple single cards, for extra point-to-point connections between some of the nodes.
I also have some ideas about optimizing airflow, but I think I will sort that out once I have the cabinet, so I can see how much space is left between the drawers, etc.
more updates to follow soon.

Tim Molter said...

john-belgium, I think the limiting factor for what thumb drive size you need is how big of a footprint the installed OS is. Also, do you need to store lots of data at each node or does your application not need any data? I'm not sure if you could just splice in 2 or 3 mobo connectors from one power supply even though I bet someone has done it before. Please let me know if you get it to work!

jaap, I'd love to see your cluster when you get it built! When picking out your mobo, make sure the dimensions are small enough to fit in the Helmer drawer along with the other stuff. It will be a very tight fit.

Jaap said...

Hi Tim,
I ordered most parts, and bought an accurate electricity meter...
Since I only will have 3 power supplies, I can mount 3 of the boards at the aft end of the drawers. I'm trying to use one of the nodes as my new desktop, so it would be nice to have the connectors on the aft side. My boards should be 220x244mm. I don't have the cabinet yet, and IKEA neglected to mention the inside dimensions of the drawers :-)
Could you measure the inside width of your drawer?
I did end up with power supplies with a bottom fan, and will cut a big hole in the bottom of 3 drawers, so each supply will suck air from the drawer below it.

Tim Molter said...

Jaap,

I just moved to Germany and left Helmer with a friend so I can't measure the drawers for you. If you look up the dimensions of the mobo that I used and add about a centimeter, that is roughly the width of the drawer. Otherwise you could go to IKEA and measure the Helmer cabinet they have on the floor. Also, the power supplies that I used blew air out rather than sucked air in, contrasting what I first thought.

Jaap said...

welcome to Europe Tim!
I have the Ikea cabinet now, as well as all the computer parts ( http://jwstolk.xs4all.nl/i/parts_s.jpg ). The 90 degree angle DVI-D connector that I made is still to big, so I will try to make it even narrower. Not a big problem, as I only need video on one of the nodes. The cabinet seems a lot more solid than I expected. I already fired up a single node, but have a bit of trouble getting the bios to run the memory at 1066 speed. as far as I can tell the board, memory and cpu should all be able to run at 1066.

Jaap said...

a little warning: be careful when connecting (unused) wires from a power supply. Some have individually regulated +12 rails, which won't like it when they are connected. (connecting the grounds is fine)
Also: even with all the clever square/round pins, the 6P PCI power connector still fits on the 4P 12V CPU power connector on the motherboard, but the ground and +12 Volt will be the wrong way around! The board (and cpu) will not like that :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
Great job!
Perhaps you might be interesting in this link:
http://www.clustermonkey.net/

I believe it might help you increase the power of your cluster...follow the links.

Merry Christmas from Puerto Rico,
Jose

konstantinos said...

wow well done my man... this is cool...

greetins from Greece,
Kostas

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is absolutely awesome! I love the idea, and found this blog by searching cluster computing on the internet.

Right now I am building a p3 cluster, its going to be my first one so I bought some throw-away computers. See the project on http://jamesatchue.com/

BestRegards,
Jim

Biju said...

I just loved the idea ..
Great piece of work

Regards

Biju on behalf of our team from India.

Anonymous said...

You could try to compile your Java code to native executables with GCJ. It's not doable with all Java programs (http://gcc.gnu.org/onlinedocs/gcj/Limitations.html#Limitations), but it's worth a try.

It would make your program as fast and memory efficient (or slow and memory hungry, compared to a real C, not to mention assembler :^) as if it was written in C++ with a GC and compiled with gcc (you have the same (optimization) options as in gcc, gcj is just a front end).

And, as always, if you need even more speed/memory improvements you could use strip to remove unneeded (debugging) symbols from the binaries. It doesn't usually improve the speed much, but it do shrink the size of the executable considerably.

I have only done this in Mac OS 10.3 on an iBook G4. But it should work ;)

Tim Molter said...

@Jaap Good luck with you project and thanks for the tips. Post a link when you are finished!

@anonymous Thanks for the link to ClusterMonkey- lot's of good info there.

@konstantinos, anonymous, Biju Thanks for stopping by. Glad you found it interesting.

@anonymous, Thanks for the heads up on GCJ.

Anonymous said...

Nice work!
Original Helmer + your work inspired me to create my own cluster ...
4 x Q6700 (2x 2 vertical stack) overclocked to 3 GHz in a 2U server chassis powered by 4x250W seasonic PSU. Total idle load at wall = 240W. 4x320GB HDD. MAY be possible to fit 6 motherboards in chassis if trim excess PSU cabling and re-orientate LAN cables (certainly possible if use mini-itx mobos). 2x 12cm + 4x8cm fans + low-profile shuriken coolers keep things cool enough it seems. Using Ubuntu desktop but run on separate windows XP box and check things using VNCViewer. I'm a python fan so use ipython to run cross-platform plus I use code::blocks as cross-platform c++ IDE + SWIG.
I also do GPU programming using CUDA on a single 9800GX2 when the problem fits the more complicated programming requirements of the GPU.
Right now I'm looking to increase size of cluster and looking at most cost effective solution. Looked at core i5/i7 with 8 threads but cost of mobo +CPU and corresponding performance don't (to me) compare with that of s775 + Q9550 + overclocking (if necessary). Fitting all the hardware into an appropriate chassis led me back to your posts.

Anyway, I hope you have as much fun as I have with all this computing power! And again, Well done!!!

d76 said...

Hi, we did one too (a year ago). Thanks for inspiring us.
Have a look: http://d76.cz/blog/?p=22

candykane said...

It's a verry nice build you got there. love the clean finish on it.
I to have a 24 core helmer to
using the AMD Phenom II 945
its a 4 core 3 Ghz Low voltage CPU so it only uses 85 Watt
it features 8GB DDR8 800 cs 4
on a ASROCK A785GMH/128M
Any way I'm rebuilding my Helmer
It looked like the origenal helmer project, love the Idea off using the drawes. my first idea was to make a door from the front pannels. But i must say this realy gives a cool finnish and great accessibility.

On the comment that a Q6600 is better it runs hotter 125 W but yes in calculations it beats the pants of a AMD CPU.
But if you want real calculation power try using CUDA, videocards can calculate 10+ times faster then any CPU.

Back to my system.
Mine runs OSX and windows.
usaly more osx then windows its a bitch to switch between the 2 as you have to deal with the boot loaders. Because the linux drivers are just borked , SB710 south brige, well non of the distro's wanted to install properly.

Tim Molter said...

anonymous, d76, and candykane, thanks for sharing your Helmer experiences here. Sounds like you had as much fun as we did building it and using it. I would love to see some pictures of your cluster. I was thinking of creating a new blog post showing as many possible Helmers that are out there in the world. If you send me some pictures via email, I'll happily post them on a new blog post. I hope you do! If interested please send email to tim molter gmail...

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, What renderer are running on this?

Tim Molter said...

Anonymous, we're not actually using this as a renderer. We originally built it to run some genenetic algorithms for a real-time stock trading system. Now it' being used as a server cluster for various other apps.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if placing the HDDs over the PCIe slots (with insulation, of course) would allow using plain 3.5 drives. The photos are not clear enough to check.

One thing I know, the bigger the fan, the better (less noise and/or more air). Also, place fans a bit separated from walls and with full hole to avoid turbulence noise.

Tim Molter said...

Anonymous, yes I think that would be possible to put 3,5 in HDs there. :)

Anonymous said...

The only suggestion I can really make is .. have you considered getting a small solid state drive? I saw 32GB Solid State Drives on Tigerdirect.com for under $100 or if you wanted to spend more 60GB drives are under $200. I know you are trying to keep it cheap, but a Solid State drive would be much faster as far as data transfer.

Drakaran said...

for the PSU, look for a modular type. There is a 500W CoolMax PSU for $40 (which should supply more than enough power). And then only stick in the cables you actually need. These are also 80% efficiency.

They are, however, fan on bottom.

I use one of their 750W PSUs.

Anonymous said...

An alternative frame, which might be easier to work in, could be the Antonius wire basket unit. Each basket is 42x53x15cm (WxDxH) and the basket would give more options for cooling

Anonymous said...

If you have a lot of dust (like we do around here), I would advise putting in a little foam dust filter over the intake fans. Note that you will get less airflow (and cooling) that way, so it depends on how hot you're running, etc.

Woojay Jeon said...

Hi Tim,

Your post has been a source of inspiration and guidance for my own Helmer Linux cluster, right here. Thanks for the great info!

Tim Molter said...

Woojay, nice work!!! Thanks for letting me know you build a Helmer cluster. I'm jealous that you got a red one. IKEA only had grey when I bought mine. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that instead of spending $2550 to build yourselves a 24 core linux cluster with 6GB of RAM you could have purchased a single quad-core MacPro with 4GB of RAM

Tim Molter said...

@Anon I just looked at apple.com and a 12-core mac-pro costs $5k. So for 24 core, that would be $10k. Also, my article was written about 2.5 years ago, when 24 cores from Apple would have been a lot more.

Eric said...

Congratulations, very nicely done!

Instead of those big PSUs, using Pico PSUs would probably have saved energy and noise.

http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-120-102W-power-kit

Andrew said...

Awesome and clean build - this post has inspired me to create my own Helmer Cluster.

http://www.headshotgamer.com/review.aspx?id=123

All the best guys - would love to see a follow up post letting us know how it's going now!

Michael said...

Great build Tim, thanks for sharing! I love the Helmer builds but I didn't think I could get all my hardware into one so I went with an Ikea PS cabinet. It gets pretty hot here during the summer so I went with aftermarket CPU coolers.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NcW1ZpInhyc/T0hodTRVupI/AAAAAAAAEO8/tWXJQXf763s/s800/SDC10541_s.JPG

Specs:
Master (x1): Asus M4A87TD/USB3 | AMD Phenom II x6 1100T | G.Skill Sniper 1333mhz 4x4GB | Corsair CX600v2 | 2 - WD Black 1TB in RAID0 | 1 - WD Green 2TB backup | ASUS DRW-24X DVD | PowerColor HD 5450 1GB
Slave (x3): Asus M4A87T | AMD Phenom II x6 1100T | G.Skill Sniper 1333mhz 4x4GB | Corsair CX430v2
Misc: Netgear GS108 Switch | Debian Squeeze | Ikea PS Case | CM Hyper 212+ HS