Reducing fan noise on an E420R - SUN

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  1. Reducing fan noise on an E420R

    I've recently purchased an E420R server and have set it up for use as a
    server at home. All is well, except that working in the same room as it
    gives me a serious headache from the insanely loud fan noise generated
    by the fan assembly's 3 120mm fans. In fact, it's so loud that it's
    audible from other rooms as well. I've checked the fans themselves and
    they are completely clean and seem to be functioning properly, so I can
    only assume that this level of noise generated is by design.

    Now, I am aware that this kind of server needs a rather steady airflow
    and the air that it expels is quite warm. The box heats the room up by
    several degrees within a few hours. It would seem that each of the 3
    fans is primarily dedicated to 3 seperate functions. The left one pulls
    air over the hard drives and pushes it out over the addon cards. The
    middle one pushes air over the 4 CPUs. The right one pushes air over
    the RAM. The fans themselves are wired to a proprietary power connector
    with 3 wires each. There are no molex or standard 3pin connectors.

    Considering all of this, here's my current plan: I've ordered a new
    E420R fan assembly off eBay which I will remove the stock fans from. I
    will then replace the two side fans with low power 120mm case fans that
    should hopefully produce around 15dB of noise each. Then, I will
    replace the middle fan (the one that cools the CPUs) with a
    comparatively powerful one which will probably produce around 30dB of
    noise. I'll cut the wires going to the power connector leaving a few
    inches to work with. Then I'll cut the connectors off the aftermarket
    fans and strip a bit of the insulation off and twist them together with
    the corresponding colors on the proprietary connector. Then I'll wrap
    the twisted area in electrical tape and hope it works.

    Does this seem like a reasonable idea? Is there a better way to connect
    the new fans? Is it possible to remove two of the CPUs to reduce the
    cooling requirements of this box, and if so, which ones do I pull and
    can I leave all 4GB of RAM in with only 2 CPUs?


  2. Re: Reducing fan noise on an E420R

    On 12 Apr 2006 08:30:58 -0700
    "Bruce C. Miller" wrote:

    > I've recently purchased an E420R server and have set it up for use as
    > a server at home. All is well, except that working in the same room
    > as it gives me a serious headache from the insanely loud fan noise
    > generated by the fan assembly's 3 120mm fans. In fact, it's so loud
    > that it's audible from other rooms as well. I've checked the fans
    > themselves and they are completely clean and seem to be functioning
    > properly, so I can only assume that this level of noise generated is
    > by design.


    The E420R is designed to operate in a server room. It's, like most
    servers, quite noisy.

    It uses the same motherboard as the Ultra-80, which makes
    significantly less noise for the same level of performance.

    > Now, I am aware that this kind of server needs a rather steady airflow
    > and the air that it expels is quite warm. The box heats the room up by
    > several degrees within a few hours.


    It might be using less energy than you suspect; my Blade2000 with 4GB
    RAM, two 900MHz CPUs and 2 73GB disk drives draws, together with an
    18.1" LCD monitor (according to the Liebert UPS it's connected to) about
    310VA.

    The E420R power supplies are rated at 380W each, and the unit can run
    with a single power supply. I'd be amazed if a fully loaded E420R would
    use more than about 300VA.

    > Does this seem like a reasonable idea? Is there a better way to
    > connect the new fans?


    If the fans are less noisy, they'll provide less airflow. This might or
    might not be a problem depending on the ambient temperature.

    > Is it possible to remove two of the CPUs to
    > reduce the cooling requirements of this box, and if so, which ones do
    > I pull and can I leave all 4GB of RAM in with only 2 CPUs?


    You can remove the CPUs without affecting the memory capacity of the
    box.

    Here's how to install the CPU modules (from the E420R manual):

    | The first CPU module is inserted into CPU slot 2 (J0301); two CPU
    | modules are installed into CPU slot 2 (J0301) and into CPU slot 1
    | (J0201); three CPU modules are installed into CPU slot 2 (J0301), into
    | CPU slot 1 (J0201), and into CPU slot 3 (J0401); while four CPU
    | modules occupy all the CPU module slots.

    Take care,

    --
    Stefaan A Eeckels
    --
    The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself.
    -- Winston Churchill

  3. Re: Reducing fan noise on an E420R

    Bruce C. Miller wrote:
    > Now, I am aware that this kind of server needs a rather steady airflow
    > and the air that it expels is quite warm. The box heats the room up by
    > several degrees within a few hours. It would seem that each of the 3


    Sounds like my Alphas. 2 AlphaServer 1200 boxes (dual 533) on the
    rack in my bedroom actually help my wife sleep by drowning out my
    snoring, not to mention keeping the room nice and toasty in the winter

    > noise. I'll cut the wires going to the power connector leaving a few
    > inches to work with. Then I'll cut the connectors off the aftermarket
    > fans and strip a bit of the insulation off and twist them together with
    > the corresponding colors on the proprietary connector. Then I'll wrap
    > the twisted area in electrical tape and hope it works.


    I certainly would not use electrical tape. Spend $25 at your local
    electronics store for some heat shrink tubing and a soldering iron kit
    (iron, stand, solder, flux). maybe twist them at first just to test
    your wiring, but don't leave it like that.
    Maybe an idea for your CPUs.. what about CPU fans? I always thought
    it was odd that my Ultra 10 333mhz has a MASSIVE heat sync, but no fan.
    My Alphas and all my x86 boxes have CPU fans that generate almost no
    noise, not to mention them being much more efficient than a huge fan at
    the front and/or rear of the case. My Macs are the only other machines
    I have that don't have one. Strange design...

    --
    - - james hal-pc.org - -
    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it,
    unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
    - The Buddha
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  4. Re: Reducing fan noise on an E420R

    james hal-pc.org wrote:
    > Bruce C. Miller wrote:
    > > Now, I am aware that this kind of server needs a rather steady airflow
    > > and the air that it expels is quite warm. The box heats the room up by
    > > several degrees within a few hours. It would seem that each of the 3

    >
    > Sounds like my Alphas. 2 AlphaServer 1200 boxes (dual 533) on the
    > rack in my bedroom actually help my wife sleep by drowning out my
    > snoring, not to mention keeping the room nice and toasty in the winter


    I don't think I could sleep with droning fans. I do find the lower the
    pitch of the fan noise, the more tolerable it is, but I think I would
    develop a mental disorder if I had to listen to this 420R all day.

    > > noise. I'll cut the wires going to the power connector leaving a few
    > > inches to work with. Then I'll cut the connectors off the aftermarket
    > > fans and strip a bit of the insulation off and twist them together with
    > > the corresponding colors on the proprietary connector. Then I'll wrap
    > > the twisted area in electrical tape and hope it works.

    >
    > I certainly would not use electrical tape. Spend $25 at your local
    > electronics store for some heat shrink tubing and a soldering iron kit
    > (iron, stand, solder, flux). maybe twist them at first just to test
    > your wiring, but don't leave it like that.


    Thanks for the advice, I'll do that

    > Maybe an idea for your CPUs.. what about CPU fans? I always thought
    > it was odd that my Ultra 10 333mhz has a MASSIVE heat sync, but no fan.
    > My Alphas and all my x86 boxes have CPU fans that generate almost no
    > noise, not to mention them being much more efficient than a huge fan at
    > the front and/or rear of the case. My Macs are the only other machines
    > I have that don't have one. Strange design...


    The CPUs are all in plastic casings that are tightly mounted together
    in a large purple enclosure. There's a removable funnel that channels
    the middle fan's airflow directly into this enclosure and between the
    CPUs. So, there's no room for any practical customization here.

    I just ordered one ~30dB fan and two ~20dB fans today to replace the
    stock fans with. This will probably still be a bit loud, but will be a
    huge improvement, and hopefully bearable.


  5. Re: Reducing fan noise on an E420R

    Stefaan A Eeckels wrote:
    > On 12 Apr 2006 08:30:58 -0700
    > "Bruce C. Miller" wrote:
    >
    > > I've recently purchased an E420R server and have set it up for use as
    > > a server at home. All is well, except that working in the same room
    > > as it gives me a serious headache from the insanely loud fan noise
    > > generated by the fan assembly's 3 120mm fans. In fact, it's so loud
    > > that it's audible from other rooms as well. I've checked the fans
    > > themselves and they are completely clean and seem to be functioning
    > > properly, so I can only assume that this level of noise generated is
    > > by design.

    >
    > The E420R is designed to operate in a server room. It's, like most
    > servers, quite noisy.
    >
    > It uses the same motherboard as the Ultra-80, which makes
    > significantly less noise for the same level of performance.


    My thought was to convert my home server towers and network appliances
    into rackmount boxes and put them on a rack to save space. Then I was
    gonna buy a 25U or so server rack to put them on. I already had to
    replace the fans on a Cisco switch I bought which went from also
    insanely loud to silent.

    The noise factor is turning out to be more of an issue than I
    suspected, and I may suspend the project as a result.

    > > Does this seem like a reasonable idea? Is there a better way to
    > > connect the new fans?

    >
    > If the fans are less noisy, they'll provide less airflow. This might or
    > might not be a problem depending on the ambient temperature.


    I suspect the fanspeed was selected to provide a decent safety margin
    when tightly mounted in a stack of other servers. Since this won't be
    the case for me, I'm sure I can get away with around half the
    throughput of air.


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